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The Dramatic Story of Drama Home> Web> Special> The Dramatic Story of Drama
UPDATED: October-31-2007  
Key Moments in Chinese Drama History

1906 The Spring Willow Drama Club formed by Chinese students studying in Japan is considered the foundation of Chinese modern drama.

1907 The club puts on a trial performance of the third act of the classic The Lady of the Camellias - the first drama performed by the Chinese in the Chinese language. The club premieres a five-act play based on the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, and establishes an unprecedented form of drama in China: the first drama script and the first complete drama performance.

1918 Xin Cun Zheng is regarded as the first modern drama in China in terms of realism.

1928 Modern Chinese drama derived from Western theatre is named Hua Ju (spoken drama), designed to be distinguished from traditional Chinese operas.

1934 Chinese drama gains new levels of popularity in July with the publication of Thunderstorm in Literature Quarterly Volume 1 No.3. The author, Cao Yu, later to become China's most renowned drama artist, is just 22 and the play is his debut drama work. It's estimated that Thunderstorm is the most performed play in China. It is a full-length modern drama that features complex relationships among the members and servants of a large well-off family, and focuses on family disintegration as a result of corruption in old China. The son, Zhou Puyuan, has an affair with the family maid, Shi Ping, and she bears him two children. After he marries a wealthy woman he keeps the son, Zhou Ping, and drives Shi Ping away with the daughter, Si Feng. Shi Ping marries a butler, Lu Gui, and they struggle to raise Si Feng. Unconscious of their consanguinity, Zhou Ping and Si Feng fall in love with each other. A tangled family history is played out only to culminate in a tragic end.

1944 The first drama expo of southwestern China is held in Guilin. Main activities include drama performances, file material exhibition and academic seminars.

1949 The China National Youth Theatre is established in Beijing in April. The Association of Chinese Drama Professionals is formed in July, and is renamed Chinese Theatre Association in 1953.

1950 The Central Academy of Drama is set up in Beijing in April. The Shanghai People’s Art Theatre is established in August.

1952 The Beijing People’s Art Theatre is started in June, and Cao Yu is its first president.

1956 The first joint performances are held in Beijing in March, organized by Ministry of Culture. They attract 32 full-length and 18 one-act plays nationwide. The China Children’s Art Theatre is established in June.

1957 The 50th anniversary of modern Chinese drama is celebrated in Beijing.

1958 Cha Guan (The Teahouse), performed by the Beijing People’s Art Theatre, premieres at the Capital Theatre in Beijing.

1980 Cha Guan (The Teahouse) goes overseas to fifteen countries, including Germany and France, and is honored as “a miracle from the Oriental stage”.

1982 Jue Dui Xin Hao (The Absolute Signal), directed by Lin Zhaohua of the Beijing People’s Art Theatre, symbolizes the start of the experimental theatre movement.

1988 The first nationwide drama festival is held in Beijing.

1989 The first nationwide experimental theatre festival is held in Nanjing.

1996 The first Chinese-language drama festival is held in Beijing. Drama clubs from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan perform some 15 plays.

2000 The International Experimental Theatre Festival is held in Guangzhou.

2001 The National Theatre Company of China, a merger of China National Youth Theatre and China National Experimental Theatre, is established in Beijing in December.

2003 The First Beijing International Theatre Festival is held in September and October.

2007 The 100th anniversary of modern Chinese drama is celebrated nationwide. The first drama museum, located on the fourth floor of the Capital Theater, No.22 Wangfujing Street, is opened to the public.

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