The first decade of the newly formed People’s Republic of China (PRC) has often been considered as the golden age of yueju, an all-female theatre. It originated in the countryside of Zhejiang Province and became a popular form of theatre in the metropolis of Shanghai from the 1930s to the 1960s. In particular, the 1950s and 1960s were the crucial decades that saw yueju develop from a form of local drama into a national one, second only to jingju (Peking opera) in nationwide scale, gradually even developing an international influence. In the 1950s, the PRC adapted quite a few local operas into films and exported them throughout Asia, as well as Western countries, in hopes of promoting friendship with neighboring nations as well as blurring the boundaries of the Iron Curtain. The political movements of the early decade of the PRC, such as the reform of local drama genres and the propagation of the Marriage Law, certainly played a role in this cultural phenomenon. This article, however, will also give special attention to the role of the newly formed government’s cultural diplomacy in stoking the yueju fever. I argue that its popularity in the 1950s not only needs to be understood in domestic terms but also should be historicized in the context of the Cold War.


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pp. 104-129
Launched on MUSE
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