Grand Man­sion Gate

TV drama de­pict­ing a tu­mul­tuous pe­riod in coun­try’s his­tory adapted to Pek­ing Opera

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It has been 16 years since Chi­nese di­rec­tor and scriptwriter Guo Baochang made Da Zhai Men, or The Grand

Man­sion Gate, a 72-episode TV drama based on the story of his adop­tive fa­ther.

Con­sid­ered a clas­sic with a star-stud­ded cast, in­clud­ing Chi­nese film­mak­ers Zhang Yi­mou, Chen Kaige and Jiang Wen, The Grand Man

sion Gate is the story of the Bei­jing-based Bai fam­ily through one of the most po­lit­i­cally tu­mul­tuous pe­ri­ods of modern Chi­nese his­tory, span­ning from the late Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) up un­til World War II.

Now, the story has been adapted by Li Zhuo­qun, a 30-year-old di­rec­tor and scriptwriter, into a Pek­ing Opera of the same name.

The show pre­miered at Bei­jing’s Tian­qiao Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter over June 17 and 18.

It will go on a na­tional tour, fol­lowed by shows in Ja­pan and South Korea.

“When I got the idea of writ­ing The Grand Man­sion

Gate decades ago, I thought of Pek­ing Opera first rather than TV. But I did not pur­sue the opera op­tion then be­cause I could not find the right peo­ple,” says Guo, 77, who is a big fan of Pek­ing Opera and used lots of Pek­ing Opera el­e­ments in the TV drama.

About two years ago, he saw Li’s first di­rec­to­rial work, Yan Xi­jiao, which is about a love tri­an­gle com­pris­ing Yan Xi­jiao, a con­cu­bine, district of­fi­cial Song Jiang and Yan’s se­cret lover, Song’s ap­pren­tice Zhang Wenyuan.

Guo was im­pressed by Li’s ap­proach, which blends tra­di­tional tech­niques with a con­tem­po­rary in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the an­cient art.

So, Guo de­cided to work with the young di­rec­tor.

Then, along with Li, he co-di­rected the Pek­ing Opera ver­sion of The Grand Man­sion Gate.

Li, who was born in Lin­fen, Shanxi prov­ince, to a fam­ily who worked in local folk opera, is cred­ited with cre­at­ing a mar­ket for Pek­ing Opera shows in small the­aters.

Fans say that her plots are sim­ple and there are fewer char­ac­ters to keep track of.

Li has been working with Jingju Theater Com­pany of Bei­jing, which was founded in 1979, since her grad­u­a­tion from the Na­tional Academy of Chi­nese Theater Arts about 10 years ago.

Re­count­ing her re­ac­tion when she was ap­proached by Guo, she says: “I was flat­tered when he came to me. I had watched the TV drama many times and was a big fan.” Pek­ing Opera, known as

jingju in Chi­nese, has a his­tory of more than 200 years and was de­clared an in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage by UNESCO in 2010.

Re­call­ing the chal­lenges she faced, Li says that the first one was the script.

“Guo said he wanted to do a show about the fam­ily but dif­fer­ent from the TV ver­sion. So, we dis­cussed the story over and over again. He wanted me to be orig­i­nal and cre­ative,” says Li.

In the TV drama, the fo­cus is on Bai Jingqi, who is a re­bel­lious and am­bi­tious young man. He car­ries the hopes of his fam­ily, which runs a tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine store in Bei­jing.

The orig­i­nal story com­prises four chap­ters, which are named af­ter the four sea­sons, but the Pek­ing Opera ver­sion opens with Yang Ji­uhong, the pros­ti­tute who Bai falls in love with.

De­spite his fam­ily’s ob­jec­tions, he mar­ries Yang and brings her into the fam­ily, where she faces re­jec­tion.

Speak­ing about her role, Pek­ing Opera ac­tress Dou Xiaox­uan, who plays Yang, says: “It is a big chal­lenge be­cause most of the roles I have played be­fore are women of high so­cial sta­tus. The role of Yang is tragic and re­quires lots of emo­tion.”

Dou had stud­ied un­der fa­mous Pek­ing Opera ac­tresses such as Du Jin­fang and Li Weikang at the Na­tional Academy of Chi­nese Theater Arts.

The 30-year-old says that He Saifei, who plays the role of Yang in the TV drama, in­spires her.

“She has a strong per­son­al­ity. She guards her love and en­dures lots of pres­sure from the big fam­ily. In the end, she al­most goes crazy but she still loves Bai,” says Dou.

Li says that the av­er­age age of the team is about 27, which means that the Pek­ing Opera ver­sion of The Grand Man

sion Gate has a young feel. “Mak­ing the an­cient art pop­u­lar with the young is what I have al­ways dreamed of,” she says.

TheGrandMan­sionGate will tour the coun­try af­ter its pre­miere in Bei­jing.


Dou Xiaox­uan plays one of the lead roles in the Pek­ing Opera


Guo Baochang (right) co-di­rects the Pek­ing Opera TheGrand Man­sionGate with Li Zhuo­qun.

TheGrandMan­sionGate re­volves around ups and downs of a Bei­jing fam­ily from the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) to the 1940s.

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