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The Injustice to Dou E 窦娥冤 – Top 100 Books in China

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The masterpiece of ancient Chinese tragedy


Chinese Name: 窦娥冤

English Name: The Injustice to Dou E

Other Name: Dou E Yuan, Snow in Midsummer

AuthorGuan Hanqing 关汉卿

Originally Published: In 1582 (Ming dynasty 明朝)

Genre: Literature, Zaju 杂剧

Brief Introduction of The Injustice to Dou E

The Injustice to Dou E 窦娥冤 is a drama created by Guan Hanqing 关汉卿, a dramatist of the Yuan Dynasty 元朝. It is a masterpiece of ancient Chinese tragedy. Under the background of the cruel oppression and exploitation of the people by the rulers of the Yuan Dynasty, Guan Hanqing, like many scholars at that time, used the form of drama to expose the evils of officialdom and social injustice.

The Injustice to Dou E has four-folds. The first fold tells the story of Dou E and her husband’s death less than two years after their marriage. Dou E lives with Cai Po 蔡婆 (Dou E’s mother-in-law). Cai Po debt collection did not succeed, but almost strangled by the other side, just was saved by Zhang Lver 张驴儿 and his father. Zhang Lver took the opportunity to move into Cai’s home and coerced Cai Po and his father marry. He threatened Dou E marry him, but Dou E firmly refused.

The second fold, Cai Po wanted to eat mutton tripe soup, while Zhang Lver tried to occupy Dou E by poisoning Cai Po, but her father eaten it by mistake and occupied her father. Zhang Lver then falsely accused Dou E of murder. The Taishou 太守 extorted a confession by torture to Dou E, but Dou E could not bear to suffer with her mother-in-law, then falsely confessed medicine dead Zhang Lver’s father. They were sentenced to behead finally.

The Injustice to Dou E 窦娥冤(窦娥为蔡婆梳发)
Dou E combs Cai Po’s hair 窦娥为蔡婆梳头发

The third fold, Dou E was escorted to the execution ground. Before execution, Dou E showed her injustice, and swore to the sky, after the death of blood splashed on the white cloth and blood did not touch the ground. Snow covered her body in June. Three years of drought occurred in Chu and the results all came true.

The Injustice to Dou E 窦娥冤-(张驴儿诬告窦娥)
Zhang Lver falsely accused Dou E and Cai Po was taken to court 张驴儿诬告窦娥,蔡婆被带上公堂

The fourth fold, three years later, Dou E’s ghost complained to her father, who was an official in the imperial court. The case before 3 years was able to reexamine. The real murderer Zhang Lver was beheaded eventually, faint official also was dismissed never employ and Dou E injustice was able to make clear.

The Injustice to Dou E 窦娥冤(窦娥临刑前立誓)
Dou E made an oath to heaven before her death 窦娥在临刑前对天立誓

Author of The Injustice to Dou E

Guan Hanqing (c. 1234-1300), whose original name is unknown, was born in Yun Cheng 运城, Shan Xi Province 山西省. He was the founder of Zaju 杂剧 in the Yuan Dynasty, known as the “Four Masters of Yuan Opera 元曲四大家” along with Bai Pu 白朴, Ma Zhiyuan 马致远 and Zheng Guangzu 郑光祖. He was the first of the four.


Guan Hanqing 关汉卿
Guan Hanqing 关汉卿

He was born in a medical family, but he was just an ordinary lower-class doctor close to the masses. His family background gave him the opportunity to receive education in the social turmoil. Scriptwriter and performance activities were only his part-time job and means of living.

After the collapse of the Southern Song 南宋 Dynasty, Guan Hanqing went south to Yangzhou 扬州, Hang zhou 杭州 and other places to continue to engage in his artistic activities. His drama creation was very rich, but it was a pity that most of the plays lost. The themes of his operas were very broad. He deeply exposed the dark and decadent social reality of the Yuan Dynasty, described the bravery and wit of the lower class women, and affirmed women’s independent choice of marriage. He Eulogized the hero, gave the hero the mission of saving the people, and expressed his criticism of the darkness of social reality and his desire for the reborn hero.

He was the most prolific and accomplished writer in the history of Chinese drama.

Excerpts From The Injustice to Dou E



The flowers fade and reopen in the coming year, but people can no longer return to their youth after aging.


When it’s time to let go, let go, don’t hold on; Where you can forgive others, forgive them for the time being. Don’t dwell on them.


Good people live short in poverty, while evil people live long in wealth. It reveals and accuses the common phenomenon of the reversal of good and evil in feudal society, and reflects the injustice and darkness of society.

Evaluation of The Injustice to Dou E

The Injustice to Dou E is placed in the world tragedy drama, and it is not ashamed.


Wang Guowei 王国维

The tragedy of The Injustice to Dou E is simple and powerful. Like a nail, it goes deeper and deeper, like a ladder, it rises higher and higher.

Li Jianwu 李健吾

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