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China / People

Epic musical tells the terrific tale

By Chen Nan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-10-12 01:46

Ten years ago, he introduced the concept of the highly acclaimed Impression show series , large-scale open-air performance with the real landscape as part of the show.

Director and producer Mei Shuaiyuan is back. This time, he is the man behind epic musical Princess Wencheng, which was staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts on Oct 10 and 11.

The well-known story has been portrayed in various art forms, such as film, opera and ballet. How different is Mei's version?

Usually, performances about Princess Wencheng are told through the eyes of Han people. For the audience, the princess is associated with beauty, as a goddess and hero, says Mei, who has presented the story in five scenes. But the princess spent most of her life in Tibet, and I want to show how the Tibetan people view her and what her life was like in Tibet.

As a symbol of peace, the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) princess traveled thousands of miles to marry Tibetan patriarch Songtsen Gampo to strengthen ties between Tibetans and Han in AD 640.

In Tibet, Princess Wencheng is respected for introducing numerous Buddhist scriptures, building technology, and developing medical treatises and skilled artisans. She advanced the development of Tibetan society and Buddhist culture.

Mei spoke to a group of experts in Tibetan culture to better portray Princess Wencheng's life in Tibet. The stage setting, costumes, language and music are also designed to be as authentic as possible.

The musical traces the princess' life from when she left Chang'an , the capital city of the Tang Dynasty, at age 16. She spent three years on the road and endured hardships before finally arriving in Tibet as a young woman. Through the scenes, audiences get to see the princess' personal changes and how she transformed from an innocent teenage girl into a heroine.

Singer Tan Jing, who performs as Princess Wencheng, says it is a dream role that she had always wanted to play.

The most touching and respectable aspect of the princess, according to Tan, was her loyal commitment after her husband died. Princess Wencheng's marriage lasted only eight years before her husband died in 649.

Although she spent the following 30 years alone, the princess continued to fulfill what she felt was her duty as queen , spreading Buddhism and helping ordinary people.

I've known the story of Princess Wencheng since I was young, so I feel very connected to the role, says Tan, who spent three days reciting the lines and practicing the songs. The role is much more than that of a simple icon but is of a woman who is flesh and blood.

Princess Wencheng will tour 17 cities until next year.

Contact the writer at chennan@chinadaily.com.cn

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