Cheng Yanqiu

Name in Chinese
Name in Wade-Giles
Ch'eng Yen-ch'iu
Related People

Biography in English

 Ch'eng Yen-ch'iu (4 January 1904-9 March 1958), an actor whose popularity was equaled only by that of Mei Lan-fang, played the tan [female] roles of traditional Peking theater.
Of pure Manchu descent, Ch'eng was the son of an impoverished member of the Yellow Banner. His native place was Peking. At the age of six, he became a pupil of the well-known drama teacher Jung Tieh-hsien, under whom he studied the rudiments of Peking-style acting and the k'un-ch'ü form of operatic singing. In 1918 he made the acquaintance of Lo Ying-kung, a Peking playboy and playwright who did much to foster the young actor's talents and who had a marked influence on Ch'eng's later career. Ch'eng frequently referred to the debt he owed Lo Ying-kung for his encouragement and assistance. Ch'eng began working as an actor at the age of 14, but he continued to study under older artists of the Peking theater such as Wang Yao-ch'ing (q.v.), Ch'en Te-lin, and Mei Lanfang (q.v.) and worked diligently to perfect his technique.
In the spring of 1919, Ch'eng Yen-ch'iu was a member of the troupe which accompanied Mei Lan-fang on Mei's first visit to Japan, a sign of the esteem in which Ch'eng was held by his seniors. During the 1920's, Ch'eng began to acquire the reputation which finally resulted in his being classed as one of the ssu ta ming tan [big four actors] of the tan [female] roles on the Peking stage. The other three were Mei Lanfang, Shang Hsiao-yun, and Hsün Hui-sheng. At the height of his career, Ch'eng's popularity with Chinese theater audiences was equaled only by that of Mei Lan-fang. His attractive appearance in stage make-up and the refinement of his singing and gestures endeared him to connoisseurs of the old-style theater.
After a decade of experience in China, Ch'eng left for Europe in January 1932 to study the theater and opera of the West. This trip was made under the patronage of Li Shih-tseng (q.v.) and was formally sponsored by the Nanking Academy of Dramatic Arts. Ch'eng visited France, Germany, England, Italy, and Switzerland and was well received, particularly in France and Switzerland. In Geneva, Ch'eng gave a course in t'ai-chi ch'üan, a special system of Chinese physical exercise, to college students. A description of these travels is contained in his book, published in August 1932, Ch'eng Yen-ch'iu fu-Ou k'ao-ctia hsi-chuyin-yueh pao-kao shu [Ch'eng Yen-ch'iu's report on his visit to Europe to study drama and music]. In 1934 he was invited to head a dramatic training school in Peking, an institution which broke completely with tradition by accepting both boys and girls as students. Ch'eng originally intended the school to offer courses in Western as well as Peking-style acting, but financial limitations prevented this program from being carried out. The school, the first co-educational school of its kind in China, produced a number of talented actors and actresses before the Sino-Japanese war forced it to close.
The outbreak of hostilities in 1937 prevented Ch'eng from carrying out his ambition to take a Chinese theatrical troupe to Europe. He had been invited to Paris, and preparations were well under way when the war forced cancellation of the venture. Ch'eng himself continued to act occasionally during the early war years. On his way from Shanghai to Peiping in 1942, however, he was manhandled by Japanese gendarmes at the Tientsin railway station. Angered and embittered, he returned home, sold all his theatrical costumes, and refused to perform again during the Japanese occupation. He retired to Ch'ing-lung ch'iao in the western suburbs of Peiping and supported himself until the end of the war by farming.
