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Kuan-wu Lin

Kuan-wu Lin

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2013/14, 2014/15

Kuan-wu Lin completed her PhD in Theatre Studies at the FU Berlin, where the publication of her dissertation was sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Her research interests focus on performance theory, cultural studies, intercultural discourse, postcolonialism, Orientalism and geopolitical implications, which are all involved in the investigation of the intricate relationship between contemporary European and Chinese performative arts. She has presented her research results at several national and international theatre and cultural conferences. Apart from her scientific research, Lin also gives lectures to Chinese-speaking audiences, including professional theatre performers as well as laymen interested in European theatre. Additionally, she works as a translator for international theatre festivals and writes for Performing Arts Review, among others. 

Research Project

“Turandot“ Performances as Interdependence of Chinese (Self-) Orientalism and Western Universalism

The crux of this research project is to investigate the reasons for why the Turandot story became so popular in the 1990s in China, suddenly becoming a national icon after having been rejected for decades: Although Gozzi’s Turandot was already known in China at least since 1923, it took 67 years before it was increasingly adapted to multiple performance genres (such as traditional Chinese opera and ballet).

Additionally, the research project will investigate why out of all Chinese Turandot performances only Puccini’s Turandot is considered prestigious, although it does not represent authentic Chinese culture but an imaginary and exoticized version of it. As Puccini’s Turandot character corresponds perfectly to Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism, according to which the West defines the Orient (the Other) as “primitive,” “barbaric,” and “backward,” the new popularity of Turandot has to be researched against the backdrop of Orientalism. Furthermore, China eventually began to adopt and even promote this Orientalist image of itself by re-exporting it back to the West. This new and paradoxical phenomenon marks the transformation of Orientalism towards “self-Orientalism.” In short, the research project will explore why, of all, this cruel Turandot character was turned into a Chinese cultural icon and how China’s submission to Western Orientalism promotes the universal relevance of the West. 

Recommended Publications

  • Melvin, S./Cai, J, “Turandot in China: Rejected, Reinterpreted, Reclaimed”, in: Opera Quarterly 26 (2-3) 2010, pp. 486-492.
  • Sun, H., “On Turandot and East-West Sexual Distinction Struggle”, in: Journal of Nanjing Arts Institute Music & Performance, Vol. 2, 2005, pp. 57-62.
  • Metzger, S., “Ice Queens, Rice Queens, and Intercultural Investments in Zhang Yimou’s Turandot”, in: Asian Theatre Journal, Vol. 20. No. 2, 2003, pp. 209-217.
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung