Echo 回声嘹亮: An exhibition on Chinese drama

For many centuries Chinese drama has enthralled all types of people. Drawing on the East Asian Collection of the University Library, this exhibition showcases rare books on the history of Chinese theatre.

The exhibition consists of three parts: the actor’s stagecraft in Chinese drama, the history of Chinese drama, and a comparative study between Chinese and Western drama. Familiarity with Chinese stage conventions is the key to appreciating Chinese drama. Understanding the historical roots of Chinese drama in comparison with Western drama provides new insights into the vicissitudes of theatrical studies.

Chinese drama continues to be a quintessential element of Chinese culture. The curtain of the stage is now raised!

Actor’s stagecraft


戏剧月刊Theatre Monthly  
刘豁公Liu Huogong, editor 
Shanghai : Xi ju yue kan she, 1928-1932 
Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections EA 5651 4 A 

In Chinese drama, theatrical conventions made up of movement, costumes, face-painting and props all convey meaning in abstract ways.  

The fake beard is a distinctive part of the costume for many characters in Chinese drama. “Beard work” in Chinese drama refers to the skilful manipulation of the beard, tossing it in the air, grabbing it in a dramatic pose, and even flicking it outwards to indicate various emotions.  

horsewhip is a flexible cane with several tassels and a finder loop. It is used to indicate mounting, dismounting, riding and leading a horse.   

Flags are usually used to convey a battlefield scene. Four triangular flags are inserted on the back of the performer and it is used to exaggerate the heroic demeanour of the character.  

Pheasant tails are tools that the actor manipulates to express a wide range of emotions. The actors use two fingers on each hand to hold and bend the tails in various poses both in front of and behind themselves. They even clench the feathers in their teeth.  

Actors use long sleeves, long tresses and handkerchiefs to convey internal emotional states from joy to anger in order to punctuate a scene with dramatic action.  

The traditional Chinese opera stage is normally bare. A plain stage with only a table and two chairs can represent a courtroom, household, palace or even mountaintop.   

Cloud whisks are used primarily by supernatural beings like Taoist immortals and religious characters.   

Walking in circles means making a journey.  

The stagecraft of Chinese theatre is to suggest rather than to completely present. The suggestion is enough to evoke the entire reality. 

Curator’s note: 

Chinese drama is a genre capable of treating any topics in great depth – love, war, religious conversion, political struggles and criminal investigations to name a few. Famous plays include:   

  • The Injustice to Dou E by Guan Hanqing     
  • Autumn in the Han Palace by Ma Zhiyuan 
  • Regency of the Duke of Zhou by Zheng Guangzu  
  • Rain on the Paulownia Tree by Bai Pu  
  • The West Chamber by Wang Shifu 
  • The Peony Pavilion by Tang Xianzu 

Comparative studies of Western and Chinese drama 

The Orphan of Zhao赵氏孤儿

The Orphan of Zhao赵氏孤儿 was a play written by Ji Junxiang纪君祥in about 1330 AD. The play has revenge and retribution as its central themes. This piece was the first specimen of Chinese dramatic literature translated into a European language. There were five European adaptations in the 18th century: two in English, one in French, German, and Italian, respectively.   The play is founded on an event which occurred in the middle of the 7th century BC. A military leader is determined on exterminating the whole Zhao family. A faithful dependent of the family saves the life of the orphan by concealing him and passing off his own child in his stead. The orphan is brought up ignorant of his real descent until he reaches manhood. Once the truth is revealed, he seeks vengeance for the death of his family against the usurpers and ultimately recovers his birthright.  

L’orphelin de la Chine: tragédie 
Voltaire, 1755 
Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections General French Plays 1018 

Voltaire adapted the play and he had it acted in the Comédie-Française in August 1755. Voltaire used the play as a didactic tale of morality and he called the play “the morals of Confucius in five acts.”  

The Orphan of China: A Tragedy 
Arthur Murphy; Du Halde, J.-B. (Jean-Baptiste), 1759 
Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections General RB 4659.21 

Arthur Murphy had his adaptation produced at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in April 1759. He includes a letter to Voltaire with suggestions to improve the play.  