He returned to the stage after 1945, but faced with the difficulties that confronted all leading actors in the chaotic postwar period, he made relatively few stage appearances. With the establishment of the Communist regime in 1949, Ch'eng, like Mei Lan-fang, was encouraged to resume his career. During the final decade of his life, he took an active part in the cultural activities of the new government. He was vice president of the Chinese Dramatic Research Institute, headed by Mei Lan-fang; a member of the national committee of the All-China Federation of Literary and Art Circles; and a member of the standing committee of the Union of Chinese Stage Artists, the theatrical subdivision of the Federation. As a senior dramatic adviser, he was particularly active in training the new generation of classical actors. In 1953 he toured west China, where he had earlier had considerable success just before the Sino- Japanese war. In 1956 he made his first color film in Peking, based on the play Huang-shan lei [tears in the wilderness], a drama from his personal repertoire. Although he had no previous record of political activity, he joined the Communist party as a probationary member in October 1957. He died of heart disease and pneumonia in March 1958, at the age of 54. The day after his death the Chinese Communist party admitted him posthumously to full membership, and subsequent official commentary praised his "progressive views," his "resolute character," and his "closeness to the people."
Like many men of Manchu descent, Ch'eng Yen-ch'iu was a large man, nearly six feet tall. Noted for his grace and beauty in stage makeup, he grew very stout in middle age, and his increasing plumpness was an unfortunate physical handicap for one playing the fragile women of the Peking theater. While his voice remained sweet and true, Ch'eng had long since passed the zenith of his powers as a stage performer when he died.
Ch'eng specialized in the ch'ing-i roles, the traditional faithful and virtuous women. Good singing is an important feature of the technique required in these roles, supported by skill in the graceful gestures with the long silk sleeve characteristic of the costumes worn. Ch'eng excelled in both respects. His greatest contribution to Chinese dramatic art was in the creation of his individual style of singing, marked by a soft, haunting, undulating quality. Although Ch'eng's voice lacked the robustness of Mei Lan-fang's, by constant study, practice, and experiment he turned his disability to advantage in the particular type of role he favored. His singing was especially popular with women. Inseparable from the singing in the Peking drama is the use of stylized gestures to express actions or emotions. Ch'eng's special contribution in this respect was his use of sleeve movements. The actors playing female roles in the Peking-style theater wear garments with long, broad sleeves with white silk cuffs that are more than a foot long. Ch'eng was widely known in China for his distinctive and expressive sleeve movements, gracefully used to convey complex emotions.
He made his greatest reputation in a score of plays which were written especially for him and which provided scope for his particular talents. In addition to Huang-shan lei, his repertoire included such plays as ICung-ch'iao p'ing [the peacock screen], Fu-shou ching [the auspicious mirror], Wen Chi kuei-Han [Wen Chi's return to Han], Ch'un-kuei meng [the wife's spring dream], and Yu-ching Vai [the jade mirror stand]. Ch'eng's technique was widely imitated by both professionals and amateurs, and many of his followers are still to be found on the stages of Peking and Shanghai.
The frustrations of Ch'eng Yen-ch'iu's professional life were caused by the troubles of his country. A man of integrity in his private life, he was survived by his wife, the daughter of an actor, and by his son, Ch'eng Yung-kuang, who is known to have studied engineering in Switzerland.


