Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590178768
Pages: 370
Publication Date: June 16, 2015

Upcoming event for The Peach Blossom Fan:

Thursday, September 24, 2015, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Chine Institute
100 Washington Street (enter @ 40 Rector), New York, NY 10006

For more information, see the event page here or visit the China Institute website here.

The Peach Blossom Fan

by K'ung Shang-jen, introduction by Judith T. Zeitlin, translated from the Chinese by Chen Shih-hsiang and Harold Acton with the collaboration of Cyril Birch


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A tale of battling armies, political intrigue, star-crossed romance, and historical cataclysm, The Peach Blossom Fan is one of the masterpieces of Chinese literature, a vast dramatic composition that combines the range and depth of a great novel with the swift intensity of film. 

In the mid-1640s, famine sweeps through China. The Ming dynasty, almost 300 years old, lurches to a bloody end. Peking falls to the Manchus, the emperor hangs himself, and Ming loyalists take refuge in the southern capital of Nanking. Two valiant generals seek to defend the city, but nothing can overcome the corruption, decadence, and factionalism of the court in exile. The newly installed emperor cares for nothing but theater, leaving practical matters to the insidious Ma Shih-ying. Ma’s crony Juan Ta-ch’eng is as unscrupulous an operator as he is sophisticated a poet. He diverts resources from the starving troops in order to stage a spectacular production of his latest play. History, however, has little time for make-believe, though the earnest members of the Revival Club, centered on the handsome young scholar Hou Fang-yü and his lover Fragrant Princess, struggle to discover a happy ending. K’ung Shang-jen, introduction by Judith T. Zeitlin, translated from the Chinese by Chen Shih-hsiang and Harold Acton with the collaboration of Cyril Birch


Besides the historical authenticity, [The Peach Blossom Fan] is replete with romance, conflicts between loyalty and treachery, a healthy measure of bawdy humor, punning, elegant poetry, moral issues, and popular philosophical currents...[This] is a lively, readable, and faithful translation of a major work of Chinese literature.
—Howard Goldblatt

Many popular Chinese plays fail to qualify as literature, being no more than plain scripts for brilliant actors to display their virtuosity. T'ao-hua-shanThe Peach Blossom Fan appears to be a luminous exception, for it is a highly poetic chronicle play composed by a distinguished scholar, K'ung Shang-jen, who was born soon after the events he portrayed. As a vivid evocation of the downfall of the Ming dynasty, it deserves to be better known to students of Chinese literature and history.
—Harold Acton