Wang Guowei and the Establishment of Chinese Drama in the Modern Canon of Classical Literature

in T'oung Pao
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Abstract

This essay examines the process by which Wang Guowei placed Chinese dramatic history into the modern Chinese literary canon. It explores how Wang formed his ideas on literature, drawing on Western aesthetics to explain, through the notions of leisure and play, the impetus for art creation, and on the Chinese notions of the genesis of literature to explain the psychology of literary creation. In order to establish the literary value of Chinese drama, Wang applied these ideas to the first playwrights of the Yuan dynasty, arguing that theirs was a literature created under the right aesthetic and creative circumstances, and that it embodied the value of "naturalness" which he considered a universal standard for good literature. By producing a scholarly critical history of the origins and nature of Chinese drama, Wang placed drama on a par with other literary genres of past dynasties, thus giving it a renewed status and creating at the same time a new discipline of research. Drama had now become an established literary genre.

Wang Guowei and the Establishment of Chinese Drama in the Modern Canon of Classical Literature

in T'oung Pao

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