Kuo Hsiao-chuang and Ya Yin Ensemble

Chin Hsiao-i Curator of National Palace Museum

Literature and art change with the times. Hence each generation has its own literature and art. As for contemporary literature and art, they must have their roots in tradition, go through innovation, metamorphosis and transformation, and finally achieve its success. This is the inevitable state of things.

The National Palace has turned from a palace museum into an ethnological museum, linking through 7000 years of monistic Chinese culture. It was capable of regenerating itself continually because it has as its orientation "innovation within tradition". Therefore, "innovation within tradition" has even become the professed goal of our Museum's Modern and Contemporary Gallery. The Ya Yin Ensemble founded under Ms Kuo Hsiao-chuang's leadership in the 68th Year of the Republic (1979) aims at opening up modern and broad space for Chinese opera, and to widen the scope of young people's appreciation of the arts. Hence she also names "new life within tradition" as the direction for Ya Yin's endeavors.

Talking about Hsiao-chuang, I cannot help thinking of Mr Chang Ta-chien. He greatly appreciated Hsiao-chuang's artistic attainments and her efforts made for Chinese opera. Hence he also showed unprecedented love and care for her. "Ya Yin Ensemble" was the name chosen for her by Mr Ta-chien, who also personally inscribed it in calligraphy. Once Hsiao-chuang was playing "Fan Li-hua" and invited Mr Ta-chien to see it. He was indisposed and unable to attend, so he sent her a poem: "Ten foot room, rope bed and clay herb pot. Venture to ask after my health of the Bodhisattva Wenshu. Having strewn all heavenly blossoms without avail. Sadly just a snowy stalk at the eastern balustrade." He later painted a lotus skirt in ink for Hsiao-chuang, showing the deep sigh of the past master's "Sadly a snowy stalk at the eastern balustrade. How many Ching Ming Festivals could one see in this life?" In April of the 72nd Year (1983) Mr Ta-chien passed away. Hsiao-chuang made an express trip from New York back to Taiwan to take part in the vigil and funeral in full mourning. I write about this as much to recall a great master's appreciation and love of the talent of the younger generation, as to record Hsiao-chuang's great capacity for sincere love. I must in particular thank Hsiao-chuang here for choreographing the "Madam Kung-sun's Sword Dance" at the Palace Museum's 60th Anniversary in the 74th Year (1985), adding much joyous brilliance to the celebrations.

Hsiao-chuang's achievements in Chinese opera is common knowledge and renowned at home and abroad. From Professor Liu's book people can come to understand that her achievements are the results of accumulating countless hard work and breaking through numerous dire straits. I must point out in particular here that even though the painstaking labors given by Hsiao-chuang toward the "new birth within tradition" for Chinese opera have already blossomed and borne fruit; scholars have largely recognized the operatic literature and stage art displayed by Ya Yin's scripts, music and sceneries; and the audiences, especially the young students, have reacted with enthusiastic praise and liking; yet opera is a composite form of literature and art that must rely on librettists, composers, performing artists, stage designers and critics to continually refine, innovate, metamorphose and transform it together, before it can be said to have completed a stage of development. Then it must innovate, metamorphose and transform yet again! I know that, with Hsiao-chuang's spirit and perseverance that could carve metals and stones, she will keep exerting herself with redoubled effort and never give up, until she opens up once, twice and thrice again for Chinese opera the avenue that leads to the five directions.