Delighted to see "Resounding Ya Yin" published

Chu Sung-chiu President China Journalists Association

Miss Kuo Hsiao-chuang in Taiwan today is almost a household word. She enjoys considerable renown in the culture and art circles overseas and in Mainland China. The reason is of course mainly her perseverance and achievement with Chinese opera, especially the "Ya Yin Ensemble" that she has founded with her own hands 18 years ago, opening up an alternative path and flying her own colors for the form of expression of this traditional operatic art.

On the other hand, what makes her so very valued and recognized by society, and so very liked, cared about and almost idolized by the younger generation of the intellectuals, has in my opinion its roots in her adherence to the ideals she embraces, and her love and requital to the community at large. Everybody feels that she is easy and personable. Throughout the years, the Miss Kuo introduced, reported and presented by various mass media has been precisely such a typical woman. However, the seniors, elders, teachers, friends and colleagues who are in frequent contact with her and know her more will know that she regulates herself strictly and seeks perfection keenly. Whatever the occasion and whatever part she plays, she invariably makes all demands on herself and puts herself in other's place to be considerate. This is probably one of the reasons for her possessing in particular an affinity with the young and her charisma with the masses.

Even so, behind her artistic achievement and vita bella, she has walked along a long and difficult journey of the mind, in the course of which she has experienced a lot of alternate cold and warm reception and alternate praise and censure. This shows precisely that the innermost heart of a successful person is often filled with bitterness and sorrow. This is the truth of the so-called "trials and tribulations nurture success".

As we all know, Hsiao-chuang entered the school to learn opera at the age of 8. In those days, all the teaching mode and contents of a school of drama were identical with the traditional opera troupe. That is to say, all the beating, scolding and not necessarily reasonable disciplinary measures had been imposed on her. But for the encouragement of her loving father, as well as Hsiao-chuang's own perseverance in quest of success, one can imagine that she could hardly have laid her solid foundation in Chinese opera. When she was around 18 and quite outstanding in the opera circle, she felt inadequate herself and chanced to meet Professor Yu Ta-kang the Chinese opera maestro. He thought that Hsiao-chuang was a promising talent, gave her teaching and training and handed down his whole legacy. Hence the happy story of opera's winged steed meeting the talent spotter/trainer was spread far and wide. Hsiao-chuang in turn also became a disciple for life, ever grateful and determined to repay her master with her enterprise.

Of course, any opera artiste is inseparable from the performing stage. In this regard, Miss Kuo has again gone through a bumpy track. She started with playing the part of the maid criticized as ugly looking, all the way to the elegant and exquisite Meng Li-chun in "Rebirth Romance", or the skillfully disguised Chu Ying-tai, or the tragic character Tau O for whom thousands sigh in sympathy. In the book "Together To The End of the World" which she wrote in the 76th Year (1987), there are fair reflections and self-reviews.

However, as I and some others know, in the early days of her founding "Ya Yin Assembly" when she played "Wang Kuei Jilting Kuei-ying", because she made certain breakthroughs in mode of expression to bring Chinese opera closer to the audience, whereby making it easier to understand the story, she was most popular and all shows were sold out. But some people who call themselves experts in traditional Chinese opera took a stance of preserving the quintessence of Chinese culture, attacked Kuo Hsiao-chuang's performance as heretic, and even put a "Red Label" on her, saying that she was copying the model opera of the Mainland. How could a young woman displaying her talent for the first time and ready to innovate bear all this?

The most inconceivable incident was when she prepared to stage the old history play "Tou O's Earthshaking Grievance" in the 68th Year (1979). In July-August that year she had booked the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei as the performance venue for the show in the spring of the 69th Year (1980). Unfortunately, on December 10, 1979 the Mei Li Island Incident took place in Kaohsiung. A few intelligence agents who liked to strain interpretations and draw far fetched analogies ordered in early 1980 the postponement of the show on grounds of "not suitable for the time being". But the tickets had already been sold and a postponement would not only damage Ya Yin's reputation, but also lead to public outcry. The matter was later made known to President Chiang Ching-kuo who ruled that this was an old Peking opera story of "Snow in the Sixth Moon", and that preparation for the show was way before the incident, with no possible connection between the two. And so the show was allowed to be staged as planned.

All these unwarranted accusations have now become history and gone with the wind. I understand Miss Kuo recognizes that different times have different happenings, many of which will be unexpected. Hence she has no complaints or regrets but faces them calmly. In recent years she is busy with further studies, doing public service, rearranging old files, and active in Chinese opera exchanges between both shores of the Strait and overseas. Hence she is performing less frequently. All this is explained and accounted for in her new book.
On the eve of the publication of this new book, I was asked to provide a preface. I am a mere lover of Chinese opera, but have not studied the art. It is only that I am moved by her tenacity with this traditional art, her courage and spirit in innovation and quest for progress, and her love and resolution even to the length of "getting married to Chinese opera" so as to pass on the heritage. Hence I gladly recommend this book. I sincerely hope that compatriots, especially the younger generation overseas, no matter how much understanding you have of Chinese opera, do get to know a lady of our times like Miss Kuo. How she exercises forbearance and patience, sincerity and hard work, dedicating her life and her efforts to national operatic art, opening up her own patch of wide and grandiose heaven.