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Bai Xianyong: Lifelong Devotee of Kunqu Opera

Updated: 2014-12-02 10:15:36

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Bai is seen as a writer of strong realism in Taiwan's modern literature circles, which is accredited to his life experiences at different ages and in various social environments. Born into the family of a Kuo Min Tang official, he was deeply impressed by the eminence of his ancestors and the imposing manner of the upper class as a child. After arriving in Taiwan, the deterioration of Kuo Min Tang officials and the agonies of the lower class in Taiwan as well as his homesickness and nostalgia also influenced Bai's literary creation. While in America, he struggled between his disgust with Americans' material pursuit and his agonies from a wandering life overseas. All these experiences and emotions have been reflected in his literary works to a certain extent.

 Lifetime Devotee ofKunquOpera

For Bai Xianyong, emotionally, writing is on one side andKunquopera on the other side. Writing is his mission and target, whileKunquis his love as well as mission. Bai became attached toKunquas early as in the 1940s, when as a 9-year-old he first watched aKunquopera -- Waking From a Dream (You Yuan Jing Meng) -- performed by two masters - Mei Langfang and Yu Zhenfei. Since then,Kunquhas been rooted in his heart.

One of Bai's famous novels, Waking From a Dream (You Yuan Jing Meng), reveals his passionate love for the opera. In the 1980s, he participated in the production of Peony Pavilion in Taiwan, and he once commuted between Shanghai and Nanjing just to watchKunqumasters' performances. In the early 1990s, he joined the production of Peony Pavilion again, and invited Hua Wenyi, a renownedKunquperformer in Shanghai, to perform in Taipei. Bai personally selected the fans used in the play, displaying his very careful attention to detail.

One of his books, Taipei People, features aKunquactor, and was later adapted into a drama, causing a sensation in all of Taiwan and running many performances in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

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