Advertisement

East of West pp 125-140 | Cite as

The Making of a Revolutionary Stage: Chinese Model Theatre and Its Western Influences

  • Xiaomei Chen
Chapter

Abstract

Until recently, literary and cultural critics of Chinese theatre would never have imagined in their wildest dreams that the study of “modern revolutionary model plays” (geming yangbanxi)—the only form of literature and art officially promoted during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution in China—could attain significance comparable to that associated with the study of Shakespearean plays, which obtained prominence even in non-Western countries. As those countries formed their own literary traditions, they looked toward the Occident—and therefore, by definition, toward the canon—for literary and artistic criteria. When China, from 1980 to 1982, hastened to resume the production of Shakespearean plays after the death of Mao, it saw justification in the high art of the Renaissance for denouncing the low art, the non-art, or the pseudo-art of the revolutionary model theatre, which was devalued as political propaganda of the worst kind.1 China’s obsession with Shakespeare at a time of national crisis and of new nation/state building in early post-Mao China presents an interesting reversal of what Stephen Greenblatt terms “marvelous possession,” the European stratagem of co-opting non-European peoples by taking possession of their properties, which Greenblatt identifies as a feature of the Age of Discovery.2 In the Chinese case, Shakespearean plays and the aesthetic values they supposedly embodied, that is, the “wonder of the old world,” stimulated the revival of the Chinese people’s own culture in the post-Mao era.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Central Drama College premiered Macbeth (Makebaisi) in 1980 in BeijingGoogle Scholar
  2. China Youth Art Theatre premiered The Merchant of Venice (Weinisi shangren) in 1981 in BeijingGoogle Scholar
  3. the director training class of Shanghai Drama College premiered King Lear (Li’erwang) in 1982 in Shanghai.Google Scholar
  4. For receptions of these plays, see Xiaomei Chen, Occidentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 49–58.Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 3.
    Leonard Tennenhouse, “Strategies of State and Political Plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry W, Henry V, Henry VIII,” in Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sin-field (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 109–126, 126.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    For a historical survey of the major events of the Cultural Revolution, see Yan Jiaqi and Gao Gao, Zhongguo wenge shinian shi (Ten-Year History of the Cultural Revolution) (Beijing: Zhongguo wenti yanjiu chubanshe, 1986), especially 441–48, for a definitive account of the model theatre and its significance in the Cultural Revolution.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Stuart R. Shram, The Thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (London: Library 33 Limited, 1967), 13.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Kuei-ming Ling, “Taking up Arms,” Chinese Literature 7 (1972): 106–8, 106.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    Jiwei Ci, Dialectic of the Chinese Revolution (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 82.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Lu-yuan Yu, “The Revolutionary Ballet ‘The White-Haired Girl,’” Chinese Literature 9 (1968): 58–9.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    Yue Meng, “Bai Maonü yu Yan’an wenxue de lishi fuzai xing” (“White-Haired Girl and the Political Complexities of Yan’an Literature”), Jintian (Today) 1 (1993):171–88, 172.Google Scholar
  13. See also Meng, “Female Images and National Myth,” in Tani E. Barlow, ed., Gender Politics in Modern China (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 118–136.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    For a factual account of how Beijing Dance School Experimental Ballet (Beijing Wudao xuexiao shiyan baleiwutuan) started to adapt The Red Detachment of Women from film version to ballet version in 1963Google Scholar
  15. see Dai Jiafang, Yangbanxi defengfeng yuyu (The Wind and Rain of Revolutionary Model Theatre) (Beijing: Zhishi chubanshe, 1995), 93–101.Google Scholar
  16. 35.
    For the notion of “horizons of expectations,” see Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  17. 38.
    Georges Banu, “Mei Lanfang: A Case Against and a Model for the Occidental Stage,” trans. Ella L.Wiswell and June V. Gibson, Asian Theatre fournal 3 (1986): 153–78, 153–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Claire Sponsler and Xiaomei Chen 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaomei Chen

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations