Papers on Arts III

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room G

  • Chaired by Rossella Ferrari
  • Freerk Heule, “The Jesuits Rameau and Amiot as Links in the European–Chinese World of Music in the 18th Century”
  • Moshan Guo, “Foreign Race, Masculinity, and Underclass Voice: A Discussion on Yan Jin’s Stardom in 1930s China”
  • Agota Revesz, “The Political Economy of Chinese Theatre”
  • Andreea Chirita, “Adapting History to Stage Performance in Urban China

Freerk Heule, “The Jesuits Rameau and Amiot as Links in the European–Chinese World of Music in the 18th Century”

The Jesuit Order was a major factor as a cultural intermediary between the West and the Chinese Empire. J.-P. Rameau (1683–1764), educated at a Jesuit seminary, played the organ and clavichord. His musical theory ‘Treatise on Harmony’ of 1722 dealt with the 12-note music scale. After 1733, he found opera with music, dance, and vocal arts could better express his thoughts with Classicist, Jesuit, Masonic, and ‘New World Order’ concepts, characteristic for the Enlightenment era. In the francophone world it led to quarrels between admirers of Lully (16321687), Rousseau (1712–1778)—on theoretical grounds: harmony over melody—and Italian music lovers.
It was Rameau’s Jesuit confrater J.-M. Amiot (Qian Deming 钱德明 1718–1793) proto-sinologist, author, and translator of books on ‘the Middle Country’ (China), as well as a musicologist who wrote ‘Music of the Chinese’ and ‘Sacred Music’ (Shengyue jing pu 圣乐经谱 1779). Amiot also translated principles of Chinese music in his ‘Chinese Divertissements.’ He took Rameau’s music to Peking by performing ‘Dance of the Savages’, later included as a suite in the opera-ballet The Gallant Indies of the librettist Louis Fuzelier (Paris Opéra, 23 August 1735), for the Chinese literati. A Pekinese observer, however, wrote ‘Nothing of all this made an impression on the Chinese hearts and souls’. To conclude, scientists thought Amiot and Rameau’s information on pentatonicism could be a fundamental international concept of music.

Moshan Guo, “Foreign Race, Masculinity, and Underclass Voice: A Discussion on Yan Jin’s Stardom in 1930s China”

Jin Yan was one of the most important male stars in the 1930s in Chinese cinema. This paper analyses Jin Yan’s star image in the 1930s from the perspectives of the screen image he created, his star image in public view, and his role of the narrator of the underclass discourse. In combination with the development of Chinese films in the 1930s, this paper focus on Jin Yan’s role as a masculine and patriarchal rebel, as well as his unique westernised lifestyle and his alien identity to conclude the formation of Jin Yan’s star status.

Agota Revesz, “The Political Economy of Chinese Theatre”

The paper focuses on traditional Chinese theatre (commonly called “Chinese opera”) and, most importantly, on its socio-political context. First I deal with the question of local vs. pan-Chinese identities as a decisive factor in stage production, then introduce the desire for upward social mobility of local forms in a system of strict cultural hierarchy. I also touch briefly upon the reasons why Beijing Opera and Kunqu became the two internationally promoted “national operas.” The focus is on present-day production and its background. The “political economy” of traditional Chinese theatre can and should be taken as an example for the very complex and in several ways the complementary relationship between culture and politics in China. Stage narratives are politicised, as is the idea of heritage, and it is the interest of the current regime to support traditional theatre production. If we take a look at this broader picture, we see that the “political economy” of traditional Chinese theatre is very different from the context of European theatre. This difference is, however, symptomatic, and might also assist to understand differences in other areas. This interdisciplinary topic has not received scholarly attention before. The paper summarises some of the results of my postdoctoral research conducted at Freie Universität Berlin in 2015–2016. The whole work will soon be published as a book.

Andreea Chirita, “Adapting History to Stage Performance in Urban China”

Historic-themed performances are not a rarity within the contemporary Chinese theatre landscape. While the general trend embraced by theatre-makers is to pinpoint the heroic and larger-than-life attributes of various historic Chinese leaders, a small group of avant-garde directors come up with decanoninzig visions, meant to challenge the traditional grasp of Chinese history by its youthful, urban, patriotic audience. Such is the case of experimental director Wang Chong (b.1982), who, in 2012, brought to the Chinese and Japanese stage his original, parodic vision of communist propaganda movie The Landmine Warfare (1962). My paper investigates the aesthetic modes through which Wang recreates the original version, by means of parody, irony and ideological symbols, and adapts it to the Chinese contemporary socio-historic and ideological background. If the original film formulates the patriotism of a small Chinese village in its quest to outwit and annihilate the ‘Japanese devils’ during the Sino-Japanese war, the theatrical adaptation moves its location to the city and engages textually, creatively and critically with this story, turning it upside down. The result: a brand-new product, that questions the present anti-Japanese feeling among many Chinese urban youths. My paper further analyses how the double nature of this adaptation debunks the historical contingencies that lead to the present nationalistic ideologies among Chinese youngsters. The way in which urban young audiences comply with such surprising ‘remediated stories’ adapted from canonical historic propaganda is another aspect to be investigated.

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Room G