1st Edition

Chinese Traditional Theatre and Male Dan Social Power, Cultural Change and Gender Relations

By Guo Chao Copyright 2022
    268 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    268 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines male dan, a male actor who performs female roles in Chinese theatre.

    Through the rise, fall and tenuous survival of male dan in Chinese history, Guo Chao reflects the transformations in the social zeitgeist in China, especially the politics of gender and sexuality. The breadth of this study reflects a diversified set of sources, ranging from classical to contemporary texts (texts of jingju plays, memoirs, collections of notation books) and other commentaries and critical evaluations of dan actors (in both English and Chinese languages) to video and audio materials, films and personal interviews.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of East Asian/Chinese studies across the fields of theatre, history, culture and literature.

    1. Introduction: Chinese traditional theatre and male dan  2. Imaginary romance: The rise of male dan and their connections to the scholar-elite in the Ming dynasty  3. Commodified intimacy: Male dan, boy courtesans and well-off patrons in the Qing dynasty  4. At the dawn of a modern nation: Three keys in male dan  5. Between scholar-intellectuals and theatrical aficionados: Male dan under siege  6. Reinventing disciplinary femininity: Technical innovations of male dan  7. Reconstructing femininity through masculinity: The prohibition of male dan in socialist China  8. The mythopoeia of homosexuality: Aesthetic representations of male dan in contemporary culture  9. A millennial predicament: Male dan in a homophobic country  10. Coda: Male dan and Chinese society in transition


    Guo Chao is an Assistant Professor of Chinese at Sun Yat-sen University, China. He publishes extensively on Chinese history, culture and society in journals such as Asian Theatre Journal, Asian Studies Review, Journal of Gender Studies and Cambridge Opera Journal.

    Guo Chao’s comprehensive study of male dan in traditional Chinese theatre provides fresh insights into Chinese culture and history. The book draws a chronological chart of male dan for around 500 years, examining the differences and/or relations between male dan and homosexuality. His informative analysis allows readers to understand this particular Chinese phenomenon.

    Mei Sun, National Central University

    Guo Chao offers an engaging and original contribution to the study of the male dan, tracing this prominent but often misunderstood figure from its late imperial heyday to the twenty-first century. Nimbly navigating between sociocultural history, theatre and performance studies, and gender studies, Chinese Traditional Theatre and Male Dan courageously complicates received narratives, whether unsympathetic or celebratory.

    Josh Stenberg, The University of Sydney