Interweaving Performance Cultures
Kuangfu Yu is Professor of German Language and Literature at Shanghai International Studies University, Visiting Professor at Tongji University, Professor at the Shanghai Theatre Academy and Professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan. He is a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association and of the International Association for Germanic Studies (IVG), as well as Board Member of the Chinese Association of German Language and Literature Scholars. From 1993 to 1999, he was Vice-President of the Chinese Research Society for German-Language Literature.
After graduating from Beijing University in 1957, he taught German at Qing-Hua University in Beijing. After the so-called ‘Cultural Revolution,’ he was given the opportunity to travel abroad as a visiting researcher; since 1981, he has been invited several times by the Swiss Arts Council (Pro Helvetia) for book projects, and has developed contacts with Hugo Loetscher, Peter von Matt, Urs Widmer, and Adolf Muschg. He repeatedly visited the University of Heidelberg for book projects and teaching assignments. In 2000 and 2003, he traveled through Taiwan to lecture at various universities. He is the recipient of various DAAD grants, and has participated in conferences, conventions and symposia in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and in particular Germany and Austria.
The first part of my research project in Berlin will be a study of the interweaving of theatre cultures in present-day Chinese theatre. It will examine how this phenomenon plays a crucial role in the development and practice of theatre, as well as in the many cultural fields that inform it, such as dance, literature, acrobatics, painting and architecture. I will look at some of the fundamental questions surrounding the practice of interweaving, including the way theatre cultures can be enriched by it without being merged or standardized; the internationalization of national traditions; the integration of Western theatre practice into Chinese opera and of classical ballet into Chinese acrobatics; and the influence of Mei Lanfang and other Chinese artists on Meyerhold, Stanislavski, and Brecht.
My second project in Berlin will be on the renowned director Huang Zuolin (1906-1994) and his ‘Xie-Yi’ approach to theatre, in which he sought to combine Chinese and European theatrical arts. ‘Xie-Yi’ is a term that comes originally from Chinese painting: ‘Xie’ means ‘to describe,’ and ‘Yi’ means ‘not superficially truthful, not superficially realistic, but rather mirroring the essence deeply and slightly subjectively.’ The method, influenced by Chinese Kun-Qu and Beijing opera as well as by European writers (especially George Bernard Shaw), makes use of stylization, non-realism, symbolism, and exaggeration. It is my hope that this essay, written with European readers in mind, will help introduce ‘Xie-Yi’ to a Western public, and allow this major movement in contemporary Chinese theatre to finally enter the vocabulary of theatre studies.
- Yu, K., Versuch über Brecht, Shanghai: Pädagogischer Verlag für Fremdsprachen, 2002.
- Yu, K., Das Leben von Brecht, Sichuan: Volksverlag, 2002/2003.
- Yu, K., Versuch über nicht-aristotelische ästhetische Gedanken, Taiwan: Tamkang Universität-Verlag, 2002.
- Yu, K., Hermann Hesse und die Verflechtungen der euröpäischen Kultur mit den orientalischen Kulturen, Shanghai: Verlag der Pädagogischen Universität Ostchina, 2010.