Powered by ProofFactor - Social Proof Notifications

Justice in Li Qianfu’s Chalk Circle Play: A Yuan Dynasty Perspective

Feb 5, 2023 | 0 comments

blog banner

Feb 5, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

The Chalk Circle by Li Qianfu is a play centered on political satire, injustice and government corruption set in the Yuan Dynasty of 1259 to 1368. The play is set at the time of the fall of Communism and the establishment of the current independent states after the partitioning of its satellite regions. It is imperative to note that the “Chalk Circle” inspired the epic drama by Bertolt Li Qianfu known as “The Causian Chalk Circle.”

Related Posts

The themes in the Chalk Circle are confused and convoluted. It focuses on human behavior towards fellow human beings, the uncertain validity of the law and the decision-making complexities. The play uses two sources to exemplify the theme of justice, that is, the Solomon’s Judgment in the Bible (1 Kings 3: 16-28). It is noted that the child (Shoulang) is awarded to the real mother through wise judgment in both models. However, in the Li Qianfu’s Chalk Circle, the child is awarded to Ch’ang Hai-T’ang, who was the real mother to the child, rather than the fake mother to the child, Ah-Siu. This judgment is informed by the humane actions that Hai-T’ang has taken to care for the child. Hai-T’ang refused to pull the child as instructed by the judge. On the other hand, the child’s fake mother, Ah-Siu pulls the child without caring whether the child would be hurt or not (Du 318).

Bao Zeng in his judgment decides whether to award to Ah-Siu mother, who is selfish, materialistic, overweening elite, or to award the child to the loving and deeply human woman, Ch’ang Hai-T’ang. Hai-T’ang exhibits kindness, self-sacrifice, and nobility traits that according to the judge are excellent characteristics of human spirit that the society should practice. Bao Zeng uses “Solomonic” wisdom to award the child to the woman with finest traits of human spirit (Luo and Ye 591).

The theme of justice explored in the Chalk Circle reflects on the concerns of the Chinese during the Yuan period of the 13th-14th centuries where the Mongol discontented the Chinese of the low social hierarchy (peasants) with the domination. A number of the writers during this period focused on the central theme of rectifying the social injustices. The plays during the Yuan era like the Li Xingdao’s Chalk Circle were focused on saving the innocent and punishing the guilty through Solomic discovery of the truth. The Yuan era also emphasized themes of supernatural, filial piety, chastity, heroism, and loyalty (Du 320).

Yuan drama was staged with no set design. It comprised of simple stage that consisted of two doors. The costumes were colorful, with stage make-up with non-realistic stage conventions.

The Chalk Circle was written by Li Qianfu during the dynasty by Yuan in the 1271-1368 AD. The play was a reflection of his experiences as he travelled through Europe and the United States of America from China. The play was revived in the Peking Opera Stage explore the mutual impacts of the paradigm in Western and Eastern drama. The play was written in a prologue of four acts. The play was preserved in the Yuan-Chu-po-cheng collection. The translation of the play was done in the Western World by Stanislas Julien and published as Le Cercle de Craie (1832), in London in French language. Klabund later translated the play into German language as Der Kreidekreis in 1924.

The play was set to the Yuan dynasty period. Chalk Circle by Li Qianfu is believed to be the source of the Klabund’s “Cicle of Chalk” and Bertolt Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.” based on the 1300 AD Ancient Chinese play by Li Xingfu (Du 318). The story revolves around a young girl who is strong-willed known as Hai-T’ang, and a judge known as Bao Zeng who is credited for establishing justice, which is of unique brand to the land. The play is a secular version of the Solomon and the baby in the Bible where two women approached Solomon claiming to be the mother of the same child. Solomon ordered for the slicing the baby into two halves (Luo and Ye 592). The real mother to the baby objected to this proposal revealing to Solomon that she must be the real mother to the baby.

The play relates to the contemporary period when shadow world elites, and global corporations establish repressive fascists of their own. The connection of the theatricality of the costumes and spectacle in the contemporary innovation period can be related to the Coke Company that exemplifies the philosophical Marxism of repressive Communism and devolved corruption. I would include Russian-accented English as well as a gloss of Russian comedy into the play. Interruptive blackout and the participation of ad hoc audience during the makeshift wedding would make the play the contemporary period. I would also eliminate the lackluster effects in the production of the play to remove the theme of human kindness and love in the Li Qianfu’s play.

Works Cited

Du, Wenwei. “The Chalk Circle Comes Full Circle: From Yuan Drama Through the Western Stage to Peking Opera.” Asian Theatre Journal 2.2 (1995): 307–325

Luo, Yuming, and Yang Ye. A Concise History of Chinese Literature. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Internet resource.




5/5 - (1 vote)