Pipa ji, wr. 1358, pr., pb. c. 1367 (The Lute, 1980)
Gao Ming (gow mihng), or Kao Ming, is generally accepted as the author of The Lute, one of the first plays written in a genre in southern drama called chuangqi. Zecheng (Tse-ch’eng) is his zi, or derived name. Gao was a native of Wenzhou in Zhejiang. He passed his jinshi examinations in 1345 and held minor government posts, first in his native province and later in Fujian.
With the start of the uprisings that were to overthrow the Yuan dynasty, he became slightly involved in political maneuvers. In 1355 he retired to the greater security of private life and took up residence in what is modern Ningbo.
It is said of Gao, as it is of many other writers who lived into the Ming dynasty, that he received an invitation to serve in the new government but declined the honor. In his retirement in Ningbo, Gao spent three years writing his version of The Lute. In earlier versions of the play by others the protagonist, Cai Baoxie, is usually condemned for his lack of loyalty and filial piety. Gao’s version, however, depicts Cai as a man who is caught in a moral dilemma while trying to obey the dictates both of his father and of the emperor.