Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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(2,976 words)

1. Early Forms of Theater

Chinese theater first developed from the dancing and chanting of shamans, in the Shang and Zhou periods. Its origins can also be traced back to the court jesters of the Zhou and Han periods, who not only acted as entertainers, but also as narrators of stories and jokes. Famous "ancestors" of the acting profession were the comedian Meng (jester and musician in the state of Chu during the Spr…

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Eberstein, Bernd, “Theater”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 08 December 2023 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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