CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performinng Literature; January 2017, Vol. 36 Issue: 1 p22-45, 24p
This essay investigates the construction of the notion of gewu(song and dance) by Qi Rushan (1875–1962), main advisor to the famous performer of female roles, Mei Lanfang (1894–1961), in his writings on Chinese opera/xiqu, taking contemporary Peking opera/Jingjuas its epitome. Originally put forward as a theoretical basis on which to ground the new developments in the theatrical realm that he was trying to introduce, Qi's concept of gewulater became central to the scholarship and historical narrative of Chinese opera. This paper examines how Qi made use of the Confucian classics and pre-Song dynasty literature to invest the notion with historical depth in tracing back to antiquity the roots of the new (re-)emergence of synchronized performance of singing and dancing that he claimed was best illustrated in Mei's plays. This article also studies Qi's theoretical works in conjunction with the historiographical debates of the time. As such, it brings to the fore the influence of contemporary opera production and consumption on the formation of a new history of Chinese drama, and how the construction of a new aesthetic informed a new understanding of Chinese theatrical arts.