Recalling Xi's big welcome for artists

( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-01-27 10:10:22

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the China National Peking Opera Company, retired Peking Opera actress Liu Xiurong gave a speech at the ceremony, which was held at Meilanfang Grand Theater in Beijing recently. Born in Fucheng county of Hebei province in 1935, she started learning Peking Opera at 12 years old. Now Liu is dedicated to training young Chinese Peking Opera actors as a guest professor of National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts. This article was first published by Guangming Daily on Thursday. Liu told a story about when she met with Xi Jinping, who is now China's president, during a tour about 30 years ago.

Recalling Xi's big welcome for artists
Liu Xiurong

I was enrolled in the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in 1949. After graduation, I started working at the China National Peking Opera Company in 1956. In March 1985, the China National Peking Opera Company founded its third troupe and I was assigned to be its director. There were 108 actors in the third troupe then.

During a tour in 1985, accommodations were very poor and we had to sleep behind the stage in the theater and cook for ourselves. Every actor got paid 5 yuan (80 cents) for each performance and the food allowance was 3 yuan per day for each actor. We just cooked some vegetables to save money, but everyone was happy and devoted to the performance.

Our first stop was Jiucheng town in Hebei province, where we performed 11 shows in seven days, which was a pretty heavy workload. Because we were a newly founded troupe, we spent lots of time doing the rehearsal, which was exhausting.

Our second stop was Zhengding county, Hebei province. We performed eight shows in six days, including Yang Paifeng and Li Kui Tan Mu (Li Kui Visiting His Mother). I also performed the classic Peking Opera work, The Legend of the White Snake, which I first played in 1952. I played the leading role, Bai Suzhen, in Peking Opera show. (The actress was famous for playing dan roles, or female roles in Peking Opera, and learned with the late master Wang Yaoqing, who created the Wang style of Peking Opera performance.)

We visited Xi Jinping, who was the Party secretary in Zhengding county then. He gave us a warm welcome and asked if we had any needs. We said no but to our surprise, he sent us a pig the next day to improve our nutrition. One of our actors, Kang Bingjun, who played wusheng (a male martial-arts role in Peking Opera), was very excited and turned a somersault.

Wu Yuzhang, another Peking Opera actor, who was also the deputy-director of the troupe, was Muslim. When Xi learned this, he immediately sent us 5 kg of beef and 5 kg of eggs. We were so touched and grateful then. Though many years have passed, I can still recall the story vividly. I really want to say "thank you" to him.

Translated by Chen Nan


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