Chinese court theatre research
Old Members’ Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Fund Travel Report – Mei Yi Lau (2020 DPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies)
In August 2023, I travelled to Taiwan to carry out research on Chinese count theatre.
The working title of my dissertation is “Producing the ‘Precious Raft’: Court Culture and the Production of Grand Play in the Court of Qianlong.”, which focuses on the court theatre in 18th-century China and takes three editions of a 240-act lavish court drama The Precious Raft of Ascending Peace as a case study to discuss the development of the court theatre and court culture. One of the major editions I discuss in my dissertation is in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Before this trip, I have collected some scanned copies of this manuscript from a set of microfilm produced by an American Library. These copies allow me to conduct preliminary research on the play. However, as there are missing pages and unclear scanning, getting copies of the missing parts from the microfilms produced by the museum (currently stored in the National Central Library in Taiwan), and cross-checking with the original manuscript, were the main purposes of this trip.
As no photocopy nor picture of the manuscript is allowed in the Palace Museum’s special collection, I spent the first half of my trip in the National Central Library preparing for the upcoming visit, reading the museum-made microfilm copy and comparing it with the copies I obtained from other sources. After all the preparation, I got the permit from the museum to visit the manuscript in person. I not only checked and clarified the unclear parts of my digital copies, but also recorded some important details of the scripts that couldn’t show on the microfilm.
During the trip, I also visited several libraries to search for published historical archives and rare books. In the library of National Taiwan University, I accidentally found a piece of useful information in a set of books which not directly related to my field of study. It also inspired me to prove my hypothesis by using materials from a different field.
I would like to thank Univ and the Old Members’ Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Fund for supporting my trip to Taiwan, which helped my research a lot!
Published: 12 December 2023