Translators’ Introduction to “New Youth”
and Its Author Hang Cheng

By Jonathan Noble

Copyright MCLC Resource Center, 2006
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Hang Cheng

Hang Cheng

Written and directed by Hang Cheng, New Youth was performed by the Beijing Children’s Art Theatre and staged at the Beijing Exhibition Theatre July 13-July 17, 2005. The play is politically bold in its re-interpretation of the New Culture Movement, especially in the parallels that it constructs between the “anti-tradition” youth revolution associated with the May Fourth movement and the Cyberspace revolution of the recent decade. The play suggests that what is a “sacred” part of China’s official twentieth century history–namely, the iconoclasm of the revolutionary youth in the early part of the century as the “spiritual succor” of the “communist liberation,” is more myth than history, more play than work, and more virtual than real. At the same time, the play’s moral critique, drawing from Confucian, Buddhist, and Christian traditions, adheres with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s “Eight Honors and Eight Shames” policy of China’s central government that reinstitutes “moral well-being” as a critical national concern. The play encourages a re-evaluation of the construction of China’s modern history as well as greater reflection upon what China’s ideals should be for its future.

In Hang Cheng’s own words: “The play is a seductively-packaged intellectual bomb that aims to display the complexities associated with China’s social transformation, the spectacle of its bizarre absurdities, and the profusion of abounding desires scattered about like so many broken shards. The play amalgamates these shards into an eerie spectacle and provides a strong critique. It is both absurd and an allegorical, cautionary tale.”

Hang Cheng collaborated with a team of Beijing’s leading theatre artists, including Zhang Guangtian, who composed the play’s music, and Yi Liming, the stage designer. The play also featured Beijing’s rock legend Cang Tianshuo and new band Beijing Boys.

About Hang Cheng

Previously a reporter for the Beijing Youth Daily , Hang Cheng has written and directed three plays, including Chou’er’s Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter (2002), New Youth (2005), and Love Potion (2006). He was the production supervisor for Meng Jinghui’s Maze and the artistic director for Beijing Olympics Dolls.