An Invisible Area in China-Japan Artistic Exchange

From the Founding of the People’s Republic of China to the 1950s
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room G

  • Organised by Yukiyo Hoshino
  • Yukiyo Hoshino, Chair
  • Yukiyo Hoshino, “The Promotion of Ballet in 1950s China: Inheritance and Transplantation”
  • Yanli Han, “New Chinese Film of the 1950s in European International Film Festivals”
  • Masao Nishimura, “Ko Biho/Hu Meifng and Grace Cheng: Continuing Yoshiko Yamaguchi’s Role in Post-War Japan and Hong Kong”

This panel examines how physical and visual art was transmitted and how it developed with the relocation of the cultural elite that resulted from the end of the Sino-Japanese War and the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Artistic accomplishments in theatre, film, music, and dance that had developed in the wartime battle of propaganda also found a place in China after the new government was formed. In the 1950s China, foreign exchange was not limited only to socialist nations. However, up until now this reality has been removed from official histories and made invisible. To offer one example, Chinese films were very vigorously shared abroad, a phenomenon not seen in pre-war times. Also, relations with Russia are emphasised in the history of Chinese ballet, but in fact, there were contributions from those who had studied in Western European countries in addition to deep exchange with Japan despite the lack of diplomatic relations. In terms of theatre and popular music, actors, and singers who had been active during the war experienced a temporary dry period after the war, but they remained influential through their public image as stars in areas within the Chinese sphere of influence such as Hong Kong, as well as in Japan. Furthermore, staff from the entertainment industry carried out a very important role in facilitating popular cultural exchange between China and Japan even when there was no exchange at the diplomatic level.

Yukiyo Hoshino, “The Promotion of Ballet in 1950s China: Inheritance and Transplantation”

This report considers the promotion of ballet in 1950s China, looking beyond the prevailing view that privileges influence from the Soviet Union while also remaining aware of aspects inherited from before the founding of the People’s Republic of China. After the founding of the new nation ballet performances from Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union started to go on tour in China, and there began to be demand for ballet performed by Chinese people. Ballet instructors were invited from the Soviet Union with government support, and new dancers were trained in extremely short periods of two to three years by those who had studied in the United Kingdom and by leaders like Dai Ailian. In this early period of ballet talent development, major contributions were made by Caucasian Russians coming from Ballet Russes in Japan-controlled Shanghai, as well as by ballerinas from Hong Kong endorsed by the new government of China. The fact that the first full-length ballet production performed in China was not Russia’s Swan Lake but France’s La Fille mal gardée is a symbolic example of how contributions to early Chinese ballet came not only from Russia but also from people who had studied in European countries. All of this was also transmitted in real-time to Japan, even though the two countries had no formal diplomatic relations.

Yanli Han, “New Chinese Film of the 1950s in European International Film Festivals”

Hollywood films were gradually shut out of the domestic market after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and thus a unique film culture began to develop in China during the 1950s. Influenced by films from socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, Chinese film saw major transformations both aesthetically and ideologically as so-called “film for the people.” Though it is generally thought of as being insular, efforts to reach foreign audiences were extremely vigorous during this period to a degree not previously seen in Chinese film history before or during the war. This presentation focuses in on the Chinese film industry as it actively submitted work to European film festivals such as the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Through a careful reading of film magazines printed at the time, one can see a phenomenon that could be termed “film diplomacy” at a time when official diplomatic relations were not recognised with major world powers or the United Nations.

Masao Nishimura, “Ko Biho/Hu Meifng and Grace Cheng: Continuing Yoshiko Yamaguchi’s Role in Post-War Japan and Hong Kong

Yoshiko Yamaguchi (also known by her Chinese name Li Xianglan) was an actress and singer who worked in China and Japan during the war. This report discusses how her legacy was carried on in Japan and Hong Kong, analysing how two songwriters who assisted Yamaguchi during her wartime career, Ryouichi Hattori and Liang Leyin, were involved with the careers of Yamaguchi herself and two other singers, Ko Biho (also known as Hu Meifng) and Grace Cheng. Although Yamaguchi had almost completely stopped portraying Chinese women in films after WWII, in actuality much of her career progressed in a similar fashion to that of before the war. The void created once she stopped playing Chinese women was filled by the Chinese singer Ko Biho. Hattori and Leyin both saw that Grace Cheng was taking over the role once held by Yamaguchi. While inheriting role this from Yamaguchi, Cheng’s songs added Latin rhythm and an American pop sound, creating a new space for herself in the Chinese popular music industry of post-war Hong Kong.

Tao Yang, “China-Japan Exchange in the Field of Theater Before the Return of Diplomatic Relations: The Case of Koreya Senda’s Path

Koreya Senda (1904–1994) was a representative Japanese director and actor. Before the war, he was active in the New Tsukiji Theater Company and was a central figure in Japan’s left-wing theatre movement. After the war, he served as something of a leader in the Haiyuza Theatre Company. While active in the world of theatre Senda was also a civilian diplomat who put much effort into post-war China-Japan cultural exchange. By being active in the theatre industries in both countries he played an especially important role in encouraging private cultural exchange when there were no official diplomatic relations. In 1956, together with Kenzou Nakajima, Yasushi Inoue, and Ikuma Dan, he formed the Japan-China Cultural Exchange Association and served as executive director. Senda himself went to China multiple times in 1955 as a core member of a visiting Japanese theatre troupe, and he also welcomed a delegation visiting Japan from China. This report aims to reveal the actual state and distinctive features of Senda’s exchange activities as well as his friendships with other artists. Following his path gives one a better view of China-Japan exchange in the field of theatre during the post-war period―that is, at a time before diplomatic relations had restored.

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Room G
From the Founding of the People’s Republic of China to the 1950s