Period Introduction Overview

East Asian DramaEnlightenment in Europe and the AmericasEarly Modern Chinese Vernacular LiteratureEarly Modern Japanese Popular Literature


East Asian Drama

  1. Unlike European literary history, with its roots in Greek epic and drama, Asian literature developed from early interest in short, lyrical poetry.
  2. Because of early interest in poetry, Asian dramatic traditions—including Chinese variety plays, Japanese Noh drama, and Korean narrative drama—did not develop until relatively late in the history of world literatures (starting around the thirteenth century).
  3. Despite their having arisen from different cultural conditions, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean drama share important similarities: they are all dance dramas (combining dance, music, chant, and singing), they depend on role types (such as "the fool" or "the demon"), authorship is usually anonymous (works develop from a long history of oral transmission rather than being singularly authored and published), and performers undergo rigorous apprenticeships (often this training lasts for years before performers ever take the stage).
  4. Even with support for traditional theatre from the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean governments, traditional Asian theatre is at risk of being lost as Eastern interest in Western dramatic traditions grows.
  5. Many Western authors, including Bertolt Brecht and Ezra Pound, were deeply influenced by East Asian drama.