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Institute for Chinese Studies Lecture: "Redefining Roles: Status, Ethics, and Gender Between Female zaju Performers and Male Literati in the Yuan Dynasty"


Friday, January 31, 2020, 4:00PM - 5:30PM


The Institute for Chinese Studies presents, "Redefining the Roles: Status, Ethics, and Gender Between Female zaju Performers and Male Literati in the Yuan Dyansty" by Wenbo Change, Georgia Institute of Technology.

In the heyday of zaju theater in the Yuan dynasty, there emerged a large number of female zaju performers of excellent skills. Though lowly in social status and morally stigmatized, they attracted many admirers among the social elites, especially literati gentlemen. So, could their relationship be one characterized by mutual respect and appreciation, at least for some of them? If so, what was the foundation of such a relationship? Was it under strong social and moral pressure and, if yes, how did those involved in this kind of relationship cope with that pressure? Moreover, how did it challenge the traditional social and gendered roles of literati gentlemen deeply rooted in Confucianism and, in the long run, modified literati culture? In this talk, I would try to answer these questions by reexamining The Green Bower Collection, a personal memoir of anecdotes about the achievements of more than a hundred courtesan-performers active in the Yuan and their interaction with literati gentlemen. Its author Xia Tingzhi was a wealthy urban literatus profoundly interested in zaju performance. A careful reading of these stories recorded in The Green Bower Collection reveals that existing hierarchical, ethical, and gender boundaries blurred at the intersection of popular performance tradition and elite literati tradition embodied by this new type of relationship between female performers and male literati.

This event is free and open to the public.

Location : 115 Mendenhall Lab
Contact : East Asian Studies Center

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