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"Drama Sustains the Spirit": Art, Ritual, and Theater in Jin and Yuan Period Pingyang, 1150-1350


Pingyang (modern Linfen, Shanxi) was a major art and theater center in North China during the Jin and Yuan periods. Soon after the Jurchen conquered the Northern Song, zaju (variety plays) drama became an indispensable part of village theaters and temple fairs in Shanxi. Its popularity contributed to thriving graphical and sculptural representations of theater in Pingyang art, including paintings and prints of theatrical illustrations, brick reliefs and stone engravings of performance scenes, ceramic and mural decorations of dramatic stories, as well as inscriptions of lyrics and arias. By studying these rich visual and textual records collectively, this dissertation focuses on how a distinctive Pingyang culture affected the making and use of theatrical imagery in artistic, funerary, and ritual contexts, and in turn, how these illustrations and representations fulfilled their multiple functions in local societies. My aim is to investigate visual dimensions of the deeply rooted theater culture in North China and the significant role of Pingyang in shaping Jin and Yuan visual culture. Chapter One examines the interaction between popular theater and pictorial arts in Pingyang where there arose a secular predilection for printed scripts and narrative pictures. Chapter Two explores the role of drama in the spread of popular religion and historical knowledge among common folk, illustrating the infiltration of theater into local life and culture. Based on evidence from intact Duan family and Dong family cemeteries, the third chapter demonstrates that this region's particular funerary culture enabled zaju representations to obtain ceremonial significance in tomb space. Chapter Four discusses the close relationship between performance scenes represented in tombs and those at local temples and analyzes the elevated role of drama in village theater in Pingyang's folk ritual context. The last chapter introduces the significance of theater in commoners' views and the extension of didactic theater through pictures. My study illustrates that Pingyang people used theatrical imagery not only to sustain their deities and ancestors, but also to cultivate their own spirit and instruct descendents during a period full of uncertainty under Jurchen and Mongol rule.
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2011)

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Zhang, Fan, "'Drama Sustains the Spirit': Art, Ritual, and Theater in Jin and Yuan Period Pingyang, 1150-1350" (2011). History of Art and Architecture Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.