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Politician makes smooth switch to Peking Opera

[ 2009-04-10 13:36]     字号 [] [] []  
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A series of performances of Peking Opera in Tianjin have made newspaper headlines. That’s because their adapter is a former head of the country's top political advisory body.

Five of Li Ruihuan's adaptation works, including Legend of the West Chamber (Xixiang Ji) and Han Yuniang, were warmly received in Li's hometown, from Monday to Wednesday. Performances today and Sunday are expected to sell out.

Established Peking Opera performers from all over China, such as Sun Yumin and Ye Shaolan, are taking part in the performances.

Li - former chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - has always been an enthusiast of Peking Opera and an advocate of the revival of the old art form.

Realizing that the narratives in Peking Opera are sometimes not compact enough for contemporary theatergoers, Li began to adapt them in his spare time in the 1980s. He has spent even more time on it after his retirement in 2003. The five plays being performed, only part of Li's adaptation work, are historically important plays that have not been staged in full length for a long time.

In Li's adaptation, the plays have been condensed and restructured. For example, he has reduced Legend of the West Chamber from 16 scenes to 12, and from four hours to two-and-a-half.

He has written some new lyrics, mostly for the heroine Cui Yingying, making her portrayal more dramatic. He also changed the original happy ending, which to him goes against the grain of the protagonists' personalities.

"Retaining the elegance of the original works, Li has written the scripts to suit the taste of contemporary Chinese. It is not adaptation for the sake of adaptation," said Liu Lianqun, a well-known critic of traditional Chinese opera and deputy director of the Federation of Literary and Art Circles of Tianjin.

Born into an ordinary peasant family in 1934, Li used to be a carpenter and construction worker before embarking on a political career. Some of his carpentry works are exhibited at the China Red Sandalwood Museum in Beijing, showcasing another part of his talents.

Li is not the only Chinese leader to have developed an interest in Peking Opera. Former premier Zhu Rongji is reported to be practicing playing a jinghu (a bowed instrument used in the genre).

And Beijing Vice-Mayor Cai Fuchao wrote the new Peking Opera Red Cliff (Chi Bi). It premiered last December and was sold out for many performances.


1. What is Li Ruihuan's hometown?

2. Name two Peking Opera performers who are taking part in the performances.

3. What were Li’s former jobs before embarking on a political career?


1. Tianjin.

2. Sun Yumin and Ye Shaolan.

3. A carpenter and construction worker.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Politician makes smooth switch to Peking Opera

About the broadcaster:

Politician makes smooth switch to Peking Opera

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.