Wei Minglun


Wei Minglun
b. 1940, Neijiang, Sichuan
Xiqu (sung-drama/opera) playwright
Wei Minglun is one of Sichuan’s most successful and innovative dramatists and has created a considerable impact on the country’s dramatic circles, particularly during the 1980s, with a number of his plays. Born in Sichuan province, Wei learned the craft of Sichuan opera from a very early age and joined the Zigong Sichuan Opera Troupe at the age of ten as a xiao sheng (young man) and xiao chou (small clown) actor (see Xiqu role types). Wei left the stage in 1962 and turned to playwriting. His contemporary operas, Girl Four (Si Guniang) and the Courageous Yang(Yi Danda), won him the National Best Drama Award in 1980/1. His ‘newly written historical drama’, The Scholar of Bashan (Bashan Xiucai) premiered in Beijing in 1983 and was highly recommended for depicting the oppression of the people by the ruling classes.
His most successful, but also most controversial play is Pan Jinlian, which premiered in Zigong (Sichuan) in 1985. Described in the title as ‘a Sichuan opera of the absurd’, it captured the attention of Chinese and foreign theatre experts due to its experimental approach in ‘modernizing’ the form and content of Chuanju (Sichuan opera). Pan Jinlian, traditionally condemned as a wanton woman who killed her husband for her lover, is here shown to be a victim of the patriarchal society. Wei experimented with the interweaving of different temporal and spatial dimensions. Characters include divergent women such as Empress Wu Zetian, a contemporary female judge and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Pan Jinlian has been praised for its social relevance, touching on the important issue of female emancipation in modern China and posing the provocative question whether or not a ‘modern’ Pan Jinlian would actually be free in her choices.
In 1993 Wei Minglun was invited to adapt Puccini’s Turandot for Jingju (Peking opera) and later brought the production to Italy. Wei has also worked as a writer for film and for television series. His most recent success is Face Changing (Bianlian). Originally written as a screenplay and produced in Hong Kong in 1995, Wei adapted itas a Sichuan opera in 1997, creating once again a Chuanju that is innovative in style and socially relevant to today’s audiences.
Dauth, Ursula (1997). ‘Strategies of Reform in Sichuan Opera since 1982: Confronting the Challenge of Rejuvenating a Regional Opera’. PhD diss. Brisbane: Griffith University.
Zhang, Yunchu (1988). ‘“Wei Minglun xianxiang”—xiandai yishide xiqu wenhua xianxiang’ [The ‘Wei Minglun Phenomenon’—the Phenomenon of a Modern Consciousness in Traditional Chinese Theatrical Culture]. Juben 5:34–5, 53.
URSULA DAUTH

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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