Fri, Nov 16, 2012 - Page 12 News List

China ancient and modern

The transposition of Ray Huang’s novel ‘1587: A Year of No Significance’ to the stage shows that the political ideas expressed therein continue to resonate in contemporary Chinese historical thought

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff reporter

“When we studied Chinese history, in Hong Kong at least, we often would categorize people and events as either good or bad. It was all black and white. We would rarely consider why something happened or why a certain person acted in the particular way,” Woo said.

The play has already proved popular in Hong Kong, especially among students despite is operatic staging. He said it was ironic, but after the transition to Chinese rule, students rarely have an opportunity to study Chinese history in school, and the insight provided by the play had been affirmed by a solid box office, with many performances packed with younger audiences.

Although 1587: A Year of No Significance is about events long past, the ideas it explores, not least the impact of a government system on individuals and the influence that powerful individuals can have on the system, sometimes unwittingly, is immensely attractive to those who don’t believe in a view of history more complex than the facing off between heroes and villains. Woo said that it reflects the world of modern Chinese politics, so much so that many commentators in Hong Kong sought to see the characters in the play as representations of contemporary political figures.

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