Chinese novelist Lao She's 'The Story of Niu Tianci' takes center stage

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 26, 2019
A scene from The Story of Niu Tianci. [Photo by Zhang Rui/China Daily]

The Story of Niu Tianci, a Chinese play based on Chinese author Lao She's 1934 novel of the same name, premiered in Beijing's Tianqiao Performing Arts Center on Dec 25. Directed by Fang Xu, who has adapted five of Lao She's works into theatrical productions, and featuring young Chinese actors, including Guo Qilin in the lead role, the play will be staged till Dec 29 before it tours nationwide in 2020.

Unlike Lao She's other novels, such as Rickshaw Boy and Four Generations Under One Roof, The Story of Niu Tianci is less well-known and has never been adapted into a movie, TV series or theatrical production. 

Born as Shu Qingchun to a Manchu family in Beijing in 1899, Lao She is best known for his vivid descriptions of grassroots life that reflect social reality and for his precise depictions of local Beijing culture through his unique humor and use of the city's dialect. His novels, including Rickshaw Boy and Four Generations Under One Roof, and his plays, such as Long Xu Gou (Dragon Beard Ditch) and Teahouse, have earned him fame as a linguistic and literary master worldwide.

The Story of Niu Tianci revolves around a young man, named Niu Tianci, an abandoned child, who was adopted by a childless couple. Niu's mother wanted him to become a government official, while his father hoped he would take over the family business. As a young man, Niu attended the best school and was an obedient student. But contrary to his parent's wishes, Niu learned very little and struggled with the social environment. He was lost and alone when his parents died. 

An all-male 17-member cast plays both male and female roles in the play. Guo Qilin, a 23-year-old crosstalk, or xiangsheng, performer, makes his stage debut with the role, Niu Tianci. Guo's longtime partner and crosstalk performer Yan Hexiang also makes his stage debut playing the role of Niu's best friend, the personification of a front gate pillar-a role that doesn't exist in Lao She's original novel.

Guo Qilin has built up a sizeable fan base after he made his debut crosstalk performance in 2011. He has expanded his career into movies and TV dramas.

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