This study will trace the way shifts in performance and textual function reshaped the zaju from its late thirteenth-century appearance to the early seventeenth-century publication of the Yuanqu xuan by Zang Maoxun. Whereas the Yuanqu xuan offered literary texts for readers, the earliest printings from the fourteenth century were most likely based on lead performers' role texts, printed as aids for the audience. The author will also compare changes introduced into the texts by Ming theatrical agencies and their court performances, with the editorial policy of Li Kaixian, among the first to reprint Yuan zaju as the representative literary genre of that era. Long the major source for Western translations of early Chinese drama, the Yuanqu xuan has been selectively drawn on, according to the different aims of its translators: the plays have been used for language study, observation of Chinese daily life, and appreciation of Chinese literature. The author concludes by noting the growing interest in both Japan and the English-speaking world of scholars and translators, in earlier editions of Yuan drama.