The Peony Pavillion Analysis

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Written in 1598 by Tang Xian-zu, The Peony Pavillion has long been regarded as one of the most powerful performance pieces to emerge from the Ming dynasty era in Chinese literature. The performance revolves around the tumultuous love story of Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei, and makes use of a number of theatrical models in retelling their story. The most notable being the classic Caizi-Jiaren model, which employs two distinct characters, a scholar and a beauty.
While The Peony Pavillion closely embodies the Caizi-Jiaren model at its onset, the story quickly evolves into a hybrid, demonstrating a new model in and of itself. At the onset of the story, the audience is led to believe that Liu Mengmei will assume the role of the scholar, or Caizi,
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First falling in love with a man from a dream, who she later learns to be Liu Mengmei, Du Li-niang awakes with a broken heart and a crippling longing for her lover. Feeling oppressed and with few options to resolve the situation and bring her and Liu Mengmei together, Du Li-niang consciously allows her depression and broken heart to consume and kill her. This conscious decision to die is significant in the way that it actively contradicts what the audience would expect the passive and hopeless beauty of the Caizi-Jiaren model to do. As opposed to wallowing around in pain, waiting for the hero to arrive, Du Li-niang’s decisive actions in dying juxtapose the audience’s assumptions with the performance’s realities. In this situation, rather than viewing death as an inevitable outcome of circumstance, it should instead be viewed as an empowering act and the first step in allowing Du Li-niang to pursue her dream of…show more content…
she has been on my mind day and night”; (pg. 897) “So, I’m all alone here. But I’ll keep looking over her portrait and examining it, bowing to it, calling out to it, and praising it.”; (pg. 897) and lastly “There was misery in the sound of his voice” (pg. 900). More definitively still is his lack of control, acknowledged in the second and third quote, and its reaffirmation of Du Li-niang’s role as the crux and protagonist within the story. However, the most definitive example for our argument can be found in Du Li-niang’s final act in reuniting the lovers.
In her return to the mortal world, this time in the flesh and blood, Du Li-niang shows her most direct display of dominance over Liu Mengmei by ordering him to dig up her grave, where he ultimately finds her body full of life without any signs of decay. In this last act Du Li-niang completes the final step in her pursuit for true love, reuniting the lovers in the flesh and blood, and at the same time firmly asserting herself as the deciding role in her own love story’s happy
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