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The Maudgalyayana Drama -- Chinese Religious Theater


The Maudgalyayana Dramarefers to a series of plays about how Maudgalyayana rescues his mother from Hell. It later spread toJiangsu,Zhejiang,HunanandJiangxiprovinces.

Legend has it that Fu Xiang's family were Buddhists. After Fu Xiang died, his wife Liu Qingti (or Liu Siniang) broke religious taboos by killing animals and eating meat. After Liu Qingti died, she was sent to Hell for her sins. Fu Xiang's son Fu Luobo (or Maudgalyayana) went to the west to ask the Buddha for help. The Buddha gave him a copy of a Sutra and an iron club. Maudgalyayana went down to Hell, experiencing countless hardships, and persuaded his mother to abandon her evil ways. She did, and the whole family was reunited.

The MaudgalyayanaDramais the most representative religious drama in the history of Chinese theater. Audiences were attracted by these dramas, not because they were religious stories, but because of their complicated plots, and fantastic settings, such as Heaven and Hell, in addition to unusual characters from religious and philosophical sects. The performances required combat and acrobatic skills, such as walking on stilts, sword dances, and fighting with spears, as well as comic episodes. The music ofthe Maudgalyayana Drama included more than 100 traditionalQupai(the names of tunes to whichQuare composed), folk songs and Buddhist music. The richness of the performing arts in the Maudgalyayana Drama made them popular for several hundred years. Hence, artists called them the "Mother Dramas".

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