(spoken drama)
Huaju (spoken drama) is the Chinese term used to categorize modern Western-style theatre that was imported early in the twentieth century. Adopted by Chinese intellectuals living overseas, in hopes of addressing social problems faced by post-Qing China, Huaju contributed to the New Culture Movement and the May Fourth Enlightenment as a whole, offering a new form of theatre radically different from classical Xiqu (sung-drama/opera). Huaju was performed in vernacular Chinese and thus accessible to the masses, and had immediate political application. The first spoken drama written and staged by Chinese citizens was Black Slave’s Cry to Heaven (Heinu yutianlu)—an adaptation of the Chinese translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin—presented by the Spring Willow Society in Tokyo in 1907. The earliest spoken dramas in China were staged by the Spring Society in Shanghai and other dramatic societies such as the Progress Troupe, Creation Society and People’s Drama Society, and were primarily adaptations of translated works by foreign playwrights. Seminal figures in early Chinese spoken drama include Hu Shi, Hong Shen, Ouyang Yuqian, Tian Han, Cao Yu and Guo Moruo, who created native plays that borrowed from Western playwrights but were original works addressing local and national Chinese concerns.
During the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–45), drama troupes were mobilized into the countryside to spread nation-building propaganda, and Huaju continued to be utilized ideologically after the Communist government was established in 1949 to promote the precepts of the Chinese Communist Party. State-run spoken drama training institutes were established, and in the early 1950s state theatres with resident companies such as the Beijing People’s Art Theatre, China Youth Art Theatre and Shanghai People’s Art Theatre were created. During this period, Soviet artists came to China to train actors at the newly established venues in the techniques of Stanislavsky and the Moscow Art Theatre. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) spoken drama was removed from the national stage and only Jiang Qing’s eight model operas were performed. When performances of Huaju resumed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a combination of restagings of the Chinese and foreign plays of earlier periods, as well as the beginnings of avant-garde/experimental theatre influenced by similar movements that had occurred earlier in Europe and elsewhere. In addition to proscenium stagings at state-run theatre companies, Little Theatre performances proliferated and some independent productions were staged.
In addition to adaptations of foreign works, many foreign directors and designers collaborated with Chinese artists on spoken drama projects in China, the most celebrated of which was Arthur Miller and Ying Ruocheng’s production of Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the Beijing People’s Art Theatre in 1983 (see Western theatre).
dramas of the twentieth century is Lao She’s epic One of the most famous original Chinese spoken Teahouse (Chaguan), whose content spans several decades of Chinese political movements and whose production history bridges several periods in the development of Huaju. It premiered in Beijing in 1958 (directed by Jiao Juyin), was restaged in 1979, toured Europe in 1980, and was revived with a new cast and new interpretation by director Lin Zhaohua in 2000. During the 1990s, such experimental restagings of Chinese and foreign classics—along with ‘salon’ theatre, environmental theatre, international casting, bilingual productions, performance art, and intra-cultural as well as inter-cultural experiments—were all in evidence on the mainland and were often preceded by efforts in the more progressive independent theatre communities of Taiwan and Hong Kong (see performing arts in Taiwan).
Chen, Xiaomei (ed.) (2003). Reading the Right Text: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Drama. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Yan, Haiping (ed.) (1998). Theater and Society: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Drama. Armonk: East Gate Books.
Yu, Shiao-ling (1996). Chinese Drama After the Cultural Revolution, 1979–1989: An Anthology. New York: Mellen Press.
Chen, Xiaomei (2002). Acting the Right Part: Political Theater and Popular Drama in Contemporary China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
——(2003). ‘Performing the Nation: Modern Spoken Drama’. In Joshua Mostow (ed.) and Kirk Denton (ed. China section), Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literatures. New York: Columbia University Press, 437–45.
Wang, W., Rong, B. and Zhang, Y. (eds) (1998). Zhongguo huajushi [A History of Chinese Spoken Drama]. Beijing: Culture and Art Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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