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Orphan of the Zhaos


The dramas of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) are called YuanZaju, poetic dramas set to music. As a mature, high-class theatrical film, the YuanZajuare full of the characteristics of that period, and display unique artistic creations. Hence, they are regarded as the most notable achievement of Yuan literature. After the Southern Song (1127-1279) fell to the Yuan,Zajubecame a national drama.

One of the representative works of this period isThe Orphan of the Zhaos,written by Ji Junxiang (his birth and death dates unknown) and based on a historical tale.

During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC), Tu Anjia, a treacherous court official of the State ofJin, framed the upright official Zhao Dun. As a result, more than 300 members of Zhao's family were killed. To protect the only baby of the Zhaos, a doctor by the name of Cheng Ying exchanged his own son for the orphan, and Gongsun Chujiu, an officer guarding the city gate, sacrificed his own life in the course of saving the orphan of the Zhaos. Twenty years later, the orphan grew up, and Cheng Ying told him the whole story. The young man then killed Tu Anjia.

In his play, Ji Junxiang sings the praises of the indomitable spirit of revenge of the Chinese nation through shocking scenes, as well as the spirit of self-sacrifice of Cheng Ying and Gongsun Chujiu. The slogan "Protect the Zhao Orphan", shouted in the drama indicates that the people under the rule of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty cherished the memory of the Song, which had been destroyed by the Mongols.

Voltaire (1694-1778) was inspired by this drama, and wrote one himself on the same theme under the name of A Chinese Orphan. When the play was first staged inFrance, it was quite a hit and soon spread across the European countries. Goethe (1749-1832) did the same as Voltaire.

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