Ma Zhiyuan (Ma Chih-yüan) c.1260-1335

One of the most celebrated of the zaju playwrights of the Yuan dynasty, famous also for his sanqu. He was a native of Peking and in his youth was set on an official career, but he was disappointed because he never progressed very far, and retired to the country. Hangong qiu [Autumn in the Han Palace] is generally thought to be his best work. His other plays, of which only seven are extant, tended to have Daoist themes. It was his qu poetry, combining lyricism with a sense of sadness, which was most admired, and which helped to make the qu a major form of Chinese poetry. Representative poems include Qiusi [Autumn thoughts] and Ye xingchuan [Sailing at night].

Works available in English:

  • The Sorrows of Han: A Chinese Tragedy (John Francis Davis). London: A.J.
       Valpy, 1829; Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1997.