The 171 extant plays of the Yuan period (1279-1368) are the oldest and most brilliant examples of Chinese dramatic literature. In this first comprehensive study, Chung-wen Shih systematically explores the riches of Yuan drama, from its unexcelled lyric poetry to its colorful characterization. After tracing the popular genres that contributed to the flowering of Yuan drama, the author describes conventional features of dramatic construction, methods of characterization, and recurring themes. The central focus is on the use of language: prose passages and lyrics are cited to show how innovative use of spoken language invests the prose with a remarkable strength and suppleness, and how imaginative use of figurative language endows the poetry with an incomparable richness of texture. Attention is also given to the use of music and physical aspects of staging.Originally published in 1976.The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.