CHINA’S GREATEST OPERATIC MALE ACTOR OF FEMALE ROLES: Documenting the Life and Art of Mei Lanfang, 1894-1961

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This is the first English language book to systematically examine the life and art of Mei Lanfang (1894-1961). Mei, who specialized in female roles in classical Chinese theatre, especially jingju, is widely considered the greatest actor of twentieth-century China. This text includes analyses of his work from Chinese, Western, Russian,and intercultural perspectives.


“The documents and sources tell us an enormous amount about the great artist that is Mei Lanfang. But there is more: they also tell us about how the Chinese theatre developed over that period and finally they tell us a great deal about social and political change in China.” – Prof Colin Mackerras, Griffith University

“This sourcebook is crucially important for anyone interested in understanding Mei Lanfang’s art and its impact. It is also of great value for studies of the dramatic criticism of Mei’s time, especially in China and Russia, and for research on Bertolt Brecht, the Russian avant-garde of the 1930s, and early twentieth-century theatrical exchange and intercultural theatre. Min Tian’s sourcebook on Mei Lanfang is a major contribution to English-language teaching and scholarship, present and future, on this great artist and his era.” – Prof. Elizabeth Wichmann, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Table of Contents

Foreword Colin Mackerras
Introduction Min Tian
Part One: Mei Lanfang’s Perspective
1.1 My Life on Stage – Mei Lanfang
Part Two: Chinese Perspectives
2.1 Mei Lanfang and the Chinese Drama Hu Shi
2.2 On Mei Lanfang – Lu Xun
2.3 Down with Dan Actors in Women’s Clothes; Down with the Representative Dan Actor Mei Lanfang – Zheng Zhenduo
2.4 About Mei Lanfang’s Daiyu Buries FlowersJiang Miaoxiang
2.5 Du Liniang in Deep and Boundless Love – Yu Zhengfei
2.6 Mei Lanfang: A True Actor, Creator of Beauty – Ouyang Yuqian
2.7 Mei Lanfang, Stanislavsky, Brecht: A Study in Contrasts – Huang Zuolin
Part Three: Western and Russian Perspectives
3.1 Mei Lanfang – Stark Young
3.2 Chinese Acting – Bertolt Brecht
3.3 On Mei Lanfang: Artiste on Tour – Vsevolod Meyerhold
3.4 The Magician of the Pear Orchard – Sergei Eisenstein
3.5 Mei Lanfang—Our Guest / Great Mastery – Sergei Tretyakov
3.6 An Evening for the Final Conclusion of the Visit of Mei Lanfang’s Theatre in the USSR, April 14, 1935 The All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS)
Part Four: Intercultural Perspectives
4.1 Mei Lanfang: A Case Against and a Model for the Occidental Stage – Georges Banu
4.2 The Effect of Displacement: Bertolt Brecht’s Interpretation and Refunctioning of Mei Lanfang’s Art – Min Tian
4.3 “What then is the practical lesson”: The Interpretations and Appropriations of Mei Lanfang by the Soviet Theatre – Min Tian
4.4 Mei Lanfang in Moscow, 1935: Familiar, Unfamiliar, Defamiliar – Haun Saussy
4.5 Brokering Glory for the Chinese Nation: Mei Lanfang’s 1930 American Tour – Nancy Guy
4.6 “Introducing Occidentals to an Exotic Art”: Mei Lanfang in New York – Mark Cosdon
Appendix Mei Lanfang: a Chronology

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