Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Art and authenticity

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Wei Hai-min, left, and Wen Yu-hang are among the leads in the National Guoguang Opera Company’s production of The Painting of 18 Lohans this weekend at the Taiwan Traditional Theatre Centre in Taipei’s Shilin District.

Photo courtesy of Liu Chen-hsiang and the National Guoguang Opera Company

The National Guoguang Opera Company (國立國光劇團) has revived its 2015 production of The Painting of 18 Lohans (十八羅漢圖), which won the troupe one of the four NT$500,000 prizes at the 14th Taishin Arts Award the following year.

The production is directed by Wang An-chi (王安祈), who collaborated on the script with playwright Liu Chien-kuo (劉建幗) and directed the first version, while the stage design was created by multimedia pioneer Mathias Woo (胡恩威) of Hong Kong’s experimental theater company Zuni Icosahedron (進念2十面體).

Four of the original leads are back: Wei Hai-min (魏海敏), Tang Wen-hua (唐文華), Wen Yu-hang (溫宇航), Liu Hai-yuan (劉海苑). Lin Ting-yu (林庭瑜) has taken on the role played by Ling Chia-lin (凌嘉臨) in the earlier version.

In Chinese Buddhism, the 18 lohans, or arhats, include the original group of 10 followers of Gautama Buddha who although they had achieved nirvana were entrusted with staying on earth to wait the coming Buddha, plus eight more spiritual masters.

The opera tells the story of a painting in the Ziling Temple of the lohans, created by a famous hermit. Five hundred years later, the temple is largely in ruins, with just one nun living there, Jing-he. She saves a young boy, Yu-qing, who stays with her to learn how to meditate and paint.

When Yu-qing reaches adulthood, Jing-he tells him he must leave the temple for the sake of propriety, but he begs her to let him stay so they can restore the hermit’s masterpiece. He stays for a year, but never sees Jing-he, as they take turns working in the day or at night to maintain the proper Confucian code of conduct.

When Yu-qing leaves the temple a year later, he goes to work for the owner of a local bookstore, but the jealous owner ends up framing him for a crime and he is sentenced to 15 years in prison. Upon his release, am embittered Yu-qing decides to seek revenge on the owner by forging a copy of the hermit’s painting.

Performance Notes

WHAT: The Painting of 18 Lohans

WHEN: Tomorrow at 7:30pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm

WHERE: Taiwan Traditional Theatre Center’s Main Theater (臺灣戲曲中心大表演廳), 751 Wenlin Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City (台北士林區文林路751號).

ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$400 to NT$2,000, available at the box office, online at and at convenience store ticket kiosks

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES: June 15 at 7:30pm at the Tainan Cultural Center (臺南文化中心演藝廳), 332, Chunghua East Rd Sec 3, Tainan (臺南市中華東路三段332號) and June 22 at 7:30pm at the Performance Hall of the Hsinchu County Cultural Affairs Bureau (新竹縣文化局演藝廳), 146 Siancheng 9th Rd, Jhubei City, Hsinchu County (新竹縣竹北市縣政九路146號); tickets are NT$400 to NT$2,000, available online at, convenience store ticketing kiosks and at the door

When doubts are raised about the painting, Jing-he is asked to determine its authenticity. When she looks at the original she worked on, she realizes that it actually reveals her feelings for Yu-qing and vice versa. When she views the suspect version, she realizes that Yu-qing has revealed himself in copying the hermit’s work, but that he is now a very different person.

The opera asks how does one know what is real and what is fake, for even a fake can reveal the real feelings of its creator.

Following this weekend’s shows, Guoguang will take the production to Shanghai next month and then to Tainan and Jhubei City in Hsinchu County in June.

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