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Staging Reality: Premodern Drama in China at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

  • Gilbert FONGEmail author
  • Shelby K. Y. CHAN
Chapter

Abstract

The turn of the twentieth century was an exciting period of change and continuity in China. The article describes the process of modernization of drama in the period on the Chinese Mainland and in Hong Kong. It is found that the “Chinese modern” was formulated not with complete Westernization, which has been the assumption of most critics and literary historians. Modernization went through tortuous ways of interaction, appropriation, negotiation and renegotiation, an interweaving of different pathways of tradition and the new. There was an awareness of the differences between what was Chinese and what was Western and of the contrast between the old and the new, but not to the point of destroying tradition as ferociously as with the later May Fourth generation. In the process, a new conception of reality of the theatre evolved, pointing the way towards the predominance of realism in modern and contemporary China.

Hong Kong drama first copied and imitated the modernization route of the Chinese Mainland. Local drama troupes’ participation in and close association with the 1911 Revolution to overthrow the Manchu government laid the foundation for its didacticism and engagement in social and political issues. Later, as the adoption of the Cantonese language on stage became a cultural trait and a defining feature, Hong Kong drama parted ways with its Mainland counterpart and developed its own tradition and ways and means of modernization.

Keywords

Chinese drama Hong Kong drama Modernization wenmingxi Civilized drama 

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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) and, if applicable, The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Hang Seng University of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong

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