As mentioned in the article “Who Understands the Tears of the Cultural Revolution Under the Chinese Communist Party”, Mao launched a critical campaign against the criticism of Dream of the Red Chamber soon after the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party, in order to strengthen the intellectual control over intellectuals who retained Western democratic ideas and traditional scholarship, and to forcibly reform their minds. Under Mao’s and the Communist Party’s rule, the content of Dream of the Red Chamber was distorted and became a novel that “reflected the struggle of one class against another.
The tone set by his research on Dream of the Red Chamber continued to burn until the end of the Cultural Revolution twenty years later, causing a deformation, distortion, and gap in the field of red studies for more than twenty years. During the “Anti-Rightist” and the Cultural Revolution, almost everyone in Redology was criticized, so some chose to keep their mouths shut, some stopped studying the Red Chamber, and some chose to abandon their conscience and cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party in telling lies. In time, a unique and great work, Dream of the Red Chamber, was reduced to the words “class, revolution, feudalism, and criticism”.
The Yueju opera film “Dream of the Red Chamber” and the main character, Bao Dai, did not escape a similar fate.
The actor who played Bao Dai in the Yue Opera movie “Dream of the Red Chamber” was criticized
In 1962, the Yue opera film “Dream of the Red Chamber”, directed by Zhu Shilin and directed by Cen Fan, began production at Haiyan Film Studio. The role of Jia Baoyu was played by Xu Yulan, and the role of Lin Daiyu was played by Wang Wenjuan, who was the wife of Sun Daolin, a famous actor from Changchun Film Studio. Xu Yulan’s portrayal of the elegant nobleman Bao Yu and Wang Wenjuan’s portrayal of the beautiful and elegant, yet resolute and persistent, talented and idealistic “Sister Lin” have long become classic images in the art of Yue Opera.
Wang Wenjuan is said to have loved the role of Lin Daiyu not only because she was “sincere, not false, and had deep feelings”, but also because she understood Lin Daiyu’s lonely and isolated state of mind, and she herself left her hometown and parents at the age of 12 to study Yueju Opera in Shanghai. At the age of 13, she began to perform on stage, which laid a good foundation for her future role as Lin Daiyu.
As early as 1948, Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan began working together in the field of Yueju opera, and they traveled together to the battlefield in Korea to console the “volunteer army” of the Chinese Communist Party that was helping the invaders in Korea. After returning from North Korea, Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan joined the Shanghai Yueju Theatre and portrayed several characters, especially “Jia Baoyu” and “Lin Daiyu” in 1958, for which they are best known. During the traditional Chinese New Year, Yueju opera “Dream of the Red Chamber” was performed 54 times in a row, with a full house and an audience of more than 86,000 people.
In 1960, the cast of the Yue Opera “Dream of the Red Chamber” went to Hong Kong and caused a sensation when fans of Yue Opera from the United States and Southeast Asia rushed to see it. Because of the unprecedented success of the stage play, the Hong Kong Golden Sound Film Company suggested that it be made into a movie.
When the movie was made in 1962, it was again a great success, with more than 400 performances in Hong Kong for 38 consecutive days and an audience of nearly 400,000 people. After that, it was also screened in some places in mainland China. However, Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan first saw the film they had made after the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, on the occasion of their being criticized.
Soon after the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, the movie “Dream of the Red Chamber” was branded as a “big poisonous weed”, and Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan were put into a cowshed together, with a snake painted on the outside, saying that it was a “snake pit”. They were tortured and beaten in various ways by the rebels in the courtyard, and this was almost their daily life. Because Xu Yulan had martial arts skills, she was beaten a lot. Once, when Xu Yulan answered a question from a small leader of the rebellion, she annoyed the other party and was beaten up. Later, Xu Yulan said in an interview about her feelings at that time, “I thought, I used to play the Qing official in the theater, often beat people how many big board, this is probably retribution.”
The most powerful criticism session was at the Sino-Soviet Friendship Building, where the rebels criticized “Dream of the Red Chamber” while playing it, and it was the first time they saw the movie on the big screen. It was quite funny that when Bao Yu appeared in the film, the rebels shouted “Male Fei is coming out”; when Dai Yu came out, the rebels shouted “Female Fei is coming out”. The whole audience laughed. “Ah Fei” comes from Shanghai’s pidgin English, referring to young hooligans who act wildly.
For such a title, Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan are angry and want to laugh. Interestingly, the fight ended hastily as people watched and cried.
Later, they were asked to work regularly in the “work shed” of the Shanghai Yue Theatre and in the “May 7 Cadre School”. While growing vegetables and raising pigs, they secretly practiced gong. However, it was not until the end of the Cultural Revolution that they had the opportunity to return to the stage. At that time, they were regarded as “Ah Fei” and “remnants of feudalism”, and they did not have any roles in the Yue Opera troupe.
In 1978, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, the movie “Dream of the Red Chamber” was re-released, and since people had not seen such a movie for a long time, it became an instant sensation. The first round was shown in Shanghai, with 36 cinemas showing the film 24 hours a day, with only a few minutes to change scenes in between. Later, it was released in Hangzhou, then in the county, and all the way to the production teams and the ravines, even in the remote minority areas. According to Wang Wenjuan’s recollection, after the movie was over, a large pile of shoes and socks could be swept out of the floor because “too many people were stepped on and fell off. The sensation of the film can be imagined.
It was not until 1976 that Wang Wenjuan appeared on stage again, playing a female textile worker, but by then Wang Wenjuan was already 50 years old and suddenly realized she could no longer act.
In the mid-1980s, Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan set up their own Red House Theatre Company and embarked on the road to self-sufficiency. Now, Xu Yulan has died in April this year at the age of 96, and Wang Wenjuan, who is 91 years old, of course, will not forget every period of time she spent with her “brother Bao”, including the heartbreaking days and nights of the Cultural Revolution.