To love or not to love
MetadataShow full item record
Tang Xianzu, one of the greatest playwrights in Chinese dramatic history, is best known for his play The Peony Pavilion, which has touched the hearts of generations of female and male readers and audiences, fueling the cult of qing in late imperial China. Tang’s last two plays, Nanke Ji and Handan Ji, end with the protagonists attaining Buddhahood and immortality, forsaking their previous attachment, or qing. A simplistic conclusion would thus be that Tang Xianzu surrendered his faith in qing and embraced other religious beliefs at the end of his life. I wish to examine the complex and pregnant endings of both plays, showing that they should not be read simplistically, and that they cannot support the thesis of Tang’s renunciation of qing in Chapters Three and Four. qing has been attacked and defended repeatedly throughout history perhaps because of its affinity to yu. Chapter one will introduce the cult of qing and discuss how qing reconciles with Confucian traditions and beliefs. Chapter two examines Tang’s faith in qing within the context of Confucianism by examining closely the imagery associated with the plum. Despite his deep sympathy with the doctrine of Buddhist dharma and with Daoist tenets, Tang Xianzu was not able to accept the contradictions of the Buddhist eradication of emotions and the commendation of compassion. Nor was he convinced of the Daoist promise of immortality. Behind all this, is his faith in authentic qing, which was refined and polished by the trials of his personal life, his thwarted Confucian career, and his exposure to Buddhist and Daoist beliefs.