Gai Jiaotian Learns Peking Opera
Qin Lyuzhi 秦绿枝
Apart from practicing his crafts, Gai Jiaotian, a Peking Opera artist, spent most of his time on deep meditation. However, he was not simply sitting around doing nothing— he was thinking about his opera, and the “logic” behind it.
He got into the habit of thinking this way when he was a kid. He remarked, “When I was young, my teacher wouldn’t tell me directly what to do. Instead, he would guide me to the answer.” When Gai learned the Opera
Wu Song Fights the Tiger, his teacher asked him several questions.
“How old is Wu Song?” The teacher asked.
When Gai gave the answer, another question immediately came, “What is he doing now?”
“He’s leaving home,” Gai answered.
“Why?” Gai thought for a while and answered, “Because of the famine in his hometown, Wu has to find food.”
The teacher quizzed, “Think about it carefully, Gai. Is he hungry before he gets food?”
“Of course he’s hungry,” Gai answered.
The teacher followed up the question by asking, “How would a person walk when he’s hungry?”
It was noon at that point and Gai was famished. He hadn’t eaten anything since he woke up. He was so hungry that he was about to faint, so the teacher gave him a break, letting him have a bite to eat. After lunch, the teacher asked if he remembered how he walked when he was hungry. Gai affirmed that he did. The teacher then asked him to walk the same way. Gai tried to walk while thinking of how he felt when he was hungry.
The old version of WuSong
FightstheTiger starts from the point in the story where Wu Song leaves his hometown. He is starving when he is on the way to find Chai Jin. The reason why the teacher asked Gai so many questions was to guide him to feel where Wu Song was at. With the first-hand experience of extreme hunger, Gai understood how to present that same feeling on stage.
( From InterviewwithGai
Jiaotian , Shanghai People’s Publishing House. Translation: Yu Lan)
Gai Jiaotian and his teacher 盖叫天与他的师父