Shi Hui


Shi Hui (years of birth and death unknown) was a playwright of Yuan dynasty. He was surnamed Shen (according to Register of Ghosts (Lugui bu), a Chinese book containing biographies of zaju and sanqu artists from the end of Jin dynasty to the middle of Yuan dynasty , the edition by Cao Lianting in Qing dynasty), courtesy name Junmei (noble and beautiful, or equal and beautiful), and was from Qiantang (today’s Huangzhou, Zhejiang). The years of his birth and death were not recorded. In Register of Ghosts, the author Zhong Sicheng, who lived in Yuan Dynasty, listed Shi Hui in “late prestigious and talented artists of the time of my acquaintance”, which suggests that Shi Hui had died before Zhong Sicheng completed the book. The book was compiled during Zhishun era of Yuan dynasty, therefore, Shi Hui might live before the era. Shi Hui had big eyes and elegant long beard. He liked to talk and laugh and lived in front of City God Temple (chenghuang miao) in Wushan, Hangzhou. He was a businessman and also a zaju writer, and was befriended with Zhong Sicheng, Fan Juzhong, Zhao Junqing, Chen Yanshi and Yan Junchang. He had written the zaju Sushuang qiu (a coat made by feather of the bird named Sushuang) with Fan Juzhong, but it’s a pity that the book hasn’t been found. He had also written the southern play (Nan-hsi , a type of Chinese opera) Baiyue ting (a love story between Wang Ruilan and Jiang Shilong), of which the original edition has been lost and what we can see now are blocked-printed copies adapted in Ming dynasty. According to the handwritten copy of A Catalogue of Legendary Novels (Chuanqi huikao biaomu), Shi Hui was also the author of The Lotus City (furong cheng) and Zhouyu and Xiaoqiao in Moonlight (zhouxiaolang yueye xi xiaoqiao), which both are lost. Some Kunqu episodes of The Pavilion of Moon Praying (baiyue ting, also called Yougui ji) are still performed.                                                  (Yu weimin)


Gao Ming

Gao Ming (? – 1359?) was a playwright of Yuan dynasty, initial courtesy name Huishu (the last day of the lunar calendar), later changed to Zecheng (honesty) also known as “a Taoist of Root (caigen daoren)”. He originated from Rui’an (today’s Zhejiang) and born in a family of poets and anchoret during Dade era under reign of Emperor Chengzong of Yuan . He had been very smart since he was a child and very knowledgeable. When he was young, his family was poor, so he set up a school at home and recruited students for a living. Later, he was determined to be a government official and passed provincial examination in the forth year of the Zhizheng era (A.D. 1344) and national examination the next year and started his political career, during which he served as lushi (responsible for taking notes and document transcription), the Provincial Secretary and tuiguan (judicial official). Later, he resigned and died of illness at the beginning of Hongwu reign period of Ming dynasty . Some say he died in the 19th year of the Zhizheng era. Gao Ming advocated the authority of Confucian ethics, clean government and political integrity. During his tenure, he corrected the miscarriage of justice, released innocent prisoners and protected the right and interests of people, and therefore had a good political reputation. Since he was so upright, every time when his colleague disagreed with him, he would report the case to zhengshi tang (the top decision-making body). As a result, he always failed to get promoted, and finally he resigned, and moved to the Tower of Shen (shenjia lou), Lishe Village, Yin County and started writing Nan-hsi The Story of Pipa (Pipa ji). He was so dedicated in the drama as to “keep singing until foaming at mouth, and keep beating out the tune with feet until hollowing out the floor” (The Preface of the Story of the Sword). Pipa ji is about the story of Cai Bojie and Zhao Wuniang. It was adapted from A Chaste Woman Zhao (Zhao zhennv). In the new story, Cai Erlang--who betrays his wife and family--is replaced by Cai Bojie, a devoted son and loyal man. Cai’s three types of unfilial behavior (“san bu xiao”) are replaced by three types of disobedient behavior (“san bu cong”). Therefore, the theme and characters of the drama have been renewed. After the birth of Pipa ji, drama commentators regarded it as a model for Nan-hsi writing, for example, some claimed “it is extraordinary not only for its careful use of words and beautiful stories, but also for its capture of human feelings, emotions and fickleness of the world, which are really vivid” (yiyuan zhiyan by Wang Shizhi, comments on poem). Kunqu singers took him as the “Forefather of Kunqu”, and think his “words are elegant, and rhymes are delicate, which can be regarded as a guideline for Kunqu writing” (Qu lv, a book that introduces drama, by Wei Liangfu);drama commentators took his work Pipa ji as an “unparalleled work” (qu pin, a book that comments on Chinese drama and playwrights, by Lv Tiancheng ). Pipa ji has been played for over six hundred years in different tunes and types of drama. Since Ming and Qing dynasty, it has been a popular play on Kunqu stages until now. It is said that Gao Ming had also written another play called The Story of A Devoted Son—Min Ziqian (Min Ziqian Danyiji), which has been lost. Apart from this, he had also written a poem collection—the Collection of Roukezhai with 20 volumes, but only 53 poems, one lyric, two songs and twelve texts have been found.                                       (C)


