The Ming writer Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) is regarded as one of China’s greatest playwrights. Born in Jiangxi into a scholar’s family, Tang exhibited literary talent from the very tender age of five. He lived in a time of government corruption, instability at the Court, when borders north and south crumbled under threat of attack from neighbouring tribes. Despite his prodigious learning, Tang encountered multiple setbacks in the Jinshi exams, and declined requests by numerous official that amounted to aiding in cheating. In 1591, he presented a memorandum to the emperor criticizing the idol conduct of servants of the Court, thus offending its key members. Banished to minor posts in poor, remote southernmost regions, he nevertheless worked with dedication and compassion, allowing prison inmates to visit their families during Spring Festival, and attend Lantern Festival celebrations.
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