This article argues that discourses about "the tradition of xiqu" were developed through xiqu (traditional Chinese theatre) professionals' cumulative cultural predicament when they were forced to confront Western modernity during the early twentieth century, especially from the mid-1910s onwards, because a group of Westernized Chinese scholars radically criticized xiqu as an incarnation of the moribund "old" China. Their hostility to xiqu stimulated an anxiety about and eagerness for self-justification among xiqu professionals. Mei Lanfang's overseas performances thus provided a perspective to glimpse xiqu professionals' discursive construction on "the tradition of xiqu," particularly how they defined jingju in different contexts. While during Mei's 1919 journey to Japan, jingju was portrayed as a hybrid of Eastern and Western artistic elements, during his 1930 performance in the United States, jingju's capacity to convey the eternal value of Chinese tradition was central to the Mei troupe's publicity. This article analyzes the variegated discourses from different parties during Mei Lanfang's overseas performances in a diachronic pattern, and argues that the discourses about "the tradition of xiqu" were not transcendental, but were progressively constructed through the disputes over value during the early twentieth century, partially as a result of xiqu professionals' endeavor to reconstruct legitimacy for the somewhat "besieged" traditional art form.


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pp. 533-548
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