The Death of Peking Opera Master Ma Lianliang and The Removal of Hai Rui from Office

“Old Beijingers know that Ma Lianliang, a master of Peking Opera, lived in a courtyard across from the National Culture Palace in Xicheng, on the inner street of Fuxingmen. It is said that Ma Lianliang was a filial son, and this house was bought by Ma Lianliang after he became famous to satisfy his father’s wish. When Ma Lianliang was a child, his family lived in a few adobe houses nearby. His father once said to Ma Lianliang: If you are a good son, you should have the will to learn opera well. I’m counting on you to buy the Scholar’s House across the street from our house. In the future, Ma Lianliang became a popular singer and really bought the scholar’s house.

In August 1966, the Red Guards in Beijing “broke the Four Olds”, raided homes, smashed and looted. Ma Lianliang was named and criticized with his starring role in “Hai Rui Strike Off”, the first batch of theatrical cattle and snake gods to be uncovered, and his home was completely smashed. Red Guards after Red Guards broke into the house of the Scholar, and even the Red Guard combat team from the foreign theater school went to Beijing to seize Ma Lianliang, and they left the Beijing station and went straight to Ma’s house at 54 Fuxingmennei Street. They pried open the floor of the house and dug up the ground, which was full of debris. Everything that could be smashed was smashed, everything that could be robbed, not to mention Ma Lianliang being beaten.

“Ma Lianliang come out!” A group of Red Guards stood in the courtyard and roared in a stern voice. Ma Lianliang walked out of the north room with his head bowed and his chest covered. “Raise your head!” Another rebuke, “We do not beat you, just usually always hear people say there is a famous person named Ma Lianliang, today to see what you look like.” The Red Guards looked at Ma Lianliang like a monkey in a zoo, and “looked” at him critically for a while. Finally, someone said, “Ahem, it’s just a nose and two eyes, let’s go, let’s go!” And they went away laughing and joking.

Writer Zhang Yihe has met Ma Lianliang many times, she said, Ma Lianliang offstage, talking slowly, eyes do not he transient, with a smile on his face, at all times can have a look of leisure and relaxed. The Ma Lianliang on stage, but also how handsome and clean ah! After the seizure of Ma Lianliang, borrowed from the play, sighing to the heavens: “I am so sad than a dog in mourning!”

The Red Guards took out Ma Lianliang’s most precious tapes and moved them to the front yard where the piano player lived to listen to them to their heart’s content. The Red Guards had children of high ranking cadres who knew that the “Great Leader” had called Ma Lianliang into Zhongnanhai to sing “Borrow the East Wind”. So they also wanted to follow the example of the “Red Sun” and enjoy the play sung by Ma Lianliang. After five days and five nights, Ma Lianliang listened to the recording almost like a cat, and the recording was all destroyed.

A Red Guard from the Jinggangshan Corps Command of Beijing University told a scene of Ma Lianliang being raided: the Red Guard found Ma Lianliang clutching something in his hand and ordered him, “Hand it over!” It was an emerald snuff bottle, turquoise, crystal clear, the above lifelike paintings are carved from the inside, visible craftsman’s skillful work, so Ma Lianliang very precious. Seeing the Red Guard standing in front of the snuff bottle from his own hands, Ma Lianliang begged, “Do not destroy it, this is a rare treasure, keep it, donate it to the country.” The Red Guardsman looked at the snuff bottle in his hand and cursed: “What the fuck!” A raised arm and fell on the ground. With the snuff bottle “pulverized”, Ma Lianliang also fell to the ground, mouth drooling, unconscious.

Zhang Yihe wrote that his father, Zhang Bojun, knew that Ma Lianliang also had a hobby of visiting the Liulichang and Vulcan temples, and had a good appreciation for antiques of jade. Ma Lianliang’s collection of jadeite, white jade, onyx carvings and snuff bottles were quite valuable and known to everyone in his circle.

Ma Lianliang is one of the most influential Peking Opera masters of the 20th century, along with Mei Lanfang, the first of the “Four Great Seiji” of Peking Opera, and the founder of the “Ma School” of art.

Ma Lianliang grew up loving Peking opera, and at the age of 8, he joined the Beijing Xi Liancheng class to study opera, and at the age of 17, when he finished his studies, he was invited by his third uncle to Fuzhou to be the main actor, and his reputation rose. But he did not rush to make money, but returned to Beijing for a second time to continue his studies, as if he had graduated from the undergraduate program and then went to graduate school. He sat in the section again for three years, going outside Xibianmen every morning to shout his voice and practice chanting, going home to hang his voice, and not moving his cigarettes or alcohol.

