A piece of Chinese history: 8 model dramas in Chinese Culture Revolution (1966–1976)  The Red Detachment of Women
Posted by Grace Feng on August 29, 2012
The Chinese Culture Revolution is a very special period of Chinese history in which the Gang of Four dictated almost every aspect of people’s life. During the Revolution, nothing is allowed in theatres except 8 model dramas (样板戏 yàng bǎn xì ) that were personally approved by Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, also the leader of the Gang of Four.
It is hard to watch the 8 model dramas today since the roles in the play were depicted so “unreal and unnatural”. Good characters move between heroic poses that keep reminding me of a puppet, instead of a real person. Bad characters are purposely uglified to show how miserable and pathetic they are. The story itself might not be a bad one. But with all these deliberately set up “stereotype performance”, the play is full of weird taste.
History is history. 10 years of Culture Revolution was a tragedy of a nation that China can never forget. It has always been a heavy topic to talk about even after so many years.
In this series of post, I will collect the stories and images of all 8 model dramas and translate the story into English. They might can help my readers to have a peek into that period of Chinese history.
《红色娘子军》The Red Detachment of Women
This story happened in the beautiful island of Hainan before 1949.
琼花 Qiong Hua, a peasant’s daughter, who fought back to her landlord 南霸天 Nan Batian, was almost beaten to death in the palm tree woods. 洪常青 Changqing Hong, a member of Red Army under the disguise of a business man who returned from abroad, saved the dying Qiong Hua and pointed her to the road to Red Army camp.
Some time later, at the training camp of Red Army, while women and men soldiers were singing and dancing, a girl that covered in rags stumbled in and begged to join them. Changqing Hong recognized Qionghua right away. He welcomed her and approved her request to join Red Army. Qionghua was then given a gun and trained as a soldier.
One day, landlord Nan Batian was celebrating his birthday in his grand mansion. A business man called Hong Changqing came in with luxury gifts. Nan Batian reluctantly accommodated this unexpected guest. Judging by Hong’s disguised appearance, Nan Batian was unsuspecting of his real identity.
That night, the Red Detachment of Women entered Nan’s mansion quietly. Qionghua was among them. Her team of soldiers were ordered to work with another team of soldiers to capture Nan Batian alive. However, at the moment she spotted Nan Batian, she couldn’t help but fired her weapon trying to kill him. Finally they won the battle, but found out that Nan Baotian actually slipped away.
Changqing Hong took back Qionghua’s gun and had a talk with her. She learned a lesson from this battle that in order to be a real soldier she had to put her personal feelings aside.
Meanwhile, they received order that they need to move to another battlefield to fight with troops of KMT. This time, Qionghua grew mature and performed very well. However, they were out numbered by the enemy and had to back out. Changqing Hong ordered them to retreat while he and another two soldiers cover for them. Unfortunately the wounded Changqing Hong was captured by the enemy. Nan Batian was among the enemy and persuaded him to turn traitor. He refused and calmly let the enemy to execute him with fire.
In the end, the Red Army occupied the area and won the battle.
This drama also debut as a ballet opera. Films and other forms of play were produced as well.
Hainan Island has officially become a province since 1988. At the time it established as a province, it became a special economic zone that offer free markets to attract investment from outside. Within the last 20 years, it has been developed into one of the best tourist destinations in China mainland.
Category: Chinese culture and history
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