Gu Jian








Gu Ying






Xu Tianchen















Gu Jian (years of birth and death unknown) was a song writer and singer of Kunshan tune from the end of Yuan dynasty. He lived in Qiandun (today’s Qiandeng Town), 30 li south east of Kunshan (in today’s Jiangsu). According to Nanci Yinzheng (Guide to Southern arias) by Wei Liangfu from Ming dynasty, Gu Jian was good at writing and singing southern songs, and known as “idle man of wind and moon” (fengyue sanren). He was befriended with Gu Ying (A-Ying), Yang Weizhen (Iron Flute), Ni Zan (Yuan Zhen), who were very famous at the time. He had written the ten-volume Collection of Tao Zhenye (taozhenye ji) and the eight-volume Yuefu Poems of Idle Man of Wind and Moon (fengyue sanren yuefu). Some claimed that “he carried forward the essence of southern songs, he was reputed for Kunshan tune at the beginning of the dynasty”. However, there is no reference for his life experience. According to the Genealogy of Gu Family in Nantong (nantong gushi jiapu), kept in Nanjing Library, Gu Jian had a uncle (his father’s elder brother) named Gu Jing, a poet. Gu Jing moved from Kunshan to Nantong with the whole family “during the war at the end of Yuan dynasty”. The genealogy clearly shows the pedigree chart of Gu Jian and his immediate family. Based on the birthdays of relatives of his generation, it could be estimated that Gu Jian’s activities as an adult mainly took place from the 1st year of Taiding era, when Zhou Deqing finished Phonology of Central China (Zhongyuanyinyun), to the 27th year of Zhizheng era under the reign of Shun emperor of Yuan dynasty (1324--1367).                                  (Wu Xinlei)

Gu Ying (1310--1369), also named A-Ying, courtesy name Dehui (morality and glory) or Zhongying (the second son of the family). He originated from Kunshan (in modern Jiangsu) at the end of Yuan dynasty. He was closely befriended with Gu Jian, a song writer and singer of Kunshan tune (kunshan qiang). In the house Gu Ying lived, there was a Jade Mountain and Grass Hall (yushan caotang, where reputed literatus often partied). In his own garden, he built famous Pavilion of Golden Millet (jinsu xuan), Boat of Calligraphy and Painting (shuhua fang) and Tower of Spring Light (chun huilou). Through offering singing girls’ performance, he made friends with guests coming from different places. Gu Ying was good at appreciating music. “The singing girls in his house were more than any other places of the world”. Among the girls, there were some very renowned ones including Suyun, Suzhen, Junior Qionghua, Ding Xiangxiu and Nan Zhixiu. They could not only perform southern play but also northern song zaju. Gu Ying himself could play various musical instruments and could sing, and he was especially good at playing ruan (a traditional Chinese plucked string instrument). He was the first one who had added ruan into Kunqu orchestra.                                               (Wu Xinlei)

Xu Tianchen (years of birth and death unknown) was a playwright who lived around the end of Yuan dynasty and the beginning of Ming dynasty, courtesy name Zhongyou (reason), also known as “a sick old man among pine trees (chaosong bingsou)”. He originated from Chun’an (in modern Zhejiang). He was born at around the end of the Yuan dynasty. In the early years of Hongwu era, he became a “cultivated talent” (xiucai) and then served as a teacher at local public school (xianxue). Later, the government intended to recruit him, but he declined. He was good at writing poems and had written the Collection of Chaosong (chaosong ji). Some say he was the author of the southern play Killing the Dog (shagou ji), but the extant edition is one adapted by Feng Menglong from Ming dynasty. According to the written transcription of A Catalogue of Legendary Novels (chuanqi huikao biaomu), Xu had also written Honest and Upright Zhang Zhicheng (gengzhi zhang zhicheng), Wang Wenju Chases Female Ghost in Moonlight (wang wenju yueye zhui qianhun), Chulantian Feihang Meets God (chulantian feihang yuxian), and Liu Wenzhi Celebrates Peace at Chinese new year (liu wenzhi yuandan he shengping), yet all lost. Today’s Kunqu school in Yongjia has adapted Killing the Dog and brought it on stage. It was presented during the 2nd China Kunqu Festival in November of 2003.                (Yu Weimin)