Chen Shouyi states, “Each adaptation embodies some attempt at Europeanising the Chinese play. Particularly striking are the efforts made in observance of the Three Unities*. Both Voltaire and Murphy simplified the plot element and reduced the stage scenes. Voltaire embodied in the adaptation his admiration for ancient China, his confidence in the triumph of civilization over savagery. Murphy saw in it a fair chance for adapting and improving Voltaire.”[1]


Also see:

Studies in Chinese-Western Comparative Drama

Yun-Tong LUK  

Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1990 

Available at Fisher Library General 895.1 13  

Curator’s note:  

Comparative research is a research methodology in social sciences that aims to make comparisons across different countries or cultures. Can you think of other areas of comparative studies? 

History of Chinese drama 

A History of Chinese Drama  

William Dolby  

London: Paul Elek Books Limited, 1976 

Available at Fisher Library General 792.0951 4 

Dr. William Dolby (杜为廉) was a Professor of Chinese in the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Edinburgh. As one of the foremost experts on Chinese language, culture and history, Dr. Dolby was a leading pioneer in Chinese theatrical studies and published A History of Chinese Drama in 1976. It was one of the first substantial works of Chinese theatrical history in western countries.  

Curator’s question: 

Can you draw a timeline of Chinese theatrical developments using the table of contents?

Curator’s note:  

The cover image is originally from China Illustrated drawn by Thomas Allom who was a famous British illustrator for travel books in the 19th century. The image depicts a Chinese drama performance. Full volumes of China Illustrated can be found in the Rare Books Collections at the Fisher Library. 

China Illustrated  
Thomas Allom  
London: Fisher Son & Co., 1845 
Available at Rare Books & Special Collections General Dewey 915.1 206 

宋元戏曲史 Song Yuan Xiqu Shi (A History of Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties)
王国维 Wang Guowei
Taipei: Publications of Ancient Books, 1915
Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 5656 4

This book is considered as the first monograph of Chinese theatrical studies. Wang Guowei (王国维) is one of the most renowned intellectual luminaries of modern China.

According to Wang’s research:

  • The definition of Chinese drama must encompass “speech, action and singing in order to perform stories”.
  • Chinese drama originated from witchcraft performances and temple rituals.
  • Chinese drama matured in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368 AD) and it embodied the value of “naturalness” which Wang considered as a universal standard for good literature.

Chinese drama is an indispensable part of Chinese folk culture. Rare books on folklore in the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368 AD) recorded some historical developments of Chinese drama.

南村辍耕录 Nan Cun Chuo Geng Lu 

陶宗仪Tao Zongyi  (1329–1410 AD) 

Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1959 

Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 2700 3 

都城纪胜 Du Cheng Ji Sheng  

耐得翁 Nai Deweng (Song Dynasty) 

Taibei: Taiwan shang wu yin shu guan, 1979 

Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 9105 9 

There were amusement quarters known as瓦舍washe ‘tile booths’ in the Song Dynasty where 雜劇zaju ‘variety plays’ were performed.  

东京梦华录 Dong Jing Meng Hua Lu 

孟元老 Meng Yuanlao (Song Dynasty) 

Shanghai: Po ku chai, 1922 

Available at Fisher Library Rare Books & Special Collections, EA 9100 3 

Within瓦舍washe ‘tile booths’ were a number of棚 peng ‘awnings’ which could hold thousands of audience members.  

梦粱录 Meng Liang Lu 

吴自牧Wu Zimu (Song Dynasty) 

Zhejiang: Zhejiang Ren min Chu Ban She, 1980  

Available at Fisher Library East Asian General EA 2665.7 8 

Curator’s question: 

When you write academic essays, you need to provide primary and secondary sources to support your arguments. Are these books primary or secondary sources?  

About the Curator

Jenny Zhijun Yang graduated with a Master of Art Curating with distinction at the University of Sydney in 2018. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Arts in history and Asian studies in 2017, and was awarded the Summer Research Scholarship of the University of Auckland. Jenny is currently a gallery assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and was previously a gallery assistant at the Auckland Art Gallery. She also works as a collection manager for a private collector. She co-curated the Giuseppe Castiglione Print Exhibition宫廷画师郎世宁)at the George Fraser Gallery in collaboration with the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation and the National Palace Museum of Taiwan in 2016. In 2018, she curated an exhibition on Thomas Allom, Perspectives of an outsider: Thomas Allom’s fascination with 19th century China with the University Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, and gave a Rare Bites talk: Orientalism in Thomas Allom’ s engravings. Jenny has a Chinese heritage and her dream is to share Chinese civilization with others.  

