Relying on materials uncovered by in the First Historical Archives in Beijing, the author investigates the development of imperial drama and its influence on Peking Opera, as well as the function and system of the Nanfu (later Shengpingshu)—an organization responsible for drama in the Qing dynasty. Also discussed are the complex roles of the actors on and off stage, and the broader issues of cultural and political control intertwined with the performances themselves. The final section delves into the interaction between the palace and commercial theatres and how this contributed to the transformation of "low class" regional Peking Opera into an art form enjoyed by a wide swath of society.
Machine generated contents note: ch. One Imperial Institutions for Ceremonial and Private Performances -- The Separation of Personal Entertainment from Ceremonial Music and the Establishment of the Nanfu and the Jingshan -- Decline in Imperial Prestige --- From the Nanfu to the Shengpingshu -- The Shengpingshu inside and outside the Palace -- ch. Two Drama, Occasion, and Audience -- The Three Grand Festivals -- Joyous Occasions -- Martial Rites -- Tributary Drama -- Entertainment in the Palace -- ch. Three Performers in the Palace -- The Role of Eunuchs as Actors and Intermediaries -- Civilian Actors -- ch. Four Cultural and Political Control -- The Nationwide Censorship Campaign on Drama following the Literary Inquisition -- A Shift in Focus --- Social Order and Orthodox Morality -- ch. Five Peking Opera and the Court -- The Formation of the Peking Opera -- Theatres in Peking and Shanghai -- Theatres in Peking before and after the Boxer Uprising.