This article investigates how sanqu composition modifies the social contract of poetic composition in how a text is mediated between authorship and social identity, through a close analysis of Jia Zhongming's sanqu songs written in the supplement to The Register of Ghosts. It challenges the conventional reading of Jia's songs as reliable sources of biographical information on individual playwrights to whom those songs are dedicated and argues instead that, if read together as a whole, they represent a catalog of various personas Jia constructs for the social role of playwright. The authorial figure that plays a central role in more polite poetic genres is reduced to a faceless and easily replaceable mannequin with a name tag on it—be it Guan Hanqing, Wang Shifu, or any other name—in Jia's sanqu songs, only to foreground the fashioning of the playwright's social role from his particular perspective. The role Jia Zhongming constructs for the playwright displays the imprint of urban commercial theater as well as the influence of the state and elite values. Therefore, the true value of Jia's songs lies in how they help us better understand the condition of playwrights in Jia's time. Moreover, a proper interpretation of Jia's songs also helps us better understand the performativeness of sanqu as a genre.

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