This book is a study of the cultural changes brought about by the introduction of Ibsen to China from the 1910s to the 2010s. It is a companion to Kwok-kan Tam’s two other books, Ibsen, Power and the Self: Postsocialist Chinese Experimentations in Stage Performance and Film (Oslo: Novus Press, 2019) and Ibsen in China: A Critical-Annotated Bibliography of Criticism, Translation and Performance (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2001). A special feature of the book is that the stage performances, especially those that were performed 80 years ago, are well illustrated with stage photographs which are now difficult to find. Particularly noteworthy is that the front cover shows a color image of Nora from one of the most memorable performances with Ji Shuping playing the lead role in the Beijing A Doll’s House in 1956.
The study is based on forty years’ collection of Chinese materials extracted from library, newspapers and theatre archives from all over the world. Supported by detailed analyses of translations, literary experiments and theatrical performances involved in the cultural debates, the study provides the most comprehensive view of the critical reception of Ibsen in China in the past 100 years. It is moreover a study of the relation between theatre art and ideology in the Chinese experimentations with new selfhood as a result of Ibsen’s impact. It explores Ibsenian notions of the self, women and gender in China and provides an illuminating study of Chinese theatre as a public sphere in the dissemination of radical ideas. As the major source of modern Chinese selfhood, Ibsenism carries notions of personal and social liberation and has exerted great impacts on Chinese revolutions since the beginning of the twentieth century. Ibsen’s idea of the self as an individual has led to various experimentations in theatre, film and fiction to project new notions of selfhood, in particular women’s selfhood, throughout the history of modern China. Continue reading