Prime Mover of Chinese Opera Modernization

Lu Chih-tzu President Chinese Culture and Arts Association

At the invitation of Mr Li Shih-fen and Mr Weng Ping-jung, I went to China TV in the 61st year (1972) to be a program producer. My first planned production was a period costume serial drama ¡§Eternal Fame¡¨. In those days CTV¡¦s actors were very decent, with many solid ones. The choice of the actress to play the female lead character Princess Te-an went through very careful selection exercises time and again. Since the story came out of the plots of Chinese opera numbers ¡§Searching for and Rescuing the Orphan¡¨ and ¡§Orphan of the Chao Family¡¨, we naturally thought of Kuo Hsiao-chuang. She was very active, playing the lead on the opera stage and making movies as well, while at the same time making frequent appearances on television. Hence it was difficult to locate her.

Through the liaison of Professor Yu Ta-kang, I learned that she was then physically in Hong Kong. It was because she starred in ¡§Ch¡¦iu Chin¡¨, was awarded Queen of Martial Art Movies and made a special trip to receive the Award. We talked on long distance telephone across the seas, confirming her playing the part of the Princess. So when she came back in honor bearing the very big trophy, I made it a point to follow Professor Yu to meet her plane. She was very cheerful and happy. On the next day she entered the studio to try on the costume, meet the Press and formally accepted the part for performance.

During the rehearsals period, she had always arrived early and left late, sitting quietly on one side either reading the script or watching others rehearse. Her attitude was earnest and proper, making other people not dare to come over and sit with her to chat or crack jokes. She was the model student in the rehearsal room. While friendly in her manners and looks, she nevertheless retained an air of uprightness, which was very rare among the usual artistes. And she therefore quickly won everybody¡¦s favor. What came into the ears of this producer were praises for her from actors, assistant producers and studio workers. Almost everybody agreed in one voice saying, ¡§Kuo Hsiao-chuang is a very good girl.¡¨

From ¡§Eternal Fame¡¨ to ¡§Epoch Making Beauty¡¨ to ¡§Epoch Making Conqueror¡¨, her image in television serial dramas looked fresh and elegant. Her refined air and meticulous acting were much loved by the audience. She played Princess Te-an, Tung Hsiao-wan and Ju Chi vividly and also full of feelings. In particular, Ju Chi caught in the predicament of besieged by the singing of Ch¡¦u songs on all sides was played in a very moving way. I still have a very clear impression of it even today.

Later she founded the Ya Yin Ensemble, bade farewell to television and movie performance, and became a prime mover of the modernization of Chinese opera. On the one hand I feel a great pity, on the other hand I am happy for her sake. To be able to persevere in the pursuit of one¡¦s own ideal and enthusiastically give of oneself is admirable. Seeing how she works hard and treads out step by step the path for the new Chinese opera, the happiness of Ya Yin¡¦s every performance being a success makes people who care for her also share the joy.

This time Professor Liu has written this book ¡§Kuo Hsiao-chuang¡¦s Resounding Ya Yin¡¨, thus making a true record of the achievements and contributions she and Ya Yin have made to Chinese opera, and preserving valuable historical materials for the development of Chinese opera. I believe this beautiful chapter of Kuo Hsiao-chuang¡¦s will have its place in history.