Reviews Joshua Goldstein. Drama Kings: Players and Publics in the Re-creation of Peking Opera 18701937. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007. xi, 371 pp. Hardcover $49.95, Isbn 9780520247529. This book is essentially an account of the art form Peking opera over the period from 1870 to 1937, covering especially Beijing (or Beiping from 1928), but also Shanghai and other cities. Multidisciplinary in its scope, it considers social, economic, and political as well as artistic and literary matters. There is a good deal of biography of actors (the "drama kings" of the title), especially the "four famous dan" (sida mingdan), among whom the leading one was Mei Lanfang (18941961). But what makes this book remarkable is the way it takes up a whole range of matters that integrate the history of Peking opera over this period into the history of China as a whole. For instance, what do the livelihood and status of actors in a changing society tell us about Chinese society as a whole? What does the development of the proscenium stage as opposed to the traditional teahouse-theatres of the Qing dynasty tell us about change in China? And is there any linkage with "the nation"
China Review International – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Nov 28, 2008
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