Divorce and Remarriage as Revealed in Cantonese Opera: The Phoenix Hairpin and the Return of Lady Wenji (67486)

Session Information: Literary Studies
Session Chair: Kar Yue Chan

Sunday, 28 May 2023 12:15
Session: Session 2
Room: Room 703
Presentation Type:Oral Presentation

The art of Cantonese opera features a variety of representations of love through various performance forms and works, irrespective of their distinctive spatial and temporal settings in China. Depictions of love was delicate and subtle from the traditional Chinese mentality, owing to an alignment with conventional Confucian teachings stemming from the historical past. Hence, it is feasible to relate the elusive lyrics of Cantonese opera to classical poetry by tracing the refined borrowings from the past. The study is to be done by analyzing the lyrics from the perspective of the audience’s reception, and the female characters’ ambivalence in striving between resistance and acceptance of their destinies.
Conjugal relationships in Cantonese opera is worth scrutinizing because remarriage (particularly of women) was seen as disgraceful in pre-modern China. Prominent Cantonese opera plots involving divorce and remarriage include The Phoenix Hairpin [Chai tou feng 釵頭鳳] and The Return of Lady Wenji [Wenji gui Han 文姬歸漢], which are derived from an account of a poet couple in the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279) and historical records of the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220), respectively. By watching the performances of these two stories, audience share a desperate, tantalizing hope by the female characters to be with their true, but they are prevented by strong external forces from achieving satisfying conjugal relationships. The slim possibility of divorce from the women’s side has demonstrated different levels of feminine resistance against the established patriarchal norms of dominance.

Kar Yue Chan, Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Hong Kong

About the Presenter(s)
Dr Kar Yue Chan is a University Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer at Hong Kong Metropolitan University in Hong Kong

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00