宋词与元曲 Song Ci Poetry and Yuan Drama
The main literary achievement in the Song Dynasty was Ci (poetry written to certain tunes with strict tonal patterns and rhyme schemes, in fixed numbers of lines and words, originating in the Tang Dynasty and fully developed in the Song Dynasty). Ci have sentences of different lengths, which are convenient for singing. Many outstanding writers of Ci appeared in the two Song dynasties, such as Su Shi, Li Qingzhao, Xin Qiji, Liu Yong, Zhou Bangyan and Jiang Kui.
Su Shi (1037-1101 AD) is also known by his literary name Dongpo (Eastern Slope). He was from Sichuan Province, and contributed greatly to the development of Ci. Famous lines of his, which are still quoted today include "the endless river eastward flows/ With its huge waves are gone all those gallant heroes of bygone days"and "May we live a long life/ And together share the beauty of the moonlight".
Li Qingzhao lived in the period of the late Northern Song Dynasty and early Southern Song Dynasty. She was born in Jinan, Shandong Province. Her early life was pleasant and comfortable, with a happy marriage. Her delicate and cheerful poetry written in this period reflects this. However, following the death of her husband and the rise of turmoil in the country, her works started to betray melancholy and pessimism.
The main literary achievement in the Yuan Dynasty was Yuan drama. Leading exponents of this genre, which used a new type of lyrical poetry for the dialogue, were Ma Zhiyuan, Guan Hanqing, Bai Pu, Zhang Kejiu, Guan Yunshi (ethnic Uygur) and Zhang Yanghao. "Withered branch, old tree and a crow in the dusk; a little bridge, flowing water and a cottage"describes the loneliness of a traveler far from home. "The rise of the nation brings misery to the people, and its fall also brings misery to the people!"is a biting social commentary. Both these verses are typical of the Yuan style of lyrics.
Drama reached its heyday during the Yuan Dynasty. Yuan drama combined music, dancing, acting and speaking (dialogue and monologue) all together. Classical Yuan plays include The Injustice Suffered by Dou E by Guan Hanqing, Autumn in the Palace of Han by Ma Zhiyuan, A Beautiful Girl Loses Her Soul by Zheng Guangzu, The Parasol Tree and the Rain by Bai Pu, and Romance of the Western Chamber by Wang Shifu.
Guan Hanqing was born in Dadu. He was the most prominent dramatist of the Yuan Dynasty. He devoted his life to the stage. He lived among actors, and went on the stage to act sometimes. He was a prolific writer, producing over 60 plays, 18 of which are extant. Guan Hanqing often discloses the dark side of society in his works, and thus came under official suspicion from time to time. But he never wavered in his commitment to portraying real life problems. He once called himself "a bronze pea which cannot be destroyed by steaming, cooking, smashing or frying".