One of the significant events in the history of modern Chinese theatre huaju (spoken drama) is the 1925–1926 National Theatre Movement (Guoju Yundong) by a group of intellectuals who had returned from studies in theatre, fine art, and art criticism in the United States and Britain. They sought to reinsert indigenous performance into huaju that had, since the late 1910s, rejected “old theatre” as primitive and inartistic and pursued a socially conscious and script-centric form of theatre. While the proponents of the National Theatre Movement were well aligned with contemporary Western antirealistic theatre, they failed to change the minds of local adherents of this huaju orthodoxy, including their students, through their endeavors in a new theatre department at the National Arts School and a short-lived weekly theatre supplement at Beijing’s biggest newspaper Chenbao (Morning Post). So far, studies of this important event at an early crossroad for huaju’s future have almost exclusively relied on articles from the Morning Post Theatre Supplement’s fifteen issues published in the summer of 1926. This article seeks to significantly expand our scope of critical vision by examining several streams of new evidence, including a rival weekly theatre supplement at another Beijing newspaper that was edited by students of the Arts School’s theatre department. Together, they introduce much-needed nuance to our assessment of the movement’s theoretical strength and the variegated forces and reasons behind its demise.


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pp. 1-35
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