Gao Lian (dramatist)

Gao Lian (dramatist)

Gao Lian (zh-cw|c=高濂|w=Kao Lien, fl. 16th century), courtesy name Ruinan (瑞南), was Chinese writer, dramatist and encyclopedist born in Hangzhou. He is perhaps best remembered for his play "Yuzanji" (玉簪记, "The Jade Hairpin"), a romantic drama about a young impoverished scholar and a Daoist nun. [Clunas 2004, p. 17.] The piece remains a classic of the Ming period theater in thirty-three scenes, some of which are still performed today.

Professionally, Gao remained largely outside of official circles and is an example of a "Buyi Wenren" (布衣文人) or commoner literatus, many examples of whom lived in the 17th century. His writing suggests that he was a resident of Hangzhou and its celebrated West Lake with his area details. Gao’s encyclopedia, "Zunsheng Bajian" (遵生八笺, "Eight Treatises on the Nurturing of Life"), was first published in 1591 and reprinted at least twice more before 1620. [Clunas 2004, pp. 14, 20.] Specifically, the eight discourses are as follows:

1. On sublime theories of pure self-cultivation
2. On being I harmony with the four seasons
3. On comport on rising and resting [including one's surroundings, or what we might call interior design, of contemporary rather than ancient manufacture]
4. On extending life and avoiding disease
5. On food and drink
6. On pure enjoyment of cultured idleness [including art collecting, connoisseurship]
7. On numinous and arcane elixirs and medicines
8. On remote wanderings beyond the mundane [Clunas 2004, p. 18.]

"Eight Treatises" has a distinctly modern ring with its espousal of stress avoidance as a key to overall physical health. In his discussion of mental illness ("hsin-ping"), successfully diagnosed the condition now known as Bipolar Disorder. Interestingly Gao advised his readers to avoid abortion and show concern for the elderly and physically weak. He suggested we attach ourselves to a major religious system or our inner emptiness will invite some manner of physical disease. Overall, his works comprise a virtual treasure trove for early 17th century aesthetics and material culture such as garden architecture, tea culture and dwarf trees. The above items were additional examples of his overall aim at the maintenance of bodily health through a quiet enjoyment of human life.


* Carpenter, Bruce E., Kao ‘Lien’s Eight Treatises on the Nurturing of Life.’ "Tezukayama University Review" (Tezukayama daigaku ronshu) , Nara, Japan, no. 67, 1990, pp. 38-51. ISSN 0385-7743
* Clunas, Craig. "Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China". Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991 and Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2004.
* Hong, Bozhao, [ "Gao Lian"] . "Encyclopedia of China" (Drama and Performed Arts Edition), 1st ed.
* Li, Xiusheng, [ "Gao Lian"] . "Encyclopedia of China" (Chinese Literature Edition), 1st ed.


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