Advertising Painting for Southern Sung Dynasty (1127-1279) Zaju or Poetic Drama "Eyedrops"

Size 11 1/8" by 11 1/4"

南宋雜劇《眼藥酸》宣傳絹畫-- 原清收藏家耿嘉祚(17-18 世紀)藏品


This painting is unsigned but has a collector's seal belonging to the famous Qing Dynasty collector Geng Jia-zuo (actived in 17-early 18C). Zaju, poetic drama set to music, flourishing in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), usually consisting of four acts called zhe(), with one character having the singing role in each zhe.  A similar copy of this painting is in the collection of Forbidden City Palace Museum in Beijing

此冊頁絹畫無款,但有一收藏印 “會 珍藏”

耿嘉祚-----清康熙間(公元十七至十八世紀人), 籍貫遼寧遼陽,字號會 , 漱六主人。



In the ancient times of Chinese drawings, play theme's works actually appeared very scarce. Beijing Forbidden City Palace Museum has collected two Song dynasty drawing album pages which described two different Southern Song Dynasty zajus, namely “the eye medicine acid” and “the flower drum dance". 

In the City of Jinan Nancheng of Northern Song Dynasty, commodity trades were very prosperous but profiteers were also very popular. For this reason some people created zajus or plays which attacked the sellers of fake and low-quality goods. For instance “the eye medicine acid” zaju ridiculed the merchant who sold the counterfeit goods, were welcome greatly by the public. The drawing depicted a scene of the zaju in which an actor points at the right eye with his hand, hinting of having eye disease, while another actor, carrying a cloth sack with a big eye drawing and surrounded by many eye drawings, is holding a bottle of eye medicine and showing it  to the first actor. The two actors were wearing theatrical costumes. This drawing is vivid and appealing. According to the expert textual criticism, the purpose of the album drawing is to propagandize the zaju of“the eye medicine acid".  It shows that advertising drawings were already well established and popular in the Southern Song era. This is one of the earliest recognized advertisement in the world which was almost two hundred years ahead of the West British first publisher William · triumphant Kersten the advertisement (ca 1473) which printed for the propaganda religion content's books.



Southern Drama Zaju and Poetic Drama


1. Zaju


During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), urban life became very active. In the flourishing night markets permanent arenas for performances, known as Wapeng, appeared and it was here that the Zaju drama developed.

Documents surviving from the Song Dynasty described how a Zaju drama had one scene and two or three parts. The first part, or Yanduan, was the prelude, the content of which was predictable; the second part was the main play, telling a story with intricate contents; and the third part, or Sanduan (the loose part), was a comical ending. A Zaju drama was usually performed by four to five players. The roles are Moni, Yingxi, Zhuangdan (for all female roles), and Gu (for officials).

Clashes between the Song and Kin Dynasties (960-1234) resulted in the introduction of Zaju to the area of north China under the rule of Kin. There they became known as Kin Yuanben or Kin Zaju. The drama of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) is called Yuan Zaju.

No scripts of the Song or Kin Zaju have survived, but we do know the titles of 280 Zaju of the Song, and 690 Yuanben of the Kin. The Zaju dramas of the Song and Kin were still narrative songs and dances, plus dramatic performance, and they provided the groundwork for the birth of the Southern Drama and the Northern Zaju. 

2. Southern Drama

During the Song Dynasty, Wenzhou was an important trading port in Zhejiang Province, south of China. It was in Wenzhou that a fully developed Chinese theater sprang to life, in the form of the Southern Drama.

Though comparatively unsophisticated, the Southern Drama had the basic characteristics of Chinese theater. First of all, it presented a complete story through singing, recitation, actions and other means. The narration of the story occupied an important position in the Southern Drama, and each drama had a beginning and an end. The length of these dramas varied from 20 programs to 50 or more, thus providing flexibility to reflect wide and complicated social issues.

The tunes of the Southern Drama came mainly from folk music, and the Ci poetry tonal patterns and rhyme schemes, as well as Zhugongdiao in various tempos. The songs could be solos, antiphonal or choral, and were interspersed with recitation, either monologues or dialogues. The combination of singing and recitation is characteristic of the Southern Drama. Bodily movements were called Ke and Jie, symbolic and exaggerated actions, in the Southern Drama.

In the Southern Drama there were five stereotyped characters: Sheng (male characters), Dan (female characters), Jing (or fujing, painted face), Mo (or fumo) and Chou (male clowns).

The representative works are: The Story of the Pipa, Top Scholar Zhang Xie, Zhu Wen and the Taiping Coins, The Story of the Hairpin, The Story of the White Rabbit, The Two Moon Prayer and The Story of killing the Dog, etc.

As compared with the performances of former ages, focusing on comic gestures and remarks, the Southern Drama marked great artistic progress, with impromptu comic gestures and remarks by the Chou, Jing and Mo being used for defusing tension. 

3. Poetic Drama

During the Jiajing reign period (1522-1566) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) the Southern Drama developed into another theatrical form -- Poetic Drama. Chinese theater entered its second golden era.

As Poetic Dramas extended from the Ming Dynasty into the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), they carried on and improved the tradition of the Southern Drama. A script generally consisted of two parts and 40-50 programs. Playwrights paid particular attention to well-knit composition, and the use of comic gestures and remarks. The tunes of poetic dramas developed on the basis of that for the Southern Drama, Northern Drama as well as Yuan Zaju. One program might use more than one musical mode, depending on the demands of the plot. All the characters might sing.

Poetic Drama included numerous local tunes, of which Kunshanqiang, Yiyangqiang and Gaoqiang tunes were the most popular.

The Story of the Sword, The Story of Mingteng and Washing Gauze were the three most important poetic dramas created during the reign of Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty.






宋金雜劇院本的腳色,共分為五大行當:末泥、引戲、副淨、副末、裝孤。這五大行當也被稱為「五花爨弄」。《都城紀勝•瓦舍眾伎》中說:「末泥色主張,引戲色分付,副淨色發喬,副末色打諢,又或添一人裝孤。」末泥即是如宋大曲中「竹竿子」的地位,引戲則是後世戲曲中的旦,副淨、副末乃是從參軍戲中參軍與蒼 鶻演化而來。裝孤為扮官員者,所以不一定都有。樂隊則稱為「把色」。






Back to Previous Page

Click Here to See Other Paintings

Click Here to Go Back to Homepage