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ESCORTING LADY JING HOME: A JOURNEY OF CHINESE OPERA, GENDER, AND POLITICS

Joseph S.C. Lam
Yearbook for Traditional Music
Vol. 46 (2014), pp. 114-139
DOI: 10.5921/yeartradmusi.46.2014.0114
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5921/yeartradmusi.46.2014.0114
Page Count: 26
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ESCORTING LADY JING HOME: A JOURNEY OF CHINESE OPERA, GENDER, AND POLITICS
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Abstract

Created in 1960–1961, Qianli song Jingniang/Escorting Lady Jing Home is a kunqu masterpiece that continuously entertains audiences and stimulates discussions on Chinese opera, gender, and politics. A mid-twentieth century dramatization of a traditional story, the opera narrates a journey in which a young Zhao Kuangyin (926–976), the future founder of the Northern Song empire (960–1125), escorts beautiful Lady Jing home, falls in love with her along the way, leaves her to realize his heroic dreams, and vows to return to marry her in the future. Theatrically, the opera makes Chinese men and women ask how they should choose between desire and duty, realizing their personally, socially, and politically enforced gendered roles and values. Being performed over five decades, the opera, its performance practices and meanings evolve, generating changing discussions and interpretations. Its recent performances, for example, underscore sustainability issues of kunqu as a Chinese genre of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Examining artistic features, histories, and discourses of the opera, this essay shows how it develops and opens audiences' ears, eyes, and minds to face their Chinese cultures, identities, and politics.

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