Biography in Chinese

程砚秋 (1904.1.4——1958.3 . 9 ),演员,与梅兰芳齐名,扮演京剧 旦角。

程砚秋,满入,没落的正黄旗后裔。他籍居北京,六岁时从荣蝶仙学京剧 演技和昆曲唱腔的基本功。1918年他认识了北京的一个写剧本的纨结子弟罗瘻 公,他对培养程砚秋的才艺和今后的发展很有影响。程砚秋经常提到受惠于他 的鼓励和帮助。程砚秋十四岁时正式扮演角色,但他继续向北京京剧界老艺人 如王瑶卿、陈德霖、梅兰芳学习,力求使自己的技艺完美。

1919年春,梅兰芳首次访日,他随同梅兰芳的班子访问日本,这表示他的 前辈们对他的重视。在二十年代,程砚秋开始出名,终于取得了北京舞台上 “四大名旦”之一的声誉,其他三人是梅兰芳、尚小云、荀慧'生。程蔽I秋在其 技艺的高峰时期,观众的心目中,只有梅兰芳才能与他匹敌。他吸引人的舞台 形象和优美的唱腔身段使旧剧鉴赏者为之倾倒。

他在国内经历了十年后,于1932年1月去欧洲学习西方戏剧歌剧。此行由 李石曾赞助,以南京戏曲学院的正式名叉派出。程砚秋访问了法国、德国、英 国、意大利、瑞士,在法国和瑞士受到格外友好的接待,他在日内瓦向学院学生们介绍了中国传统的体育锻炼太极拳。此行的经历,他记载在1932年8月出 版的《程砚秋赴欧考察戏曲音乐报告书》中。1934年,他应聘在北京主办戏剧 训练学校,该校一反旧例,兼收男女学生。程砚秋原计划在该校兼设中西演技 课程,但限于经费,他的计划未能实现。该校是中国的第一所男女同校的学 校,这个学校培养出了不少有才能的男女演员,因中日战争爆发而不得不停办。

去巴黎演出,一切都已准备妥贴,但因战争取消了计划。战争初期,程砚秋还 偶尔登台演出。1942年,他从上海去北平时在天津车站遭到日本宪兵的凌辱, 他怒恨交加,返家后,卖尽戏装,发誓不再在日本占领期间上演。他隐居北平 西郊青龙桥耕植谋生,一直到战争结束。

1945年后,他又重登舞台,但他和其他主要演员一样遇到战后的艰难时 代,登台次数相对减少。1949年共产党政权成立,鼓励程砚秋、梅兰芳重操旧 业。程砚秋的最后十年中,积极参加新政权下的文化活动,他是以梅兰芳为院 长的中国戏曲研究院副院长,中华全国文学艺术界联合会全国委员会委员,中 国戏剧家协会常务委员会委员。作为戏剧界的高级顾问,他对培养青年京剧演 员尤为热心。1953年,他去华西访问,他在那里获得了如同他在中日战争前那 样的巨大成就"1950年,根据他个人脚本摄制了由他主演的《荒山泪》彩色电 影。他早年在政治方面没有什么活动,而1957年10月他加入共产党为预备党 员,1958年3月因心脏病和肺炎去世,年五十四岁。他去世后,中国共产党追 认他为正式党员,并正式表彰他的“进步思想”、“坚毅品德”和“接近人民”

他像慕他的满族人一样,体格魁梧,身高六尺。他在舞台上的形舉很是优 美,但中年时身体结实,逐渐肥胖,这对一个在京剧中扮演纤弱女角来说实在 是不幸的生理缺陷。他在去世前,早已过了他舞台上的盛期,但他的唱腔始终 动听而清晰°:

演这一角色的畫要技艺条件,并配之以戏装水袖的优美动作的技巧.程砚秋对此两者都很擅长,他对中国戏曲艺术的最大贡献是他独有的唱腔风格:圆润、 蕴籍、抑扬。虽然他的唱腔缺少梅兰芳那样的力度,但经学习训练和实践之 后,他改变了他的弱点适应了他扮演的角色的特殊风格。他的唱腔在妇女中尤 为流行。在京剧中,与唱腔不可分割的是表达动作和感情的特殊身段的运用, 程砚秋在这方面的贡献是他擅长运用水袖动作。在京戏中扮演妇女的角色总是 穿着有宽长丝袖的衣衫,袖口上的白色饰绸有一尺多长,程砚秋突出的富于表 情的水袖动作是很知名的,用这种作动细致地表达了复杂的感情。

有一、二十个专门为他创作,适合他特长的剧目,他在这些剧目中的演技博 得高度的赞扬。他的保留节目,除了〈〈荒山泪》之外,还有《孔雀屏》、《福 祥镜》、《文姬归汉》、《春闺梦》和《玉镜台》等。许多职业的和业余的演 员仿效程砚秋的演技,他的许多门生至今仍然在北京和上海的舞台上演戏。

程砚秋的职业生涯所经历的曲折道路,是由于他的国家遭到不幸造成的。 他是一位正直的人。他的妻子是一个演员的女儿,他的儿子程永光曾在瑞士学工程技术。

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