;“Jing, Liu, Pay, King” were four common Chinese southern drama acts. Unfortunately, the original screenplays as well as the scripts from Yuan dynasty were long lost, and it was not until the Ming Dynasty when critics and analysts became interested in these four acts. Revisions were made to these four acts during the Ming Dynasty, including the plot, wording, and music; these revisions marked as major developmental milestones and, along with rising popularity, these four Chinese southern drama acts were bundled together as one. However, the bundling did not mean the advancement of these four drama acts into the masterpiece category.
Towards the end of Ming Dynasty, the revised “Jing, Liu, Pay, King” became known as the “four excellent work.” This honorary acknowledgment stemmed from the historical/ancient nature of the four drama acts that coincided with some musicians’ “natural color theory” and “music theory,” evolving the four drama acts into teaching materials, guidelines, and comparisons for music at the time. In fact, Jiang Xiao’s “Old NanJiugong Pu” was first known as the “Nanqu Quanpu;” although this piece did include “Notes of Lute” and “Jing, Liu, Pay, King,” it did not advance the popularity of these southern drama acts by much. It was not until the “Supplement NanJiugong Pu” compiled by Wujiang Group’s leader Sink Jing that the horizon of expectations in music of “Jing, Liu, Pay, King” started rising systematically. During the Shunzhi period of the Qing Dynasty, the two Nanqu Quanpu “New Nanqu Pu” and “Nanqu Jiugong” made it possible for “Jing, Liu, Pay, King” to follow the tradition, but also impacting pop culture at the time, giving these four drama acts more perspectives and thus influencing different groups as well as generations of individuals.
In terms of the on stage performance, from the Qing Dynasty to the 20th century, “Jing, Liu, Pay, King” were not commonly performed. In fact, the “Tale of Killing a Dog” almost disappeared. However, during the 20th century, within the Chinese literature world, discussions and interpretations of “Jing, Liu, Pay, King” solidified these four drama acts’ actual value and historical roles. And now, “Jing, Liu, Pay, King” has become the “Four Nancy” and “No.1 of Drama,” a natural process in securing their classic roles within the Chinese literature world.