After the age of 27, he made many recordings with a large number of repertoire and a large circulation, which was rare at that time. His singing voice was fluent and smooth, playful in its majesty, and dashing in its depth without losing its subtlety. Ma Lianliang has formed his own unique singing style. Ma Lianliang is the only Zhuge Liang on the Beijing opera stage. The play “Borrowing the East Wind” has lasted for a hundred years and is still a jewel in the old-school repertoire. In 1930, he formed the Fufeng Society, and in 1933, he performed with Zhou Xinfang in Tianjin, and was known as the “Southern Qi and Northern Ma”. He was known as the “Southern Qi and Northern Ma”. Ma Lianliang has made great achievements in Peking Opera, and the art of Ma School is enough to leave a strong and colorful mark in the history of opera.

In 1951, Ma Lianliang accepted Zhou Enlai’s invitation to return to China and declined an invitation to go to Taiwan. At that time, Zhou Enlai said, “Don’t take the performance in the pseudo-Manchu to heart, you are an actor, you sing to support your family, there is no political purpose.” After hearing such “heart-warming” words, Ma Lianliang chose to defect to the mainland.

Before leaving Hong Kong, Ma Lianliang found an astrologer to tell his fortune, and got the fortune that he still had 15 years of great luck, Ma Lianliang did not listen much to the explanation and returned with his wife and children.

After returning to Beijing, he set up the “Ma Lianliang Theatre Company” to reorganize. In 1953, during the Korean War, Ma Lianliang took the initiative to join the “3rd Consolation Mission to North Korea” and performed there for six months, while a group of people who depended on opera to support their families did not earn a penny for six months. After returning to China, Ma Lianliang was criticized for “asking for money” for his condolence performances and was forced to publicly review the situation.

In 1957, Ma Lianliang escaped the “Anti-Rightist” attack with the “strong protection” of Beijing Mayor Peng Zhen. His disciples, however, were not spared. Li Wanchun was Ma Lianliang’s first disciple. The leaders demanded that Ma Lianliang must attend the conference to criticize Li Wanchun, and also “take a clear stand” to make a statement. He took his time to be the last one to go up and stammered two sentences bowed and went down. After the meeting he said: “Wanchun, I hope you don’t hold a grudge against me. Not I want to criticize you, but they want me to criticize you. I have no choice. I also heard that this time the internal rightist was originally not you, but me. Later, I heard that you were not criticized, so you were changed.” Li Wanchun was classified as a rightist and sent from Beijing to Inner Mongolia in 1958.

In 1963 the Peking Opera was reformed. First, the famous Ma School play “The Orphan of Zhao” was named by Jiang Qing as “poisonous grass. After that, the traditional plays were banned and the revolutionary model plays were put on stage. Ma Lianliang, a veteran artist, was disgusted by Jiang Qing’s model plays. They couldn’t figure it out and were full of anger and resentment, but they dared not speak out.

The story of the stage, Ma Lianliang see through. But off-stage revolution, politics, he knows nothing about it. Follow closely for half a day or can not keep up. He successfully acted in the “Hai Rui dismissal”, but was swept into the political whirlpool and incurred the end of the disaster. He didn’t understand what happened until he closed his eyes and left this world.

On June 4, 1966, the Beijing Peking Opera Troupe performed a modern play, “The Year of the Dragon,” at a school. After Ma Lianliang finished his costume, he usually had to hang his voice with “Yi-” and “Ah-“. This time, he did not hang. But even shouted two or three “finished!” “It’s over!” This made Wang Yinqiu, his righteous son, stand aside and wonder. It turned out that the day the Central People’s Broadcasting Station broadcasted Yao Wenyuan’s critical article, saying that “Hai Rui Shang Shuo” starring Zhou Xinfang was a big poisonous grass. Ma Lianliang heard this news, can not be associated with his starring role in the “Hai Rui dismissal”? South Zhou and North Ma, one acted “Hai Rui on the”, one acted “Hai Rui dismissal”, a south and a north, echoing the anti-party. Scared by politics, Ma Lianliang knew he was in trouble.

The next morning, someone from the Beijing Peking Opera Troupe posted a big poster for Ma Lianliang at the Zhonghe Theater. In 1959, Chairman Mao called for the study of Hai Rui’s upright and outspoken spirit. Ma Lianliang also likes the character of Hai Rui, who is upright and unyielding. Rarely, his aesthetic views and values were consistent with the direction of the Party’s literature and art. He asked Wu Han, the deputy mayor of Beijing, to write the script of Hai Rui’s dismissal, and he himself devoted himself to the new role of Hai Rui on the stage, which was performed in 1961 to great acclaim and the appreciation of Lao Mao. For this, he was invited into Zhongnanhai for dinner by Lao Mao and was praised in person.

