Promulgation of Filial Piety

  • Caroline Chia


Having introduced the various occasions for Hokkien theatrical performances, including the celebratory and liturgical, this chapter will focus on a distinct but popular theme in theatre closely related to death and the underworld. This is the Mulian performance. With its origin deriving from India, the story of Maudgalyāyana, better known as Mulian, spread to China around the third century CE. Since then, the story of Mulian has been constantly localized/Sinicized and gradually spread far across different regions in China. As a result, there are many regional renditions of the Mulian narrative about his act of filial piety to rescue his mother from the underworld. Despite its widespread promulgation, the function and significance of the Mulian story in Hokkien theatre is less studied. This chapter will provide a case study of the Mulian performance, which is still performed today among the Hokkien communities living outside China. The Hokkien version of the Mulian story has connected the various sites—southern Fujian, Taiwan and Singapore—but versions also vary due to contextual differences. Other than providing a historical overview of how Mulian theatre emerged in southern Fujian, this chapter will also provide ethnographic accounts of how the story is presented in the contemporary contexts of Taiwan and Singapore.


Liturgical theatre Mulian theatre Filial piety Confucian virtue Underworld 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Chia
    • 1
  1. 1.School of HumanitiesNanyang Techological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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