enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University Special Exhibition 2020:

The Heroes from Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Fantastic Stages in Japan, China and Taiwan

  The story of Three Kingdoms portrays with great clarity the struggles of a cast of highly distinctive personages, warriors, and women who lived during a turbulent time of civil war in China approximately 1,700 years ago. For this reason, it has captured the imagination of people around the world and remained exceedingly popular. Since the onset of the modern age, Three Kingdoms has spread throughout China in the form of San Guo Zhi Ping Hua and the stage play Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In Japan, it owes its popularity to media, such as a ‘narrative’ version of the story (known as setsuwa) that is performed in public by professional storytellers and stage versions that bring the various characters to life before the very eyes of an audience rather than relying on the words of the tale alone. The influence that Yoshikawa Eiji’s novelisation, Yokoyama Mitsuteru’s manga version —filled with the same sense of reality as a stage performance—and NHK’s puppet version of Three Kingdoms have had on present-day Japan cannot be overstated.
  In multiethnic and multicultural Asia, the diversity of theatrical productions and the abundant expressiveness they relate to audiences contribute to the creation of a rich theatrical world. The characteristics of each of the performing arts utilised to tell the story and the various cultural interpretations of the work ensure that the characters appearing in each region’s staging of Three Kingdoms are of infinite variety.
  In this exhibition, we have placed each of the exhibition rooms—which can be thought of as ‘stages’—in a sort of competition with each other to allow visitors to gain an understanding of the characteristics and charms of the characters of Three Kingdoms as portrayed in each theatrical context. We have gathered costumes, dolls and puppets, colour woodblock prints (nishiki-e), and a variety of other objects carefully selected from the museum’s collection to show visitors the appeal of the heroes of Three Kingdoms that appear in productions staged in Japan, China, and Taiwan.
  Particular attention has been paid to the women who appear in Three Kingdoms. Our aim is to shed light on the heroines who led unique lives in the shadow of fierce battles fought mainly by men. These women include Diaochan(貂蝉), who was utilised in the Lian Huan Ji(連環計 Interlocking Stratagems) of the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms; Lady Sun (孫尚香 Sun,Shangxiang), who was both wise and courageous; and Lady Mi(糜夫人), who gave her life to protect the son of Liu Bei(劉備). Our aim is to show how their dignified personalities are a glowing presence on stage.
  I hope that visitors will find that this exhibition provides a multifaceted view of Three Kingdoms.