The Peach Blossom Fan (Paperback)

The Peach Blossom Fan By K'ung Shang-jen, Chen Shih-hsiang (Translated by), Harold Acton (Translated by), Cyril Birch (Translated by), Judith T. Zeitlin (Introduction by) Cover Image
By K'ung Shang-jen, Chen Shih-hsiang (Translated by), Harold Acton (Translated by), Cyril Birch (Translated by), Judith T. Zeitlin (Introduction by)


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.

About the Author

K'ung Shang-jen (1646–1718) was a sixty-fourth generation descendant of Confucius and was raised in his ancestor’s hometown of Qufu in Shandong province. A noted expert in music and Confucian rites, he was chosen in 1684 to lecture to the visiting emperor Kangxi, who later appointed him to the Imperial Academy in Beijing. The Peach Blossom Fan was completed in 1699 and was performed to great acclaim in 1700. It was not published, however, until 1708, a few years after K’ung had left his post and returned home to Qufu.

Judith T. Zeitlin is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book is The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature.

Chen Shih-Hsiang (1912–1971) was a professor of Chinese and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Among his books are The Genesis of Poetic Time and, with Harold Acton, Modern Chinese Poetry.

Harold Acton
(1904–1994) was a prolific Anglo-Italian writer, poet, novelist, and translator. He lived in China from 1932 to ’39, teaching English literature at the University of Peking.

Cyril Birch
is a translator and the Agassiz Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

Praise For…

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. The 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
Product Details
ISBN: 9781590178768
ISBN-10: 1590178769
Publisher: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: July 21st, 2015
Pages: 352
Language: English