Yao Wenyuan’s critical article “Review of the New Historical Drama ‘Hai Rui Strikes Off'” was published in Shanghai’s Wen Wei Po on November 10, 1965, and reprinted in full in the People’s Daily on November 30, with an editor’s note. The article was written in February from the beginning of the year, and took seven or eight months to write, and was revised several times in Beijing through secret channels, and it is said that old Mao personally changed three drafts. At this time, Mao was planning how to launch the political movement of the Cultural Revolution. His intention was to open a gap from Beijing and take the “Hai Rui dismissal”.

How many people could have known about such a political plan? Even Wu Han, who was good at political speculation, was not even aware of it, otherwise he would not have stuck his neck into the noose, not to mention Ma Lianliang, an artist who always avoided politics. Unfortunately, Ma Lianliang’s starring role in “The Removal of Hai Rui from Office” was used as a fuse to launch the Cultural Revolution. In the words of Ma Lianliang’s disciple An Yunwu, “Hai Rui was unlucky enough, and Mr. Ma was miserable enough!” Ma Lianliang and Wu Han were not the only ones who suffered from the misfortune of “Hai Rui’s dismissal”. All those who had made up Hai Rui’s play and those who had acted in Hai Rui’s play could not escape.

In 1966, after Ma Lianliang was named and seized, he fell ill in the hospital. The rebels ordered: regardless of his condition, he had to report back to the regiment immediately for criticism. He was accused of a number of things: in addition to reversing the case for Peng Dehuai, he was also a “traitor,” “theater bully,” “a big rightist who missed the net,” “a reactionary academic authority,” and so on. “He was imprisoned at the Zhonghe Theater in Beijing. He was imprisoned in a hut separated by scenic pieces in the lounge of the Zhonghe Theater in Beijing, and was pulled out for criticism at any time. Over time, he aged ten years. The formerly elite Ma Sanshu was gone. The Ma Lianliang in front of him was hobbled, bent over and on crutches. The face is gray and yellow, the lower body swollen, people bouts of cold sweat.

In December 1966, the day Ma Lianliang’s youngest daughter Ma Xiaoman picked him up to go home. In the middle of the night, someone suddenly smashed the door, Mrs. Ma asked who it was? Mrs. Ma asked who it was. “I need to borrow a pot to cook some Lantern.” It was the Red Guards stationed in the front yard. The pot was taken away, and the family found that Ma Lianliang was in trouble, cold sweat soaked through his clothes, his chest was tight, his whole body was cold, and his breath was wandering. To send to the hospital to rescue, but the door was locked by the Red Guards, can not get out! Finally, my eldest daughter knelt down to the “Red Guard grandfather” and begged him so hard that the gate was opened.

When they arrived at the Fu Wai Hospital, the hospital took a look at Ma Lianliang and did not dare to treat him, so they immediately called their superiors to ask for help: “Ma Lianliang came to the hospital and asked to be rescued. “Wait a minute, we will ask for instructions again.” There are superiors on top of superiors, and I don’t know to which level the request was “approved”, the hospital was admitted to Ma Lianliang.

On December 16, the third day of Ma Lianliang’s admission, the nurse performed a blood test on him, and when the needle was inserted into the vein, Ma Lianliang let out an “ouch” and his head lolled to the side, his face changing color. Mr. Ma Lianliang, a master of Peking Opera, died of sudden cardiac death at the age of 66.

As expected, it was exactly 15 years from the time he left Hong Kong and returned north to his sudden death. These 15 years for Ma Lianliang is only a number of life, does not represent the luck. During this period, he had a lot of bad luck, until the Cultural Revolution was a major disaster.

When he was critically ill, he was still asking God, “How come they don’t keep their words”, “I still don’t understand, what happened to me? Why am I like this? I don’t understand!”

Ma Lianliang was a Hui, but burial was not permitted, and he was hastily cremated. His grave was empty, even the ashes were not there.

Ma Lianliang’s disciple An Yunwu said, “Ma Lianliang’s health was really good, without this disaster, he could not have passed away.” Speaking of this, he choked up, tears welled up in his eyes, “If it is really able to live more years, his contribution to society, to pass down to us will be a lot of.”

An Yunwu was finally able to perform a performance of “Hai Rui Strikes Off” at the Nationalities Palace in Beijing in 1996. The tickets had already been sold, and he suggested that the theater must have a promotional ad for the show, because across the street was the Ma Residence, Mr. Ma’s former residence. “I am trying to console Mr. Ma’s spirit in heaven through this advertisement.”

When Ma Lianliang appeared, the stage was full of glory; when Ma Lianliang opened his mouth, the after-tone was heard for three days. Zhang Yihe said: The glory of opera still falls on the body of the actors. If the actors fall, even the best troupe can’t hold up. Ma Lianliang was persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party and died, and his Peking Opera era is gone. Old Beijing opera fans say that there is no Beijing opera after the Cultural Revolution. This is probably true, and is the current state of the national art of Chinese Peking Opera, which is a great sadness for the Chinese people.