Like Not Like: Writing Portraits in The Peony Pavilion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this essay, the author examines the portraits that are featured in Tang Xianzu's The Peony Pavilion. The textual portraits are mixed in nature. They contain semiotic elements that can be readily described in language and understood through iconographical interpretation. But other elements in the textual portrait cannot be fully captured by words. The latter apparently fascinated Tang Xianzu, for he explained the source of inspired writing by comparing a writer to a painter. In The Peony Pavilion, the ambiguous and unfinished pictorial marks in Du Liniang's self-portrait—its “antisemiotic elements,” a phrase borrowed from James Elkins—are prominent. This picture thus conveniently partakes in the play's comedy of errors, for at times it cannot be fully or even partially recognized. Without discounting the representational potential of pictures and other ritual objects, such as imperial portraits, Tang probes in The Peony Pavilion the mimetic and the nonrepresentational elements of writing and picture making.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-172
JournalJournal of Chinese Literature and Culture
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2015

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Pavilion
Writer
Painters
Comedy
Ritual Objects
Language

Keywords

  • The Peony Pavilion
  • Tang Xianzu
  • Portraiture
  • LITERARY CRITICISM
  • visuality

Cite this

Like Not Like : Writing Portraits in The Peony Pavilion. / Burkus-Chasson, Anne.

In: Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, Vol. 2, No. 1, 04.2015, p. 134-172.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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