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A Friendship of Metal and Stone: Representations of Fan Juqing and Zhang Yuanbo in the Ming Dynasty

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This essay examines representation of male friendship in Ming vernacular literature through an analysis of works that retell the story of two late Han friends, Fan Juqing and Zhang Yuanbo. Throughout the Ming, versions of the tale were produced in a variety of literary genres including a zaju play and a vernacular short story. Both the drama and the short story are extant in multiple editions, providing us insights into how they were interpreted by various literati editors. The durability of the friendship between Fan and Zhang—an essential aspect in all depictions of their story—is vividly evoked by the phrase that characterizes their relationship in dramatic literature: "a friendship of metal and stone." The late Ming editions of the play and the short story underline the two friends' unbending commitment to their friendship through a variety of textual and paratextual additions and emendations. In the hands of these late Ming literati editors the two friends Fan and Zhang thus become heroic figures worthy of eternal respect.

Affiliations: 1: Colby College


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