MEI Lanfang: Always in Our Mind


From 3rd Page, China Culture Daily, Dec 23rd 2013

MEI Lanfang is a name that we cannot shy away from, as we talk about Peking Opera--- its modern history, its image in foreign minds and its status in China. The reason for this lies in the distinct and lasting impression he left us. Such reason, in Instructions for the MEI School, is threefold.

MEI Lanfang was firstly a mater of both Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera. As we compiled the Instructions, we collected writings concerning his philosophy of art from his contemporaries such as MA Lianlang and ZHOU Xinfang, all of whom are masters of Peking Opera. We also collected accounts from such artists as XIAO Changhua, who have performed with him on stage. All these writings reminiscing about MEI Lanfang, introduces the MEI School established by him from various perspectives and gives testament to its achievement.

He was then a great educator of the opera. His contribution to the opera education and his cultivation of the young has long been and will always be remembered. The first five articles in the Instructions were written by MEI, epitomizing his ideas on the education. These writings, though old, are refreshing and inspiring, for they render MEI more an illustrious educator than an artist on stage.

He was, finally, a versatile pioneer who drew upon various art forms to enrich Peking Opera. With regard to Peking Opera as well as Chinese painting and calligraphy, he advocated that artists should learn from other art forms so as to refurbish or reform the opera. He wrote and rehearsed new plays and modified the old plays of Peking Opera as well as ones of other traditional Chinese operas; his passion for Kunqu Opera encouraged him to learn from it; he also devoted himself to the creation of operas depicting modern life. All these attempts demonstrate the uttermost efforts from the master in his exploration of art.

His MEI School has already set a good example for the education on Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera.

GUO Yu, the Author
Vice President of Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA)
President of the College of Chinese Opera, STA
President of Shanghai Opera School (affiliated to STA)
National First-Class Director