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Opera relives Chinese monk's epic journey to Japan

By Ma Chi | | Updated: 2017-02-07 13:54

Opera relives Chinese monk's epic journey to Japan

The opera Jianzhen's Journey to Japan is staged at the National Center for Performing Arts in Beijing on Feb 6, 2017. [Photo provided to]

Beijing - An opera which is based on the story of a Chinese monk's expedition to Japan to promote Buddhism in the eighth century made its premier at home this week.

Jianzhen's Journey to Japan, a production by Jiangsu Performing Arts Group, made the full-house National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing roar on Monday.

The leading actor shed tears over the excitement when answering the curtain call.

"I am heartened by his magnificent spirit and willpower," said Tian Haojiang, who plays Jianzhen in the opera.

Jianzhen, an eminent monk in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), made six attempts to visit Japan from 743 to 753 at the invitation of the Japanese monk and emissary Yoei.

He failed to make it the first five times, the last attempt leaving him blind from an infection. However, Jianzhen's resolve to go to Japan did not die and in 753, the strong-minded monk finally made it to Kagoshima, the southwestern tip of Kyushu Island.

During his 10-year stay in Japan, Jianzhen not only introduced Buddhism to the country, he also brought China's calligraphy, architecture, music and medicine to the island country.

To get a better understanding of the great monk, the main cast made several trips to Japan, retracing the route Jianzhen travelled.

Their efforts struck a chord with the audience.

"This show is meaningful. It helps promote traditional Chinese culture in the fashion of the western opera," spectator Lin Long said.

The opera made its debut in Japan in December. The return of Jianzhen, or Ganji as he is known in Japan, caused a stir in the island nation where he is a household name.

Former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, who attended the show's premiere, hailed the opera as "phenomenal".

Jianzhen died in Japan in 763, and a statue of him stands in Nara.

The opera was staged in Beijing on Feb 5 and 6, and is expected to be put on in Japan again later this year to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations.


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