Published on 2022.12.13


The relationship between sacrifice and drama in China


Chinese traditional sacrifice and drama, one is art and the other is religion. From the current perspective, the two seem to be unrelated. However, in ancient times, because the people's wisdom was not open, people would use everything that could not be explained, especially the natural phenomenon and force majeure factors. They all explained "divine power". They believed that this was punished by heaven, so people believe that there is a "god" existence. In order to get a peaceful life, people want to be blessed by God. They will respect God and try their best to please God, so they will form a move to worship the gods.

Dragon -Chinese mythology, in charge of storm

People have to "entertain god”, pleased the gods, hoping to put forward their demands. The "Witch"(巫)played an important role in the sacrifice ceremony because he was a bridge to communicate human and gods. The ancestors believed that "there is God" is most directly manifested in sacrifice activities. The rituals are called "Shi"(尸) in "Mencius"(《孟子》) and "Shi Jing"(《詩經》), and called "Witch"(巫) in "Chu Ci"(《楚辭》). Sacrifice is a religious ritual, expressing the belief and ideas of a mysterious power. The sacrifice ceremony must be expressed through poetry, music, and dance. These three are collectively referred to as "music", which can be called: poems(with music ), music (music solo), and dance (with music) . Because "music" starts with people's hearts, it can also impress the hearts of others. People use "music" as a means to impress the gods, so "music" occupies a dominant position in the sacrifice ceremony. When people feel pain or desire in their hearts, they will impress the gods through music, so music becomes a language of communication, and in order to make a demand to God. The lyrics they sang at the time were what we are talking about "Poetry" (with music), and there are already the prototype of drama.

Bianzhong”-Ancient Chinese Musical Instruments

This way of singing sometimes does not fully express feelings, and the sacrifice will also vent their sorrows through physical movements. This way of dancing is consistent with the acting form of the actor on the stage of the drama. In "Chu Ci"(《楚辭》), you can see the culture of respecting the gods and witch(巫).In "Chu Ci Nine Song Preface"(《楚辭·九歌序》)it can be seen that" Nine Songs "(《九歌》)performed" Witch Sound "and" Witch Dance ". In this kind of music and dance, there is a solo duet, and the performance form of the plot of the twists and turns has formed a comprehensive stage art that has a sound and lustrous stage.

According to "Chu Ci"(《楚辭》), in order to attract God's arrival, witch(巫)will dress himself up as the gods, hoping to obtain God's acceptance easily. In "Nine Songs", there are many descriptions of witch costumes and actions, swing up the sound of jade strikes. The description of witch’s clothing and dress is close to the costumes and props of the current drama actor.

It can be seen that the purpose of the pre -Qin literary performance is to sacrifice the ancestors or gods, and seldom for personal entertainment. The drama performance we see now is a process from religious thoughts to art appreciation. However, in the current drama performances, sometimes "religion" and "art" are not clear barriers. For example, the drama performed by the Yulan Festival(盂蘭節) is specially appreciated by ghosts and gods. Although our thoughts have improved, we will try to explain from a scientific perspective when we encounter strange phenomena, but we still retain Chinese folk customs.

Hong Kong Yulan Festival





1. 王巍:《詩經民俗文化闡釋》,(北京:商務印書館,2004年)。

2. 過常寶:《楚辭與原始宗教》,(東方出版社,1997年)。

3. 葛兆光:《中國思想史》,(復旦大學出版社,1998年)。


Dr. SUEN Hoi-yan

Ph.D., Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Chinese Language and Literature Department of Shue Yan University in Hong Kong, the external examiner of Caritas Francis Hsu College and the Professional Diploma Course of the Hospital Administration of Hong Kong, and once has been a Course Coordinator of Chinese Language Courses at Caritas Francis Hsu College.
She is good at Chinese language and literature and writing teaching.
She mainly studies literary theory and poetry novel appreciation. Specialized works include “Study of Fang hui” and “Study on the literary thoughts of the pre- Qin ‘theism’”.

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Chi Seng Pun,感謝您細心閱讀。


凱昕 孫

08-03-2023 13:48:18



就是地理因素,因為長江流域巫山、巫水,多雲霧煙雨,令人多生的遐想, 容易每事都巫鬼有關,這孕育出楚地獨有的文化、美食、舞蹈、及文學,其影响迄今尚存!



Chi Seng Pun

03-02-2023 11:05:43