Hidden voices behind the image of Lady Feng: 'Peony Fever' and East Asian theatres of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries

Tsz Wing Giovanna WU

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Feng Xiaoqing (1595-1612) was a well-known female reader of The Peony Pavilion (Mudanting) during the Late Ming period in China (1368-1644). She died at the age of eighteen, but her image was frequently portrayed by playwrights between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, and she became a representative of upper-class women. Though Lady Feng’s life experience was not identical to that of Du Liniang, the heroine in The Peony Pavilion, their images were always overlapped in the late imperial theatres. During the ‘Peony Fever’, Lady Feng’s tragedy was widely spread across late imperial China and even impressed the Japanese and Korean readers of the time.
Taking eight dramatic adaptations of Lady Feng that were published between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries into account, this paper aims to interpret the self-consciousness of both females and males in the theatre. Although there were numerous female playwrights in late imperial China, the image of Lady Feng could only be found in the works by male playwrights. This paper scrutinizes the connection between the pseudo-character Du Liniang and the real-life character Lady Feng and elaborates on how those playwrights provoked a heated debate over love, marriage and sexuality in the context of Confucianism. By investigating Compensate for the Loss of Youthfulness (Bu Chuntian), this paper also analyzes how the Japanese sinologist Mori Kainan (1863-1911) portrayed Lady Feng in his drama. Through cross-sexual and cross-cultural reading of Lady Feng’s image, this paper explores the cultural and historical significances of both female and male voices hidden behind the image of Lady Feng. Copyright © 2018 EACS.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

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Fever
Asia
Playwright
Reader
Pavilion
Imperial China
Marriage
Self-consciousness
China
Heroine
Upper Class
Real Life
Drama
Sexuality
Tragedy
Confucianism
Ming
Sexual

Citation

Wu, T. W. G. (2018, August). Hidden voices behind the image of Lady Feng: 'Peony Fever' and East Asian theatres of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. Paper presented at the 22nd Biennial Conference of the European Association for Chinese Studies, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK.