China and Inner Asia
The early modern Chinese connoisseur was a judge of many forms, from luxury goods to changing trends in fashion and writing styles. Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in theater, the favorite pastime of the age. This panel explores connoisseurship as a “performative” act in the writing, editing, publishing, singing, and staging of drama in early modern China.
The connoisseurs whose work shaped the chuanqi plays, singing techniques, and forms of drama criticism examined in this panel were as deeply invested in drama’s artistic integrity as they were preoccupied by their reputations as authorities on music and theater. Schoenberger and Wu examine late Ming debates over the ‘correct’ way to read and sing dramas, demonstrating the diverse social forces in drama connoisseurship that competed to define rules of taste. Bernard and Tan examine intersections between drama connoisseurship and criticism, revealing how both are conditioned by and intersect at the identity of the playwright. Wu and Bernard explore the hybridity of dramatic texts and appraise forms of non-dramatic qu and representations of music, while Tan and Schoenberger reflect on the orthodoxies and conventions that privileged chuanqi lyrics over narrative and sought to streamline singing pronunciation. All four papers demonstrate how changes in historical and social settings transform the significance of drama as a medium and subject of connoisseurship. Overall, this panel reflects on connoisseurship as a deliberately crafted, sophisticatedly presented “performance” that shaped the history of Chinese drama as well as the culture of early modern China.
Paper Presenter: Yanbing Tan – The University of the South
Paper Presenter: Yinghui Wu – University of California, Los Angeles
Paper Presenter: Allison Bernard – Yale University
Paper Presenter: Casey Schoenberger – The Hong Kong Polytechnic University