Love, Lust, and Loss in the Daoist Nunnery as Presented in Yuan Drama

in T'oung Pao
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Most studies of either Daoist influences and features or love and romance in Yuan drama concentrate on the male-dominated theme of deliverance (dutuo) or center on the “scholar-beauty” or “scholar-courtesan” romantic relationship, with little attention given to Daoist women involved in love affairs or marriage arrangements. This article aims to bring to light life and love in the Daoist nunnery as featured in Yuan drama, by focusing on transgressive Daoist nuns longing for secular life and sensual love and on lay women whose marriages are arranged by Daoist nuns. Four zaju plays have been selected for textual and thematic analysis, namely, Yuanyang bei (The Mandarin-Duck Quilt), Wangjiang ting (The River-viewing Pavilion), Nüzhen guan (The Cloister of Female Daoists), and Zhuwu ting qin (Listening to the Zither from a Bamboo-Thicketed Cottage).

La majorité des études consacrées, suivant les cas, aux influences et aux éléments taoïstes ou aux intrigues romantiques dans le théâtre Yuan, se concentrent soit sur le thème masculin de la délivrance (dutuo), soit sur les idylles entre “lettrés et beautés” ou “lettrés et courtisanes”. En revanche on s’est peu intéressé aux exemples de femmes taoïstes impliquées dans des relations amoureuses ou dans des négociations matrimoniales. Cet article cherche à mettre en évidence la vie et l’amour dans les couvents taoïstes tels que les donne à voir le théâtre Yuan en évoquant des nonnes poussées à transgresser les règles par leur désir de vie laïque et d’amour sensuel et des femmes laïques dont le mariage est arrangé par des nonnes. Quatre pièces de zaju ont été choisies pour une analyse textuelle et thématique : Yuanyuan bei (La couverture aux canards mandarins), Wangjiang ting (Le pavillon donnant sur le fleuve), Nüzhen guan (Le couvent taoïste) et Zhuwu ting qin (Écouter la cithare dans la chaumière).

Love, Lust, and Loss in the Daoist Nunnery as Presented in Yuan Drama

in T'oung Pao




David Hawkes“Quanzhen Plays and Quanzhen Masters,” Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient 69 (1981): 158.


See e.g. Piet Van der Loon“Les origines rituelles du théâtre chinois,” Journal Asiatique 265 (1977): 141–68; Tanaka Issei 田仲一成 Chūgoku no sōzoku to engeki 中国の宗族と演劇 (Tokyo: Tōkyō daigaku shuppankai 1985); Guo Yingde 郭英德 Shisu de jili: Zhong­guo xiqu de zongjiao jingshen 世俗的祭禮——中國戲曲的宗教精神 (Beijing: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi 1988); Zhou Yude 周育德 Zhonguo xiqu yu Zhongguo zongjiao 中國戲曲與中國宗教 (Beijing: Zhongguo xiqu chubanshe 1990).


For this comment see James J.Y. LiuEssentials of Chinese Literary Art (Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth Publishing Company1979) 90.


Ibid.131. “Mao’er guangguang”帽兒光光 and“mao’er zhaizhai” 帽兒窄窄 are joking expressions often found in Yuan and Ming vernacular literature to jibe at or tease a bridegroom as shown in Act III of Zhang Sheng zhu hai 張生煮海 (Scholar Zhang Boils the Sea) by the early Yuan playwright Li Haogu 李好古 in Act III of the anonymous Yuan zajuLianhuan ji 連環計 (A Stratagem of Interlocking Rings) and in chapter 5 of Shuihui zhuan 水滸傳 (Water Margin).


West and IdemaStory of the Western Wing10.


See Catherine Despeux“Women in Daoism,” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoismed. Fabrizio Pregadio(London: Routledge2011) 171.


See Catherine Despeux“Women in Daoism,” in Daoism Handbooked. Livia Kohn (Leiden: Brill2000) 384.


Ling MengchuChuke pai’an jingqi (1627; rpt. Changsha: Yuelu shushe2004) 6.48–60; trans. Lenny Hu “Fatal Seduction” in In the Inner Quarters: Erotic Stories from Ling Mengchu’s Two Slaps (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press 2003) 87.


Andrea S. Goldman“The Nun Who Wouldn’t Be: Representation of Female Desire in Two Performance Genres of ‘Si Fan’,” Late Imperial China 22.1 (2001): 72.


Idema and WestChinese Theater 1100–1450150.


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