Social Melodrama and the Sexing of Political Complaint in Nineteenth-Century Commercial Kun Opera
Zhao Cuier was a creation of elite male fantasy, as Wu Changyuan tells it, capable of ensnaring audiences—both lay and clerical—in the illusionary world of the eighteenth-century Chinese stage. Zhao Cuier is the lead character from the play The Garden of Turquoise and Jade (Feicui yuan). The play tells the story of a poor scholar’s attempt to protect his land from annexation by a ruthless official. The scholar, Shu Depu, is assisted by a winsome vagabond seamstress, Zhao Cuier, and a bumbling deputy of the law, Wang Steamed-Bun. This trio of righteousness is held up as the moral antidote to the destructive power of masculine privilege.