Cui Guoliang and Li Rong
I. About Peng-chun Chang
Peng-chun Chang (1892-1957), born in Tianjin, had at least six years of old-style private education and had learned Confucian classical works thoroughly in his heart before he entered a private middle school (the predecessor of Nankai Middle School) in 1904. In 1910, Peng-chun Chang went to the United States to study and was awarded the doctor's degree in 1922, becoming China's first doctorate holder of education. After that, he came back to China and established and participated in establishing two world famous universities: Nankai University and Tsinghua University.
Influenced by his family, Peng-chun Chang loved dramas very much. While studying in the
United States, he also learned western dramas in 1913-1915, starting the mode of Chinese people
directly learning the concepts and composing methods of western drama. Meanwhile, he spread
Chinese traditional culture to the west. In 1919, he went to the United States again for doctor
degree. During the period, he cooperated with U.S. poet and reviewer J.E.Spingarn in translating
with the Shibian (poet debate) and Shifa (poetry) sections and related historical literary quotations
of Canglang Poetry Talks, the great work in Chinese history of poem, which were published in The
Dial; in 1921, he and Hong Shen wrote and directed the drama Mu Lan on the basis of Chinese
long poem of the sixth century. The drama was so successful when it was put on stage in the Cort
Theater in Broadway that the theater was crowded with audiences in every single performance .
He introduced Chinese classical poems and its theory to the West.
Peng-chun Chang initiated the introduction of Chinese traditional dramas to the West and played outstanding roles in helping the U.S. audiences understand Chinese culture. When Chinese
great Peking Opera performer Mei Lanfang led his troupe to make his debut with the Qingwen
Tearing the Fan (a section of A Dream of Red Mansion) in the United States, the audiences did not understand the story, leading to a great failure to the performance. Under the circumstance, Mr. Mei asked Peng-chun Chang, who not only mastered Chinese and Western dramas, but also knew clearly U.S. audiences' appreciation psychology, to select a new list of operas. Knowing foreigners would like to watch easy operas of martial art with traditional Chinese costumes, Peng-chun Chang proposed to stage Slaying the Tiger. According to him, the play was easy to understand even without language so long as the movements were well arranged. He suggested cutting unnecessary plots of the opera to reduce the time length, and adding new plays gradually into later performances. Peng-chun Chang personally directed rehearsals and the graceful and lifelike Chinese traditional operas received warm welcome in the United States. Two universities in the United States awarded Mr. Mei doctor's degree of Literature. At the awarding ceremony, Mr. Mei read out the thank-you message written by Peng-chun Chang: