Circa 1213 - CIRCA 1297
Career. Known as Yizhaisou (The Old Man Who Studies the Past), Guan Hanqing was one of the earliest playwrights of the Yuan era (1279-1368). A native of Yanjing (now Beijing), he was probably born into a noble family. After he failed to secure an official position as an imperial doctor, he turned his energy to writing and acting, living among the theater people of the urban outdoor entertainment area known as the spontaneous market. His only trip away from Beijing was a visit to Linan (Hangzhou) in the South.
Writings. Guan wrote approximately sixty-seven plays, of which eighteen have survived, including Snow in Midsummer (also known as The Wronging ofDou E), Rescued by a Coquette, The jade Mirror-Stand, The Wife Snatcher, and Go with a Single Sword to the Feast. Snow in Midsummer is a classic Chinese tragedy about a virtuous young woman from a humble family who is executed for a crime she did not commit. Her tragic experience moves heaven to redress the wrongs against her. The defiant spirit is one of the main features of Guan’s plays, which focus on themes such as love, heroism, and morality. Guan created realistic characters who express themselves in fresh, lively language. He was a master of using dramatic conflict to examine social problems. Still recognized for his contributions to literary history, he was one of the giants of international culture commemorated throughout the world.
Wilt Idema and Stephen West, Chinese Theater 1100-1450: A Source Book (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1982).
Zhang Peiheng and Luo Yuming, eds., Zhongguo wenxueshi (Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 1996).