Hua Wen-yi, Tsai Cheng-jen demonstrate Kun Opera
Chinese Kun Opera ( ), which is listed by the United Nations as a human heritage treasure, recently blossomed in Taipei. Two top contemporary Kun Opera performers Hua Wen-yi ( ) and Tsai Cheng-jen ( ) were invited by National Taiwan University (NTU) to give lectures and demonstrations to NTU students and the general public.
Hua is considered the “Queen of Kun Opera,” and she was the recipient of numerous artist awards over the past decades. In 1997, the U.S. government presented her with the Top Traditional Artist Award. In addition, she has received the Peoples’ Republic of China’s Performing Art Award, Chinese Best Television Performing Art Award, and the top Plum Blossom Award for performing artists.
When she was ten years old, out of six thousand boys and girls who took the entrance examination held by the Shanghai Opera School, she emerged as one of the few dozen who passed the exam. She was then cultivated by opera masters, such as Mei Lan-fang, Yu Cheng-fei ( ), Yen Hui-chu ( ), Chu Chuan-ming ( ) and many other great Peking Opera and Kun Opera teachers. Mei Lan-fang was impressed by her talent in Chinese opera, and even acknowledged her as his young Kun Opera successor. Since then, the audience called Hua Little Mei Lan-fang.
In 1985, Hua was assigned as the director of the Shanghai Kun Opera Troupe by the Shanghai Culture Bureau. In 1989, her troupe went to the U.S. to perform, and she became tired of the director’s heavy duty to handle complicated and cumbersome things. She resigned the directorship and requested to stay in the U.S. to research performing arts for one year, but her request was denied by the authorities in China. However, she decided to stay in the U.S. anyway, which caused great turbulence for the
Meeting Mainland Leaders
After seven years, in 1996, she was allowed to return to China. Even Premier Chu Yun- ke (
) and Minister of Education Chen Chi-li ( ) received her and praised her achievements in Kun Opera performance. She was presented with the Highest Honor Award by the Peoples’ Republic of China Culture Department.
This time at National Taiwan University, the auditorium was packed with students and members of the general public to listen to Hua and Tsai’s Kun Opera lecture. After the lecture was over, there was a long line waiting to have photos taken with Hua. After a while, she noticed that there was a male student sitting in the wheelchair. Since the platform was too high for the wheelchair, Hua stepped down, walked over to him, and said: “I would like to have a picture with you.” This was the only picture taken that day with her fan sitting while she
Performance at NTU
The other guest lecturer at the NTU event was Tsai Cheng-jen. He was the Shanghai Kun Opera Troupe director for 18 years and the vice president of mainland China’s Performing Arts Association. He started to learn Kun Opera when he was ten years old, at the Shanghai Opera School with the Kun Opera masters Chou Chuanchi ( ), Chou Chuan-ying (
), Yu Cheng-fei and Peking Opera master Chiang Miao-shang ( ).
Tsai specializes in performing the young male high-ranking officer role ( ). He can make the famous Tang poet Lee Pai ( ) and the passionate Tang Emperor Hsuan (
) reborn on the stage. The Kun Opera master Yu Cheng-fei treated Tsai as his own son and successor.
Tsai has received many outstanding awards from China and abroad. He has led the Shanghai Kun Opera Troupe to perform in the U.S., France, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.