Over many centuries, women on the Chinese stage committed suicide in beautiful and pathetic ways just before crossing the border for an interracial marriage. Uncrossing the Borders asks why this theatrical trope has remained so powerful and attractive. The book analyzes how national, cultural, and ethnic borders are inevitably gendered and incite violence against women in the name of the nation. The book surveys two millennia of historical, literary, dramatic texts, and sociopolitical references to reveal that this type of drama was especially popular when China was under foreign rule, such as in the Yuan (Mongol) and Qing (Manchu) dynasties, and when Chinese male literati felt desperate about their economic and political future, due to the dysfunctional imperial examination system. Daphne P. Lei covers border-crossing Chinese drama in major theatrical genres such as zaju and chuanqi, regional drama such as jingju (Beijing opera) and yueju (Cantonese opera), and modernized operatic and musical forms of such stories today.
Fig. 5. The Little Prince: “Mother, you are dressed like this. Where are you going?” Moments before her reversed border crossing in Wenji Entering the Pass (Wenji rusai 文姬入塞) by Chen Yujiao 陳與郊. From a facsimile (Wujin: Songfenshi, 1918) of Zaju of the High Ming Period (Shengming zaju 盛明雜劇, edited by Shen Tai, 1629). Courtesy of Stanford Auxiliary Library.
Fig. 6. Cai Yan continues her father’s unfinished scholarship in The Daughter of Zhonglang 中郎女 by Nanshan Yishi 南山逸史. Seated in the middle, wearing an official cap as the male clerks do, she hands her writing to the maids to be passed on to the male scribes, observing the Confucian rule of proper separation between men and women. From a facsimile (Wujin: Songfenshi, 1941) of Newly Edited Zaju (Zaju xinbian 雜劇新編, edited by Zou Shijin, ca. 1661).
Fig. 7. Cai Yan visits the tomb of Zhaojun and the spirit of Wang Zhaojun appears. Mourning the Pipa 弔琵琶 by You Tong 尤侗. Cai Yan is kneeling in front of the Green Mound with offering; the zither is carried by her maid. From a facsimile (Wujin: Songfenshi, 1941) of Newly Edited Zaju (Zaju xinbian 雜劇新編, edited by Zou Shijin, ca. 1661).
Fig. 8. Li Ling (bottom left corner) communicates with Chinese troops with archery. “Victory at the Pass,” Returning to Heliang (Heliang gui 河梁歸) by Zhou Leqing 周樂清 (fl. 1801–1830), in The Chuanqi of the Sky-Mending Stone (Butianshi chuanqi 補天石傳奇, 1830).
Fig. 9. Su Wu (right side with official cap and gown) and Li Ling (next to him in martial outfit) happily meet again at Heliang. “Enfeoffing the Tomb,” Returning to Heliang (Heliang gui 河梁歸) by Zhou Leqing 周樂清 (fl. 1801–1830), in The Chuanqi of the Sky-Mending Stone (Butianshi chuanqi 補天石傳奇, 1830).
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