LIFE / CULTURE
Young performers introduce life of Qing Dynasty reformist Zheng Guanying
Son of Macao
Published: Jun 28, 2022 07:14 PM
The Mandarin's House in Macao Photos: cnsphoto

The Mandarin's House in Macao Photo: cnsphoto

The Mandarin's House in Macao Photos: cnsphoto

The Mandarin's House in Macao Photo: cnsphoto

A drama about Zheng Guanying, a known Chinese figure in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) over a century ago, has been staged at a traditional Guangdong-style residential complex located in the central area of Macao.

The complex is the former residence of Zheng, locally known as the Mandarin's House. With the drama Banquet at the Zheng's set at the house, a group of young Macao drama performers have tried to bring audiences an excellent interactive experience in the form of immersive theater.

The drama they recently rehearsed once again at the site is about the life story of the historical figure Zheng, who was dubbed the "Son of Macao," and his interactions with other historical figures including Sun Yat-sen.

Being the largest residential complex in Macao, the Mandarin's House, together with dozens of other architectural legacies in the historic center of Macao, has been inscribed on USESCO's World Heritage List.

Ally Li, producer of the drama, said they had tried to dig deep into stories about Zheng in order to recreate the episode of his life committed to the masterpiece Shengshi Weiyan or Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity in English, right at the Mandarin's House.

"As an important figure in Chinese history, Zheng offers a good opportunity for us to create a play that can well present Macao's cultural characteristics and its connections with traditional Chinese culture," said Li, who is director of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Youth Drama Association.

Michael Wong, who plays Zheng's half brother Zheng Guangui, said acting as historical characters demands a full understanding of their historical background and relations with other figures of their time.

"Besides reading the script, I had to refer to relevant literature and documents to make sure the character I play is consistent with the real person in history," said Wong.

Wong also suggested that in order to attract more audiences, dramas about historical figures should strike a balance between being dramatic and realistic as audiences nowadays prefer dramatic conflict.

The young Macao theater performers' interest in Chinese culture are also reflected in various traditional Chinese operas. Li, for example, is a dedicated lover of Kunqu, one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera.

"I decided to study Kunqu Opera performing about a decade ago," said Li. 

"I was lucky to have the opportunity to be taught by master performers in Jiangsu Province, where Kunqu originated."

Li and her team have also created an original drama telling the story of Tang Xianzu, a Chinese playwright of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) whose masterpiece The Peony Pavilion has been widely performed as a Kunqu Opera, visiting Macao and finishing his master play under the cultural influence of Macao.

By doing so, she aims to produce a stage drama that combines Kunqu Opera to present how Macao is related to the opera, in an effort to promote Macao and traditional Chinese cultures.

Having performed in various cities in the Chinese mainland and setting up her team in Guangzhou, capital of the neighboring Guangdong Province, Li suggested that young performers in Macao venture out of the city to seek more opportunities in the Greater Bay Area.

"Local governments and the general public provide much support for us if we have good cultural projects," Li said.