A piece of Chinese history: 8 model dramas in Chinese Culture Revolution (1966–1976)  Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy
Posted by Grace Feng on September 2, 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.
《智取威虎山》Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy
At the end of 1946, also the beginning stage of liberation war of Communist Party, equipped bandits were one of the main military targets for the army.
At that time, in the north east area, there was a group of equipped bandits led by 座山雕 Shangdiao Zuo, who occupied Tiger mountain. They committed all kinds of atrocities to the local people through out their years of existence. Local people Yongqi Li was being forced at gun point to go with them to their headquarter in the mountain to build fortresses for them. Yongqi Li’s wife and son were both killed by them mercilessly.
杨子荣 Zirong Yang, a platoon leader of scouts, came to the area to destroy Shandiao Zuo. He managed to seize a map of reservoir places of the bandits with the help of Hunter Chang and his daughter. He realized that the map was an important item that he could use to control Shandiao Zuo.
So he volunteered to disguise himself as a bandit who had the secret map to present to Shandiao Zuo. Despite all kinds of tests that cunning Shandiao Zuo had used on him, he didn’t raise any suspicion to Zuo. Zuo assigned an internal position to him then.
Yongqi Li escaped from Zuo’s headquarter and ran back home to meet his Mom. At that time, Zirong Yang’s comrades came to this area and persuade Yongqi Li to help them destroy the bandits.
With time went by, Shandiao Zuo started to suspect that Yang was hiding things from him. He then set up another test for him. Yang passed that test again with courage and wisdom. He also managed to sent down a piece of important information to his own comrades.
Back down at the village, a bandit that was captured by the Yang’s comrades, who knew the real identify of Yang escaped to the mountains. Yongqi Li let Yang’s comrades to get into the mountain where Shandiao Zuo’s headquarter was located. A final battle between the two sides was approaching…
The escaped bandit arrived at Zuo’s headquarter and told him that Yang was actually an enemy. At that crucial moment, Yang made a twist on the complicated situation and used his wits to win the trust from Zuo again.
Meanwhile, Yang’s comrades reached Zuo’s headquarter and destroyed the bandits’ nest with Yang’s help from inside. They captured most of the bandits alive.
The following photo was taken in 1967 when Chairman Mao met the cast of this opera.
The following photo is the real 杨子荣 Zirong Yang. He achieved the successful military exploit (as depicted in the drama) on February 7, 1947, and died in a battle against bandits on 23th of the same month, at age of 30. (curtsey of dangshi.people.com.cn)
Category: Chinese culture and history
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