Xu Fen


Xu Fen
b. 1933, Chongqing, Sichuan
Xiqu (sung-drama/opera) playwright
In 1961, Xu Fen became the first female playwright in the history of Chuanju (Sichuan opera). Since then she has written more than thirty plays. Her most representative work before the Cultural Revolution was Yanyan, a revision, from a feminist point of view, of the characterization of the leading character of Guan Hanqing’s Yuan-dynasty farce A Girl Tricked into Amorous Relations (Zha nizi tiao fengyue), in which Yanyan accepts her position as a concubine even after she has been taken advantage of, betrayed and ridiculed by her man. Since the late 1970s, Xu’s revision has been adapted by different regional theatre troupes and has also been produced on television. Since Reform, but in the same vein, she has written a series of plays focusing on new portrayals of women: Sister Tian and Zhuangzi, (Tianjie yü Zhuang Zhou), Interrupted Dream of Red Chamber (Honglou jing meng) and Mulian’s Mother (Mulian zhi mu). She has also turned to modern and contemporary themes, producing such plays as Gentle Waves of Dead Waters (Sishui weilan), Governor’s Wife (Dudu furen), and The Raging Tide in the Sea of Desire (Yuhai kuangchao). Gentle Waves of Dead Waters, adapted from a novel of the same title, tells the story of a countrywoman who rebels against feudal ethics and pursues her own love in the last years of the Qing Dynasty. Governor’s Wife is based on an autobiography by Dong Zhujun, a woman entrepreneur who had escaped from her life as a sing-song girl at the age of fifteen and, following a failed marriage to a governor of Sichuan, started a Sichuanese restaurant in Shanghai which later developed into the famous Jinjiang Hotel. The Raging Tide in the Sea of Desire is a transformation of Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms, turning the concept of sexual desire into a concrete and vivid image on stage.
Like Wei Minglun, Xu Fen has written mainly for Sichuan opera. These two playwrights have been most innovative and, sometimes, controversial of the Chuanju stage. Xu is undoubtedly one of the most important female playwrights in the contemporary scene. Her works have also appeared in Jingju (Peking opera) (i.e. The One and Only, or Qiangu yiren), Huaju (spoken drama) (i.e. The Tide of the Xinhai Revolution, or Xinhai chao), and Wuju (dance drama) (i.e. Flowers of Distant Mountains, or Yuanshan de huaduo).
DU WENWEI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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