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Play celebrates historic figure

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-02 10:48
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Actor-director Feng Yuanzheng, also the president of Beijing People's Art Theatre, gives a fresh interpretation on the life of renowned 16th century politician and imperial adviser Zhang Juzheng, in Beijing in November. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In 2005, writer and poet Xiong Zhaozheng's four-volume novel, Zhang Juzheng, won the Mao Dun Literature Prize, one of China's most prestigious literary accolades.

It follows the story of Zhang Juzheng, the famous politician who led the reform of the economy and of official evaluations during the reign of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Emperor Wanli.

Five years after winning the prize, Xiong adapted the novel into a script for a 43-episode TV drama, starring Feng Yuanzheng in one of its main roles, that of Feng Bao, a powerful eunuch and political ally of Zhang.

During the shooting of the drama, the veteran actor with the Beijing People's Art Theatre agreed with Xiong that the novel should be adapted into a play.

More than 10 years later, Zhang Juzheng will be premiered by the Beijing People's Art Theatre between Dec 22 and Jan 14, 2024.

Feng will play the title role and will also be one of the directors.

"This is the first time that the story of Zhang Juzheng has been turned into a play. The Beijing People's Art Theatre has produced many historical plays. This new production will highlight Zhang's political dedication and his reforms," says Feng, who is also the president of the Beijing theater.

"Zhang Juzheng is widely considered to have implemented one of the most important and influential reforms in the history of China, although he is also seen as controversial," adds Feng.

Over the past two months, the creative team has held rehearsals and traveled to Jingzhou in Hubei province, where the Zhang Juzheng Memorial is located. They also attended lectures by historians about Zhang and the Ming Dynasty to flesh out their understanding of the character and the society in which he lived.

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