Huang Zuolin

b. 24 October 1906, Tianjin; d. 1 June 1994, Shanghai
Playwright, director, administrator, theorist
Often referred to in theatre circles as simply Zuolin, Huang directed more than a hundred stage plays and films during his career and has trained countless actors. He is most renowned for his efforts to combine the acting techniques of Stanislavsky, Brecht and the Jingju (Peking opera) actor Mei Lanfang into a unique Chinese theatre aesthetic. From traditional Chinese aesthetics he adopted the term xieyi to describe his ideal concept of theatre. Xieyi has been translated variously as ‘intrinsicalism’, ‘essentialism’ and ‘imagism’ by Huang himself, and as ‘suggestive’ by the scholar Chen Xiaomei, but is best left in its original language, as Huang insisted in his later years. A top administrator at the Shanghai People’s Art Theatre since 1951, Huang delivered a famous lecture in 1959 explaining Brecht’s drama theory and also directed the latter’s Mother Courage and Her Children (1959, Shanghai) and Galileo (1978, Beijing). In 1962, he gave a speech ‘On the Concept of the Theatre’ (Mantan xiju guan) in Guangzhou which was published in People’s Daily on 25 April 1962. Active as a director and adviser up until his death in 1994, Huang is widely considered to be the most significant theatrical figure in Shanghai during the twentieth century.
Drama Division of Shanghai Arts Research Institute (ed.) (1990).
Zuolin yanjiu [Research on Zuolin]. Beijing: China Theatre Press.
Fei, Faye Chunfang. (1991). ‘Huang Zuolin: China’s Man of the Theatre’. PhD diss., City University of New York.
Huang, Zuolin (1990). Wo yü xieyi xiju guan [My Concept of the Theatre as ‘Xieyi’]. Beijing: China Theatre Press.
——(1999). ‘On Mei Lanfang and Chinese Traditional Theater.’ In Faye Chunfang Fei (ed./trans.), Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 154–8.
Quah, Sy Ren (2000). ‘Searching for Alternative Aesthetics in the Chinese Theatre: The Odyssey of Huang Zuolin and Gao Xingjian’. Asian Culture 24 (June): 44–66.
CLAIRE CONCEISON

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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