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Exhibition details:

Fisher Library, level 3

From 29th August 2019

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[1] Chen Shouyi, “The Chinese Orphan: A Yuan Play – Its Influence on European Drama of the Eighteenth Century,” in The Vision of China in the English Literature of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries edited by Adrian Hsia, 1998, Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

* Three Unities require a play to have a single action represented as occurring in a single place and within the course of a day. These principles were called unity of action, unity of place, and unity of time. 

Four ways to use the Library to improve your results this Semester

We’ve designed a bunch of (free!) workshops and events to help you get the most out of Uni. Here’s how to cruise through semester 2:

1. Develop a study routine

 The temptation to binge watch a Netflix series, clean your room or scroll through Facebook when studying at home can often be too hard to deal with. Not to worry…we have the solution: Eliminate distractions & sign up for our ‘Focus and Study’ sessions.

These sessions use the Pomodoro technique and are all about short bursts of intense productivity. By committing to 2 hours every week of study away from your usual study spot at home, your study productivity will increase & your uni results are bound to improve!

Focus & Study Sessions

When: Every Wednesday during semester, 1-3pm

Where: Fisher Library Digital Scholarship Studio, level 5

Are you a postgraduate student? Join ‘Focus & Study’ every Wednesday & Saturday 1-3pm at the Quarter Event Space

No need to register for sessions – just drop in.

2. Make the most of everything the Library has to offer by learning ‘How to Library’

 Countless books and online resources, printing, study rooms, computers and expert staff ready to answer all of your questions – the Library has it all!

‘How to Library’ will give you an intro to everything you need to know to get started and harness the power of the Library.

How to Library Sessions

Bring with you: Your own device e.g. iPad, laptop, phone (this is optional)

When: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 2-3pm

Where: Fisher Library Training room (210)

Prefer to do the class in Mandarin? 我们还提供中英双语解说,请查看我们的网站选择合适您的时间!

Check the schedule

No need to register, just drop in!

3. Break with Coffee & Croissants

Navigating uni can be difficult, but our Peer Learning Advisors (PLAs) are here to help.

Our PLAs are fellow students (just like you) and they are always available to chat- armed with all the uni know-how, with anything from assignment troubles to where to food on a budget.

Come along to meet & chat with our PLAs over coffee & croissants.

Coffee & Croissants: Chat with our PLAs

Bosch Commons: 1st & 3rd Tuesday of every month, 12-1pm

Are you a postgrad student? Attend coffee & croissants at the Quarter: 1st & 3rd Thursday of every month, 12-1pm

No need to register, just drop in for a friendly chat (and croissants of course!).

4. Upskill with the newest tech and get creative with your assignments!

Every semester ThinkSpace has an ongoing packed schedule of awesome workshops you can get involved in- to upskill your creative technology abilities & improve the standard of your assignments.

Need to create a video? Drop in to our One-Button recording studio sessions to learn how to create professional standard videos with the press of a button.

And it doesn’t stop there! Learn skills in soldering, 3D printing, research data management, virtual reality, CNC carving and so much more!

Check out the schedule and register on our website.  

Visualise Your Thesis

University of Sydney Visualise Your Thesis entries, 2019

Visualise Your Thesis challenges higher degree by research students to present their research in a 60 second video. The Visualise Your Thesis competition was started at The University of Melbourne in 2016 and is in its second year at The University of Sydney. Voting closed 20th August 2019.

Finalist Entries & results include:

(Winner) Cryptococcus: the Big and Small of it

Presented by Kenya Fernandes

PhD (Final Year). School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney

(Runner Up) The Ecology, Behaviour, and Evolution of Urban Syrphid Flies (Diptera: Syrphidae)

Presented by Manuel Lequerica

PhD (Year 2). School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney

(Viewer’s choice) New Pathways for Treating Chronic Pain

Presented by Claudia Natale

PhD (Year 3). Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney

Uncovering Organisational Superheroes: Working beyond the job description

Presented by Tim Mahlberg

PhD (Final Year). The University of Sydney Business School

People with disabilities in disaster-prone Indonesia

Presented by Pradytia Pertiwi

PhD (Final Year). Centre for Disability Research and Policy, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney

Heat tolerance in wheat: Plant characteristics and reflectance properties

Presented by Maria Ruz

PhD (Year 3). School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney

New characterisation methods for lubricant-infused surfaces using atomic force microscopy

Presented by Sam Peppou-Chapman

PhD (Year 3). School of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney

Roman Heads, Greek Hearts, Canaanite Souls: Culture, Identity and Social Change at Pella of the Decapolis (63 BCE to 295 CE)

Presented by Sandra Gordon

PhD (Year 2). Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney

Development, implementation and evaluation of a treatment guideline for herpes simplex keratitis

Presented by Maria Cabrera-Aguas

PhD (Final Year). Sydney Medical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney

What we can learn on social participation of adolescents with learning disabilities from Malaysian inclusive education settings?

