Luo Huaizhen

Luo Huaizhen
b. 1956, Huaiyin, Jiangsu
Xiqu (sung-drama/opera) playwright
Luo Huaizhen’s career as a playwright in the Xiqu genres started in the mid 1980s in Shanghai. Prior to writing plays, he had performed on the Huaiju (Huai opera) stage in his home town in the late 1970s. His first published Jingju (Peking opera) play was The Story of an Ancient Actor (1984), after which he received a short-term professional training at Shanghai Academy of Theatre. Since then he has, on average, written one play a year. All of them, except the first, have been staged in one or more of the regional forms of Xiqu. His most successful plays include Wind and Moon by the Qinhuai River (Fengyue Qinhuai, Yueju (Zhejiang opera), Golden Dragon and Mayfly (Jinlong yü fuyou, Huaiju), The Hegemon King of Western Chu (Xichu bangwang, Huaiju), Xi Shi Returns to the Kingdom of Yue (Xi Shi gui Yue, Jingju), Magic Lotus Lantern (Baolian deng, Jingju), and Ban Zhao (Kunqu).
In addition to Yueju, Huaiju, Jingju and Kunqu, Luo has also written plays for Hanju (Hubei opera), Yueju (Cantonese opera; see Yueju (Guangdong, Guanxi opera)), and even for musicals (yinyueju).
Luo’s plays are all set in imperial China and can be divided into two categories: those that portray historical or literary female figures such as Xi Shi, Ban Zhao, Li Qingzhao and Liu Rushi; and those that invent new allegorical tales set in the past. The former is best represented by Xi Shi Returns to the Kingdom of Yue, which goes against the traditional portrayal of Xi Shi—who had long been honoured for her sexual sacrifice to save the kingdom of Yue—and poses the poignant question: ‘What if Xi Shi had been pregnant with the child of the King of Wu?’ In Luo’s play, the King of Yue cannot tolerate the birth of the child and makes Xi Shi kill her own child and commit suicide. Like most of his tragedies, the play questions the validity of traditional Chinese ethics and some of its virtues. The second category is illustrated by Golden Dragon and Mayfly, in which Luo uses the concepts of Greek and Shakespearean tragedies to portray a prince who abandons his wife in order to save his father’s kingdom. Later, because of both a flaw in his personality and the obscurity of several characters’ identities, the prince kills his faithful general, castrates his own son and compels his daughter-in-law to become his concubine, leading to the deaths of everyone in his family except for his grandson, who is likely to start the same vicious cycle all over again. It is a political fable questioning the validity of male authority over women and exploring the interrelations between the private and the public. With this and other Huaiju plays, Luo helped initiate a Huaiju revival called ‘Metropolitan New Huaiju’ (Dushi xinhuaiju) which turned the genre into a major regional style in Shanghai and the lower Yangtze River area. It has even reached the Beijing stage, and is attracting audiences from all walks of life, from young college students to old peasants in the countryside.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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