Play on famed Chinese architects hits the stage

( CNTV ) Updated: 2015-07-22 10:33:26

Play on famed Chinese architects hits the stage

Play on famed Chinese architects hits the stage. [Photo/CNTV]

For more than 200 years during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), one family was commissioned to build the imperial palaces and gardens China is now famous for, including Beijing's Summer Palace. Now, the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) has brought to the stage the story of these imperial architects.

The story begins during the time of Emperor Tongzhi, in the second half of the 19th century, when Empress Dowager Cixi orders the restoration of Yuanmingyuan Imperial Garden, which was burned by British and French troops. This task is given to master Lei Siqi and his son Lei Tingchang.

Seven generations of the Lei family—known as Yangshi Lei—served as chief architects of the Qing Court. Today, one fifth of China's World Cultural Heritage sites can be credited to Lei's design, and the Yangshi Lei Archives have been listed by UNESCO as item of intangible cultural heritage.

After accepting the assignment, the Leis actively get to work. But the country is falling apart, and the masses are living an impoverished life.

To finance the reconstruction project, the Qing Government levies exorbitant taxes on people. Young Lei Tingchang witnesses common people living in destitution, and his lover desperately sells herself to save her arrested father. Meanwhile, corrupt officials and a treacherous merchant jointly collude to grab project funds.

Disillusioned, Lei Tingchang is pushed to despair, and the end of the project.

Another highlight of the two-hour-long play is the casting of storytelling master Lian Liru as narrator.

Having worked with Peking Operas and films, this is the 74-year-old's debut on the theater stage.

"Being of Manchu ethnicity, I could really relate to the story of the Leis. It's such a miracle that seven generations of the family were able to be such great architects and accomplish all these great works. When the director gave me the script, I was very interested and spent quite some time working out the script to the form of storytelling," Lian said.

The play will be staged at the NCPA until Sunday.

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