Presented by Hasrul Hosshan

PhD (Year 3). Centre for Disability Research and Policy, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney

To Affinity and Beyond: Interactive Digital Humans as a Human Computer Interface

Presented by Mike Seymour

PhD (Final Year). The University of Sydney Business School

Inhaled combination phage-antibiotic therapy for antimicrobial resistance bacteria

Presented by Yu Lin

PhD (Final Year). School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney

Dry eyes in breast cancer patients

Presented by Pauline Khoo

PhD (Year 3). Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney

New Systematic Review Toolkit

The Library is excited to announce the launch of our new Systematic Review Toolkit, now live on our Library website.

Are you embarking on a systematic review, but don’t know where to begin?

The Library is very excited to announce that we’ve launched our new Systematic Review Toolkit, the perfect place to get started on your research journey. 

We’ve broken down the entire systematic review process into stages, directly informed by user research. We provide overviews, tips, tools and resources at each stage, and link you to relevant University support so there is always help at hand.

Use the toolkit to navigate your way through the entire process and get the most out of appointments with your supervisors, librarians, statisticians and the Learning Centre.

To access the new Systematic Review Toolkit, visit the research section of the Library website.

Free Lunchtime Talk on Late Medieval Spanish Manuscripts

Join us for an upcoming lunchtime talk by Dr David Andrés Fernández: Sacred space, music and liturgy in Late Medieval Spanish Manuscripts.

fol. 19 verso from Add.Ms. 420. “Poissy Processional.” 10 Mar. 1501: n. pag. Print. (One of the books discussed in the talk: a written and illuminated book of plainchant music that contains the liturgical processions used by nuns at the Dominican convent of Saint-Louis de Poissy at the beginning of the sixteenth century, between 1500 and 1510.)

Dr David Andrés Fernández is a visiting scholar from Complutense University of Madrid, Musicology and he will be discussing his latest research findings concerning some of the liturgical manuscripts recently purchased by Rare Books and Special Collections.

These manuscripts include books for both Cathedral and Monastic use, dating back to the thirteenth century. Many of the books focus on the period from Christmas to Epiphany.

Although provenance for a number of these manuscripts cannot yet be established with any certainty, repertorial and decorative evidence in some of the books points to links with the liturgical agenda of Salamanca Cathedral. Two monastic antiphonals and one gradual are identified with religious communities (Servites, Jeronymites, Augustinians) and one of these appears to have been associated with a particular house of nuns (Our Lady of the Snows).

When
Tuesday 20th August, 1pm – 2pm

Where
Fisher Library
Seminar Room, Level 2

RSVP

Numbers are limited so please register here.

Warburton Arts and Knowledge Project: Artists in Residence at Fisher Library

This NAIDOC week the Library has been lucky enough to host Artists in Residence from Warburton in Western Australia.

The artists are visiting to celebrate the launch of the new University of Sydney digital portal of Indigenous Knowledges.

The portal is about the commitment by the University to ensure that Aboriginal knowledges are embedded in the learning, teaching and research at our University.

The small town of Warburton in remote Western Australia is home to the largest collection of Aboriginal art owned by Aboriginal people in the country, if not the world. This astonishing body of work by the Ngaanyatjarra people has been collected over the past 30 years, with the community acquiring all of the significant works being created there. Consequently, Ngaanyatjarra art is rare on the market, with the most outstanding examples sitting within the 1000 strong Warburton Art Collection, managed by the Warburton Arts Project.

This collection is a spectacular example of how Ngaanyatjarra knowledge is celebrated, remembered, made new, and shared. The Warburton Arts and Knowledge Project, by way of a digital portal of Indigenous Knowledges, interfaces these alternate world views with our current teaching pedagogies, thus allowing any student, researcher or lecturer immediate access to Indigenous Knowledges.

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Visit Fisher Library Foyer this Thursday 11th July to see the artists at work and chat to them about their process.

We will also be exhibiting the works from the new portal at
ThinkSpace until 19th July 2019. Visit for your chance to see some of the incredible artworks in detail on the Digital Wall.  

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