Chinese Opera Film: At the Intersection of Theater, Cinema, and Politics

All day
Through June 16, 2012

Jun. 14

This international project on Chinese opera file emerged from a pioneering two-day symposium on this topic co-organized by Judith Zeitlin, Xinyu Dong and Paola Iovene at the University of Chicago Film Studies Center in April 2009. The success of the symposium led to an invitation from The Opera Quarterly to co-edit a special double issue on this topic, the first time that this journal (published by Oxford) has ventured outside the Western canon. This special issue was simultaneously published both as a hard copy and on line in September 2010:

YANG Jiandong, YANG Chunxia and ZHAO Jingbo watch a clip from a Chinese Opera Film during their panel discussion.
Chinese opera films are much more than mere stage recordings and by no means a minor byproduct for the film industry. Opera films were produced in astounding numbers in socialist China—120+ from 1953-1966 alone; another 216+ were produced from1970-1988, and although the number of releases has since radically decreased, new opera films continue to be released every year and the old “classics” are constantly aired on the CCTV opera channels. Although many of these films can be considered important works in their own right, scholars of Chinese cinema have only paid scant attention to them. Scholars of Chinese drama, on the other hand, have basically treated them as documents of stage practices and have not adequately considered their status as films and their position in Chinese film history. As our preliminary 2009 symposium demonstrated, to make sense of Chinese opera film, a collective effort is needed to bring together a variety of fields of inquiry and disciplinary approaches, including history, politics, drama, music, art design, and cinema.

The papers presented at the 2009 symposium focused on discourses and practices in the People’s Republic from its founding through the Cultural Revolution, bringing to light widely shared theoretical and practical concerns as well as the performative and musical elements that filmmakers adapted from various arts forms.  In the Beijing conference we will expand the inquiry into two directions: we will explore opera film as a transregional genre that was popular in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and throughout Southeast Asia, and will consider PRC opera films produced after 1978–a time in which Chinese state studios underwent important transformations. This will also involve considering the impact of “diasporic cinema” on these later PRC productions, thereby also enabling us to draw clearer connections between opera film reception abroad and post Cultural Revolution production. We expect the Beijing conference to continue the important work begun at the Chicago symposium of undertaking case studies of key films, filmmakers, and performers; such case studies provide a crucial empirical foundation for more sweeping overviews and analyses. Finally, it is hoped that the conference will contribute to strengthening the dialog between scholars based in the US and Europe, and those based in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore—a central mission, as we see it, of the Chicago Beijing Center.

June 14, Thursday 星期四

15:30 Registration

16:00 Keynote Speech

Every Colour Red? Colour in the Films of the Cultural Revolution Model Works

Chris Berry (University of London)



17:00 Reception and Opening Remarks 招待会及欢迎辞

18:15 Bus departure to screening site

19:00 Screening: 斩经堂、杜鹃山                           

June 15, Friday 星期五

9:30 Roundtable  圆桌讨论

Moderator: Zhao Jingbo (National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts–NACTA)


Xiao Lang 肖朗

Yang Chunxia 杨春霞

Rao Shuguang 饶曙光

Yang Jiandong 杨建东

11:30 Lunch 

12:30-14:30 Panel 1: Theorizing opera film 戏曲电影的理论思考

Moderator: Fu Jin (National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts–NACTA)

主持人:傅谨 (中国戏曲学院)

Zhao Jingbo (National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts–NACTA)

《因戏制宜 一片一格:谈戏曲影片的拍摄》


Explorations in the Ontology of Opera Film

Jia Zhigang (Chinese National Academy of Arts)



On Opera Film

Lan Fan (Shanghai University)



Beijing Opera and Opera Film

Su Donghua (NACTA)



14:30-14:45 Coffee break 茶歇

14:45-16:45 Panel 2: Music, Opera, Film 音乐,戏曲,电影

Moderator: Judith Zeitlin (University of Chicago)


The Dissemination of Opera Film—The Relation between Huangmei Opera, Cantonese Yue Opera, and Hong Kong Huangmei Diao Film.”

Wang Anqi (Taiwan University)


王安祈 (台湾大学),

Under a Glass Bell: Representing Attention on the Operatic Stage

Giorgio Biancorosso (University of Hong Kong)



Sound out of Shadow: Operatic Music and Songs as Narrative Structure/Motif in Non-operatic Films

Du Wenwei (Vassar College)



17:30 Dinner at Yanshan Hotel Buffet (organized by NACTA)

18:45 Bus departure to screening site

19:30 Screening: 还魂记、坐宫

June 16, Saturday 星期六

8:30-10:30 Panel 3: Aesthetics and Politics戏曲电影与政治气候

Moderator: Paola Iovene (University of Chicago)


