By Maggie Greene
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 24, no. 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 149-199
In 1961, the Kun opera Li Huiniang made its debut to high praise from political and intellectual elites. Yet in less than five years, the play and Meng Chao, its author, would become the first casualties of the Cultural Revolution. This essay considers the paradox of ghosts on communist stages by placing this important play in a broad political and social context of the years between 1959 and 1979. While Meng Chao and his play have long been subsumed to their more famous companions, Wu Han and his Hai Rui Dismissed from Office and Tian Han and his Xie Yaohuan, ghost plays were an important–and distinct–topic of debate throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Utilizing the intellectual and political discourses surrounding ghost plays, Li Huiniang in particular, the author argues that these debates offer unique insight into cultural production and policy in the Maoist period.