Reading the Fantastic Presents - Blood and Snow

Exploring Innocence and Vengeance in Dou E and Mahsuri.

‘Reading the Fantastic’ is delighted to welcome one of its founding members –Dr Ikhlas Abdul Hadi, now based at Universti Putra Malaysia – back to Leeds, to present a seminar on her latest research, into the connections between a Chinese play and Malay folktale.


This paper will discuss a collaborative work-in-progress on the themes of innocence and vengeance in a Chinese literary and Malay folkloric tradition. The first work to be analysed is The Injustice to Dou E (感天动地窦娥冤), a Yuan Dynasty play by Guan Hanqing, telling the story of Dou E, a young woman who is wrongly accused of murder. She is found guilty and sentenced to death by beheading. Before she is executed, Dou E declares that her innocence will be proven through three events: blood will fall onto a 12 feet white cloth but not the ground, heavy snow will fall in midsummer to cover her body, and her county will experience a drought for three years. ‘Dou E’ is one of Guan Hanqing’s most popular plays and it has enjoyed ongoing performances to this day. Approximately 500 years after ‘Dou E’s’ first staging, a Malay legend is born in the island of Langkawi. According to this legend, a young woman by the name of Mahsuri was accused of adultery and sentenced to be stabbed to death. Before she dies, she proclaims that two events will prove her innocence: her blood will flow white to show her innocence, and the island will be cursed for seven generations. Given the historical links between the Malays and Chinese, this paper will propose that a process of oikotypification (intercultural reception and recontextualisation) has taken place.

Free tea, coffee and nibbles will be provided to all attendees.

For more information please contact Sarah Dodd (

Location details

LHRI (Seminar Room 2)