Classic honored, in words and song
Updated: 2013-11-29 14:38
By Sun Ye (China Daily)
Photo provided to China Daily
Cao Xueqin, author of the Chinese classic A Dream of Red Mansions, passed away 250 years ago. The country is paying tribute to the writer with a string of exhibitions, traditional operas, movies and seminars.
A Dream of Red Mansions is an impeccable piece of art," says Li Xifan, the renowned literary critic. "It's a world class masterpiece."
The story documents the rise and fall of a noble family in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Woven into the narrative are the tragic love stories of the young men and women raised in the family.
Li, a researcher in Redology, the term given to the study of the novel, and his counterparts including Wang Meng and Feng Qiyong, have donated paintings, calligraphy and other items related to the study for a memorial exhibition. The exhibition is being held in a newly built compound that recreates the palatial scenes in the novel in Langfang, Hebei province.
A seminar on the future of Redology research will also be held there.
The Northern Kunqu Opera Theater has produced a movie and a Splendor award-winning Kunqu Opera based on the novel.
"A Dream of Red Mansions is closely related to the art of Kunqu Opera, since all the opera plays depicted in the book are Kunqu numbers, including one composed by Cao Xueqin's own grandfather," says Yang Fengyi, president of the theater.
"Kunqu Opera is a very serious and dignified art. We feel obligated to give the story a Kunqu rendition," says Yang.
"We are focusing on how Jia Baoyu, the hero, explores the meaning of life and death through Kunqu. It's a perfect match."
The Kunqu Opera will be staged in the Peking University Centennial Hall over two sessions on Dec 3 and 4. A symphonic Kunqu Opera by the same troupe will be staged early next year.
"The novel can be interpreted in a thousand different ways but I think it tells the universal and perennially relevant story of how one finds meaning in life," says Zhang Qingshan, vice-president of the Chinese National Academy of Art and head of the Academy of A Dream of Red Mansions.
"It also reflects our aesthetics and our way of life.
"We Chinese don't say a girl is maudlin and full of fragility; we call her a 'Lin Meimei'. When we get into an unfamiliar situation and don't know how to behave, we say 'it is Granny Liu visiting the Grand View gardens'. Both sayings come from the novel.
"It's so deep-rooted in our lives that it's already beyond its original scope.
"One cannot imagine what Chinese culture would be like if there had not been A Dream of Red Mansions," says Zhang.
If you go
A Dream of Red Mansions Kunqu Opera
7 pm, Dec 3-4. Peking University Centennial Hall, 5 Yiheyuan Road, Wudaokou, Haidian district, Beijing. 010- 6276-8588.
A Dream of Red Mansions Memorial Exhibition
Dec 22-27. Menglangfang Cultural Industrial Park, Xinao Road, Langfang, Hebei province. 0316-2599-999.