Spoken Drama, Cantonese Yue Opera, Politics: A Study of the Cantonese Opera Film Guan Hanqing

Hai Zhen (NACTA)



Commercializing Revolution and Patriotism:  The Leftist Repackaging of the PRC Opera Film in1950s-1960s Hong Kong

Kwok-wai Hui (University of Chicago)



Innovation and Cultural Revolution model opera films: Boulder Bay (Panshiwan)

Paul Clark (Asian Studies, University of Auckland, New Zealand),

《创新和文革样板戏:〈磐石湾〉 》

康浩(奥克兰大学, 新西兰)

10:30-10:45 Coffee Break 茶歇

10:45-12:45 Panel 4:Remediating the stage 舞台的再媒体化

Moderator: Sai-shing Yung (Singapore University)

主持人: 容世诚(新加坡国立大学中文系)

On the Functions of Opera Film and Television

Zhou Huabin (Communication University of China)



Chinese Opera Films of the Seventeen Years: Reform, Domination, Resistance

Gao Xiaojian (Chinese National Academy of Art)



In What Kind of Mise-en-scene Do We Situate the Actor?

Zheng Dasheng (Shanghai Film Group)



12:45-13:45 Lunch 午餐

13:45-15:45 Panel 5:Opera within Cinema 戏中戏,影中戏

Moderator: Dong Xinyu (University of Chicago)

主持人: 董新宇(芝加哥大学)

Two Stars: Opera and Film in China during the Early Sound Era

Kristine Harris (State University of NY, New Paltz)



Thoughts on the Making of “Opera Star Films”

Pan Peicheng  (NACTA),



Stage and Life on the Silver Screen: On Two Backstage Films about Chinese Opera Performers

Zhong Dafeng (Beijing Film Academy),



15:45-16:00 Coffee Break 茶歇

16:00-18:00 Panel 6: Sinophone Opera Films in Southeast Asia 东南亚华语戏曲电影

Moderator: Gao Xiaojian (Chinese National Academy of Art)

主持人:高小健 (中国艺术研究院)

The Sorrows of the Purple Hairpin: Operatic Afterlives of Tang Disheng

Kenny Ng (Hong Kong University of Science & Technology)



Shaw Brother’s Huangmeidiao Opera Films: Their Narrative Discourse, Aesthetic Style, and Cultural Value

Zhang Shujin (NACTA)



Chaozhao Opera Films and the Hong Kong Film Industry (1955-1965)

Sai-shing Yung (Singapore University)



Biography Sketches
Chris Berry

Dr. Chris Berry is the Professor of Film and Television Studies and Co-Director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre. His work centres on Chinese cinemas (including those of the People’s Republic, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and diasporic China). It has also extended to cover Chinese television, Chinese independent video documentary, Chinese new media and computer-mediated communication, Korean cinema, queer Asian cinema, and more. His interests include cinema’s role in the production of national, transnational, and local cultures and identities, and the connection between cinematic forms and socio-political developments, for example the connection of realism and melodrama to modernity, or the development of Chinese television and independent documentary and the expansion of public discourse.

Giorgio Biancorosso
Giorgio Biancorosso teaches music and film studies at The University of Hong Kong, where he is Associate Professor in the School of Humanities. He has published extensively on film music, sound, and musical aesthetics, and is currently completing the monograph “”Musical Aesthetics through Cinema”” (Oxford University Press). Biancorosso is also active as a writer and lecturer for the general audience, and is a member of the Programme Committee of the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Paul Clark
Paul Clark is Professor of Chinese at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His Harvard doctoral thesis was on the Chinese film industry from 1949 to the early 1980s and was the first scholarly study on Chinese film history in English. He has published books on the Fifth Generation filmmakers, a cultural history of the Cultural Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and on Chinese youth culture in 1968, 1988 and 2008 (Cambridge University Press, 2012). His current project is a history of leisure in Beijing since 1949.

Xinyu Dong
Xinyu Dong is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the College. She received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2009 and a PhD from Beijing Normal University in 1999. Her research and teaching interests include Chinese-language cinemas, early cinema, comedy, film exhibition and spectatorship, play theory, and global and regional (East Asian) image exchange. She has numerous publications and presentations in her areas of study, including “Meeting of the Eyes: Invented Gesture, Cinematic Choreography, and Mei Lanfang’s Kun Opera Film,” in The Opera Quarterly, “The Laborer at Play: Laborer’s Love, the Operational Aesthetic, and the Comedy of Inventions,” in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture.

