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Enduring efforts at opera compilation
Author :  DU YU Source : Chinese Social Sciences Today 2017-02-28
Sixth Volume of Ancient Chinese Operas
Author: Institute of Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Publisher: National Library of China Publishing House
In October 1958, the finishing editing touches were put on the fourth volume of the book series Ancient Chinese Operas and it was ready to be published. The same month, the book editor, Zheng Zhenduo, wrote a prologue for the fourth volume, expressing his joy at the publication of the compilation of ancient operas of the Yuan and Ming dynasties. However, Zheng died in an air crash the day after, leaving this preface to become his legacy. Since then, the follow-up work of the compilation experienced many twists and turns.
In December 2016, the Institute of Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences announced that the compilation work for the seventh and the eighth volumes was about to start. The announcement came following the release of the sixth volume, published in 2016. Crossing a time span of more than 60 years, the largest traditional opera collection ever compiled will be complete. The unfulfilled wish of Zheng and other senior scholars has finally been fulfilled.
In the prologue of the first volume of the book series, Zheng said opera scholars in China had always wanted to collect all the ancient operas and print them on a large scale as research materials. But there was always a lack of opportunities to bring this into reality.
At the beginning of Zheng’s work, he had expected to publish 10 volumes of opera collections, with more than 1,000 kinds of ancient operas. Liao Kebin from Peking University said the collection contains rich ideological and cultural resources. Yu Weimin, a professor from Wenzhou University, said that all stakeholders have benefited from the book series, ranging from his teacher to him and to his students and even students of students. These books are necessities for lectures and research.
Previously, Zheng faced many difficulties in collecting materials, while this dilemma continues when the program resumed today. Cheng Yizhong, deputy-chief editor of the Zhonghua Book Company, recalled that even if he did not retire, he dared not publish the sixth volume of the opera, because he knew that for a publishing house, it is hard to borrow books from book collection institutes, or take pictures of the pages of these books. But out of academic responsibility, Cheng submitted a request to the National Ancient Books Publishing Planning Group on the completion of the whole book series.
For the sixth volume, selected catalogs were submitted to the National Library, the Chinese Academy of Art, the Capital Library, the Shanghai Library, the Zhejiang Library, the Nanjing Library and other book storing institutions. The Peking University Library and Harvard-Yenching Library also offered their precious book resources. Lu Lujie, editor of the National Library Press, said the most important and difficult task of master copy collection was finished thanks to the support from many book institutions.
Today, the sixth volume of the book series contains 109 kinds of legends and operas during 1638 to 1795 in the Qing Dynasty. It has the same old fashioned book-binding as the previous six volumes. Wu Shuyin, the scholar in charge of the editing of the sixth volume, said the research team had put in a lot of effort to ensure they lived up to the legacy laid down by earlier scholars.