China Institute Hosts Lecture on “China’s Greatest Historical Drama”


China Institute joins New York Review of Books to celebrate the publication of Chen Shih-hsiang and Harold Acton’s lively translation of K’ung Shang-jen’s (孔尚任)’s The Peach Blossom Fan 《桃花扇》.  In his first lecture at China Institute’s new downtown home at 100 Washington Street, Senior Lecturer Ben Wang will speak about this masterpiece of Chinese literature on Thursday, September 24 at 6:30 PM.


Written in 1699, in the early Qing dynasty, the play recounts the fall of the Ming Dynasty through the love story of its two real-life historical characters, young scholar Hou Fangyu (侯方域) and courtesan Li Xiangjun (李香君), the Fragrant Princess.  With a large cast divided into a group of scrupulous and passionate patriots and another of corrupt and self-serving decadents, all of whom are based on real personalities and events of the day, it is a poignant story of love and heartbreaks in the midst of intriguing political and social upheavals.  Like Dream of the Red ChamberThe Peach Blossom Fan is “imbued with a spirit of pessimism and resignation”, but it is “a work of politics, nationalism, and history.”

Co-translator Harold Acton, a prominent cultural figure in London and on the European continent in the 1920s before moving to Beijing in 1937 where he lived until the outbreak of war forced him to leave in 1939, stated that The Peach Blossom Fan is a “highly poetic chronicle play” that is “a vivid evocation of the downfall of the Ming dynasty” that “deserves to be better known to students of Chinese literature and history.”

More from Wikipedia.

China Institute has offered two tickets to our readers.  If you’d like to learn more about this classic, which The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature has called “China’s greatest historical drama”.  Send an email to by 11:59 PM Wednesday, September 23 with the subject line “Peach Blossom Fan”.

Thursday, September 24, 6:30 PM
China Institute in America, 100 Washington Ave (enter at 40 Rector Street)
$10/members; $15/non-members