MODERN CHINESE DRAMA ACROSS MEDIA AND WORLDS: Centered on the Case of the White Snake

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter questions the ideas of “modern,” “Chinese,” and “drama” and tests the boundary of “modern Chinese drama” by stretching its temporal, geographical, linguistic, and genre and media borders. It uses the reinventions of the White Snake legend as a case study, tracing the legend’s transformations from the late eighteenth-century chuanqi plays to the early nineteenth-century tanci storytelling performances, from the yangge folk plays of the 1920s to the wartime propaganda performances of the 1940s, and from jingju and difangxi, or Beijing and local operas of the early People’s Republic of China, to the continued popularity of storytelling performances throughout the Maoist and post-Mao eras. The yangge and jingju plays of the White Snake legend were translated into English and introduced to the outside world during the high socialist period as representative works of Chinese drama, speaking to the intriguing dialectics between the folk and the revolutionary, and the national and the international throughout the development of modern Chinese performance culture. At the same time, this chapter pays close attention to vibrant intermedial stage experimentations in reinventing the White Snake legend outside mainland China, from the premiere of Taiwanese artist Lin Hwai-Min’s dance drama version of the legend by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre at the National Theatre of Singapore in 1975 to the Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese opera troupe’s and the Guo Guang Opera Company’s spectacular performances of the legend from the early 2000s onward. Moreover, a new wave of English renditions of the jingju and baojuan (Buddhist precious scrolls) versions of the White Snake legend gained influence as renewed theatrical representations of Chinese tradition and culture abroad in the twenty-first century, while innovative stage performances of Pulitzer Prize-winning Western opera and Tony Award-winning playwright’s original English play challenged conventional boundary of modern Chinese drama. These critically acclaimed Anglophone White Snake performances in contemporary Unites States speak volumes about the importance of writing a world history of modern Chinese drama.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA World History of Chinese Literature
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781000916126
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 selection and editorial matter, Yingjin Zhang; individual chapters, the contributors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)
  • Medicine (all)
  • Health Professions (all)
  • Social Sciences (all)


Dive into the research topics of 'MODERN CHINESE DRAMA ACROSS MEDIA AND WORLDS: Centered on the Case of the White Snake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this