都文伟教授任教于美国凡萨(Vassar)大学,从事比较文学、中国电影、戏曲、语言和文化的教学。长期用中英文在东西方比较戏剧与中国戏曲、电影与曲艺领域内发表专著与论文,与他在本次戏曲电影学术会议上发言的内容有关的著作包括“戏和影戏:戏曲与电影的互为影响(Xi and Yingxi: The Interaction between Traditional Theatre and Chinese Cinema )”, “银幕上的语声:官话与方言作为公众与私下的象征(Fangyan on Screen: Dialects vs. Mandarin as Private vs. Public)” 和 “重写上海:大陆、香港和台湾电影中的沪语”。他最近为写作《影像中的旋律:中国电影的音、声、乐》(Sound Out of ‘Electric Shadow’: The Aural Dimension of Chinese Film)一书而获得George A and Eliza Gardner Howard 学术研究基金奖。



海震,现为中国戏曲学院图书馆馆长,教授,硕士研究生导师。兼任中国戏曲学院戏曲文献研究所副所长,中国戏曲音乐学会副会长。毕业于中国艺术研究院,先后获硕士、博士学位。 研究方向: 戏曲音乐理论、戏曲声腔剧种音乐。主要专著及论文有:《戏曲音乐史》获第二届文化部文化艺术科学优秀科研成果奖三等奖,《中国戏剧史图鉴》获第14屆中国图书奖,论文《梆子腔渊源形成辨析》,获第2届中国王国维戏曲论文奖二等奖。论文《西皮腔渊源形成新探》,获第1届中国王国维戏曲论文奖一等奖。

Kristine Harris
Kristine Harris is Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. In 2007 and 2009, she also was Visiting Associate Professor in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Her recent writing on Chinese film and cultural history appears in Opera Quarterly: Performance + Theory + History (Spring-Summer 2010), edited by Judith Zeitlin & Paola Iovene; The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through the 1960s, edited by Elizabeth Otto and Vanessa Rocco, with a foreword by Linda Nochlin (University of Michigan Press, 2011); Gender and Chinese Cinema: New Interventions, edited by Mary Ann Doane and Lingzhen Wang (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2012); Images in History: Pictures and Public Space in Modern China, edited by Christian Henriot and Wen-hsin Yeh (University of California Berkeley Institute for East Asian Studies, forthcoming 2012); and The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Cinemas, edited by Carlos Rojas and Eileen Chow (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2012).

HUI, Kwok-wai (Xu Guohui)
HUI, Kwok-wai (Xu Guohui) is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation is entitled “Revolution, Commercialism and Chineseness: Opera Film in Socialist Shanghai and Capitalist-Colonial Hong Kong, 1949-1966.” She received her M.Phil degree in the Division of Humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with a thesis on Yangbanxi and the politics of the Cultural Revolution. She will be a lecturer at the Hong Kong Institute of Education starting from September.



Paola Iovene
Paola Iovene, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her teaching and research interests include Twentieth-century Chinese literature, cinema, and criticism; literary and critical theory; intersections of cultural production and social action; translation; documentary film. She has numerous publications and presentations in her areas of study, including Chinese Operas on Stage and Screen: A Short Introduction, Phony Phoenixes: Comedy, Protest, and Marginality in Postwar Shangha.

Kenny Ng
Kenny Ng is a research assistant professor of the humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He teaches film and comparative literature with a focus on the greater China region. He is currently finishing a book on modern Chinese fiction and historical imagination. His upcoming project is dealing with Chinese cinema in the Cold War period and East-West cultural relations.

潘培成,中国戏曲学院导演系教授。 现主要从事戏曲电影创作研究,电影剪辑教学与研究等。导演作品曾获省部级一等奖。出版专著《导演创作轨迹》;发表论文《经典的经典——读戏曲电影》、《戏曲电影创作得失谈》等。






Judith T. Zeitlin
Judith T. Zeitlin is a professor in Chinese literature and East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She earned her Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the Harvard University. Her areas of interest are Ming-Qing literary and cultural history, with specialties in the classical tale and drama. She is especially interested in combining literary concerns with other disciplines, such as visual and material culture, medicine, performance, music, and film. She has published a lot of books and articles, including The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature, Between Performance, Manuscript, and Print: Imagining the Musical Text in Seventeenth-Century Plays and Songbooks, and “Music and Performance in Palace of Lasting Life” in Trauma and Transcendence in Chinese Literature.




周华斌,现为中国传媒大学教授、博导、北京文史馆馆员。著名戏剧理论家、艺术理论家,二级教授。三十多年来,周华斌所提出的“大戏剧观”、“文化杂粮”等学术观点为新时期中国戏曲、戏剧的传播、史料考证与美学研究做出了奠基性的卓越贡献。中国传媒大学第一批广播电视艺术学博士生导师之一,研究范围不仅仅是戏剧戏曲专业,还涉及广播、电视、戏曲电影等方向。 刚刚完成了《中国戏曲电影百年史述》的课题研究。


Organizers:Judith Zeitlin, Xinyu Dong and Paola Iovene (all Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations) in collaboration with Shanghai University and the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts.