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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Life-Writing Projects in Modern Chinese and Vietnamese Cultural History
2: Performing China on the World Stage: Writing Shih-I Hsiung
Monday, March 22, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Suffolk University, United States
Shih-I Hsiung (1902-1991) was one of the most successful Chinese diaspora writers in the West. He left China for England in 1932, intending to pursue graduate study in Shakespeare. Following his advisor’s suggestion, however, Hsiung wrote Lady Precious Stream, an English-language play based on a classical Beijing opera. The play was premiered in Little Theatre in London in 1934 and ran for 900 successive shows. As the first Chinese to write and direct a West End play in England, Hsiung became a celebrity, and his play was later staged in many other parts of the world.
My paper traces the transposition of the play Lady Precious Stream through its Broadway stage production in 1936. In particular, it will cover the adaptation of the play from its Chinese origin, its stage production on Broadway, and its reception by American audiences. In addition to celebrating the historical significance of the play, my paper will underline Hsiung's pioneering efforts in introducing Chinese theatrical art abroad and how he managed to shape an objective and favorable perception of the Chinese and Chinese culture.
The study fills in an important chapter in the history of theatrical and cultural exchanges between China and the U.S. in the 1930s. And it will broaden the scope of transnational studies and bring about an enhanced appreciation of Chinese diaspora writers and their contributions in cross-cultural exchanges.