The Fragrant Companions: A Play about Love Between Women

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Product Details

Columbia University Press
Publish Date
5.51 X 8.43 X 0.94 inches | 1.0 pounds

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About the Author

Li Yu (1611-1680) was a popular author, playwright, and theatrical impresario with a reputation for tales that tested social limits. He was born into a gentry family, but after the chaos of the Ming-Qing transition kept him from an official career, he became a commercially successful writer. Li's works in English translation include A Couple of Soles: A Comic Play from Seventeenth-Century China (Columbia, 2019).

Stephen Roddy is a professor of languages, literatures, and cultures at the University of San Francisco.

Ying Wang is Felicia Gressitt Bock Professor of Asian Studies at Mount Holyoke College.


This engaging translation makes available in lively English the maverick playwright Li Yu's playful and convention-defying account of romantic love between two women almost four hundred years ago. Resonating with conversations about sexuality and gender identity in our contemporary social world, this adept translation not only is poised to become indispensable reading in a range of undergraduate courses but also would lend itself well to stage adaptation.--SE Kile, University of Michigan

This expert and highly readable translation takes readers into the world of Chinese opera by presenting a new classic, rich in literary quality, delightful in its panorama of life in seventeenth-century China, and unique in its portrayal of female same-sex romance. Li Yu is an author who deserves a worldwide readership, and this volume is a welcome addition to the growing corpus of translations of his works.

--Keith McMahon, author of Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing

The Fragrant Companions epitomizes the premodern Chinese literary fantasy of utopian polygyny with a satirical twist. Desire between women is shown to be subversive even as it smooths the operation of a male-headed, polygamous union. Li Yu's wit fully comes alive in this elegant and entertaining translation.

--Tze-lan Deborah Sang, author of The Emerging Lesbian: Female Same-Sex Desire in Modern China

A wonderful and long-awaited addition to the world canon of queer literature! Beautifully and accessibly rendered with a view toward stage production, Roddy and Wang's translation of Li Yu's female same-sex love story The Fragrant Companions is sure to intrigue academics, undergraduates, general readers, and theater professionals alike.

--Patricia Sieber, coeditor of How to Read Chinese Drama

This felicitous translation of The Fragrant Companions, with a comprehensive introduction, makes Li Yu's most popular play accessible and should inspire stagings of the play across the English-speaking world. A lively translation with strong scholarly underpinnings, it is a tremendous achievement.

--Sophie Volpp, author of The Substance of Fiction: Literary Objects in China, 1550-1775

Neatly dealing with both the passionate love between two intelligent and talented women and the Chinese examination-system, The Fragrant Companions is a rich and rewarding play that is approachable and yet also intriguingly different from much Western drama.

--M.A. Orthofer "Complete Review"