|dc.description.abstract||Chi Ju-shan: Pioneer of Peking Opera as Cultural Heritage
On Chi Ju-shan in the 1930s, the Beiping Guoju Xuehui, and Its Publications
Chi Ju-shan (1875-1962), an innovator and playwright of Peking Opera, was also a pioneer in the theory and academic study of this dramatic art from. In Taiwan, his contributions to the history of Peking Opera are generally seen as (a) his participation in the reform movement of Mei Lanfang, (b) his leading role in the study of the staging elements of Peking Opera, and (c) his efforts after coming to Taiwan to raise the status of Peking Opera, train Peking Opera performers, formalize the doctrine and elements of Peking Opera, and change more lives by bringing people into contact with Peking Opera education. In Taiwan he is known as a “Maestro of Peking Opera,” and analysts of his place as a playwright and innovator have even gone so far as to raise him to the status of “China’s Shakespeare.”
In mainland China, on the other hand, in recent years scholars have often defined Chi Ju-shan as “a pioneer in the reform of Chinese opera.” Whether it be studies that define him as a “director” participating in Mei Lanfang’s reform movement, that emphasize the “artistic reformist” nature of his academic studies, or that see him as a colleague and peer of opera reformers of the same era (such as Weng Ouhong), all indicate the viewpoint from which the mainland Chinese academic community sees Chi Ju-shan.
The research perspectives on, and definition of the status of, Chi Ju-shan on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait suggest underlying ideological factors stemming from specific contexts.
This study explores the definition of the status of Chi Ju-shan in the history of the academic study of Peking Opera. In terms of methodology, this study does not adopt a macro-view of Chi Ju-shan’s life in Peking Opera, but rather looks specifically at Qi’s 1930’s Peking Opera research, and at Qi’s Beiping Guoju Xuehui (Beiping Association for the Study of Peking Opera, aka Peking Opera Association), the “first institution in the history of Chinese theater to be specifically dedicated to the study of the dramatic arts.” In concrete terms, this study will be a micro-view analysis of the content that Chi published in the Association’s periodicals Xiju Congkan [Drama Digest, aka Journal of Drama] and Guoju Huabao [Peking Opera Pictorial, aka National Drama Pictorial].
The conclusion of the study is that Chi Ju-shan seized a critical moment in the history of Chinese drama in the 20th century to make ground-breaking new systematic studies of, and theories about, the materials and content of Peking Opera. He not only left a record for future generations of opera artefacts that would otherwise have been lost through war, chaos, or the simple passage of time, he also pioneered the study of many aspects of this dramatic form that were ignored or taken for granted, including gestures and movements, facial makeup, and nomenclature for roles; staging and stage structure; and the religious beliefs associated with traditional Chinese drama. Chi Ju-shan should be seen as having a critical role as the pathfinding figure in the intellectual study of Peking Opera.
It is especially important to note that Chi’s research into Peking Opera in the 1930s was influenced by the trend led by Hu Shih in Beiping to use scientific methods to itemize, define, categorize, and analyze traditional Chinese culture—to rationalize it, not eliminate it. Chi was an admirer of traditional Peking Opera; he wanted to consolidate and preserve Peking Opera, not to “reform” it or “advance” it. His explorations looked backward in time to the past.
Therefore, Chi’s role not only was not that of a “reformer of Peking Opera,” but rather more like that of a “conservationist of the cultural heritage of opera.” Chi’s study of Peking Opera in the 1930s was an in-depth exploration of the range and parameters of the idiom’s form, language, and roles. The maxims that he developed and that are still familiar today, such as “if there is vocalization of any kind, spoken or sung, it must be stylized and song-like” and “if there is movement of any kind, it must be stylized, artful, and dance-like”—which have had a definitive impact on the special characteristics of the language of Peking Opera—are closely connected to the intellectual work he did in the 1930s.
Key words: Chi Ju-shan, Peking Opera studies, Beiping Guoju Xuehui, Xiju Congkan, Guoju Huabao