Speech for Drama, Opera and Children’s Theatre Writers in Beijing

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17 February 1962

Zhou Enlai

Today, I’ll talk a little about politics, and in passing, I’ll talk a little about literature and art. Today, it is impossible for everyone to speak, half among you must go to Guangdong for a meeting, and matters may be discussed at that meeting.

In March 1959, I made a speech in the Purple Light Pavilion, in which I talked about ten issues for literature and art work to walk on two legs. In today’s speech, the situation has somewhat changed since that time. At that time, I have also been made to wear a “hat”. Some Party Committees did not allow the transmission of my speech. Today, I have read the speech from last time, and the content is basically correct.

Today, the situation is improving, where something is said wrongly, it can be criticized, where something is said correctly, it can be agreed with. Today is February 1962, the circumstances have seen great developments. Since the Liberation, literature and art activities have taken place for 12 years, this year is the 13th year. Literature and art activities’ achievements are of the first rank, flaws are of the second rank. Literature and art activities have seen great development, and have spiralled upwards. Now, I’ll talk about some issues.

I, Getting rid of superstition, liberating thoughts

Since Liberation, literature and art activities can be divided into two stages. The first stage was from the Liberation until the Great Leap Forward. After the Liberation, we accepted the literature and art policies of Chairman Mao, but we did not understand many issues clearly, and our opinions were not consistent. Of the old things, which should be preserved, and which should be criticized, was not clear. Until after the anti-rightism of 1957, under the guidance of the “Two Hundreds” policy, a new situation emerged. Since the Three Red Banners, the atmosphere is not the same. Starting from ideological circles, it has been advocated to dare to think, dare to speak and dare to do, a creative spirit has been advocated, stressing the past and slighting the present has been criticized, and stressing the present and slighting the past has been advocated. This has influenced literature and art circles, literature and art circles are full of youthful vigour, and not a few works have emerged. In 1958, 1959 and 1960, drama, opera, children’s theatre and film has seen many works, creation has flourished, and a new situation opened up. The characteristics of this period are daring to stress the present and slight the past, daring to face the future, which strengthened the people’s self-confidence, they dare to criticize foreign, old and bad things. (The previous stage also fostered some forces for the next stage.) One is facing today and thinking about the future; one is facing China and thinking about the future. Ensure that China becomes stronger and greater and ensure the flourishing of literature and art. This is the main stream, it is good. It has been put forward to walk on two legs in literature and art.

In my speech of May 1959, I talked about politics, but mainly talked about literature and art, and talked about the issue of walking on two legs. Walking on two legs is a relative relationship, and is the unification of oppositions, which are all developed from Mao Zedong Thought, such as popularization and improvement, politics and art, democracy and centralization, etc. The second stage, is after the Great Leap Forward, where the masses have gotten moving, and writers, directors, actors and the masses have integrated. This is a new atmosphere. We must not underrate achievements because of the fact that there were flaws in these two years. This creative forum may first think from this aspect. Writers have written good works, this is the mainstream and principal aspect. The Party has led literature and art work, and branches have been established, many literators and artists have participated in Party teams, this is a great advance. New forces have joined the Party, a new atmosphere and a new situation have emerged.

In 1959, and especially after 1960, deviations emerged in the concrete work of implementing the general line, which could not but influence all areas, which also includes the area of literature and art. Art reflects life most rapidly, and certainly cannot but be influenced. Deviations in politics and deviations in work, for example some great projects and undertakings, cannot but influence theatre and film. Of the flaws and mistakes in literature and art work, the absolute majority have been derived from mistakes in the concrete work of implementing the general line, but there have also been factors in literature and art work itself and subjective causes. The flaws and mistakes in literature and art work have been reflected in: old superstitions have been destroyed, but new superstitions have emerged. Old superstitions should be destroyed, for example  stressing the past to slight the present, blindly worshipping foreign countries, etc., But new superstitions have emerged, such as : everything of the present is good, everything of the past is bad. This goes against Mao Zedong Thought. Where do new things come from? All things Chinese are good, all things foreign are bad, everything is cursed about, this also violates another bias, and returns to the time of the Boxers. The Boxers were anti-foreign, this had historical roots, because at that time China suffered oppression. There being such thoughts today, may change into great-nation chauvinism. The world abroad has good things, the past also has good things. Shakespeare’s plays are goods, Dumas Junior’s “Dame aux camélias” is also good, how can the measure of the present be used in demands on works of those times? Any era has its own limitations. “Those of the future looking at the present, will be as those of the present looking at the past”. We also have limitations today. By the 21st century, we may also be regarded as ridiculous by those coming after us. Only the present is good, and only one’s on things are good, can be compared to that poem: “There are three streams in the writings under heaven, and in those three streams of literature is my humble village. In the writings of my humble village, there is my younger brother, my younger brother is learning how to write from me”. In these past years, we have established many new idols and new superstitions, there are many frames. For example, writing about a Party Committee Secretary, can only be done in this manner, and cannot be done in that manner, he must represent all Party Committee Secretaries. In this way, there will be a thousand writings, all the same, and there will be conceptualization. In this way, in one phase, there can only be one model, other models cannot emerge, and there is also only one model for negative characters. This will make it very easy for critics, and too easy for Party Committees to lead literature and art, as long as some articles are drawn up, that will do. Beijing opera is stylized, and there are also not a few forms, among the painted faces, Zhang Fei is different fro m Li Kui, among the warrior roles, Wu Song is different from Shiyi Lang. On today’s stage, these characters are different from those in the past, because they have undergone new circumstances. New superstitions fetter our thinking, and consequently, writers no longer dare to write, there are many hats, and little is written, they only seek to do no wrong, and do not seek success. Comrade Cao Yu is a courageous writer, he is a self-confident writer, everyone respects him very much. But when he wrote “Gall and Sword”, he was also very worried. He has joined the party, and should be even more bold, but he has become more timid. Modesty is a good thing, but boldness becoming timidity is nod good. Entering the Party should be beneficial to him, requirements would be a bit stricter, but it is almost as if he has been fettered instead. Using a concrete writer as an example to explain this has benefits. Therefore, Comrade Cao Yu is taken as an example, because he is a Party Member, and also because he is our old classmate and old friend, requirements of him should be a bit stricter, if I put it too strongly, he should not blame me. In the past, when I talked about problems with Comrade Cao Yu in Chongqing, he was restrained less, now it seems as if he is more restrained. He fears this is wrong and that is wrong, does not know his on mind, and is not confident of success. In this way, it is impossible to write good things. Prejudices are not good, opinions must start from reality, otherwise they are absurd, this is subjectivism. But one must know one’s own mind, now, own judgments are fewer. “The Clear Sky” still seems somewhat vivacious. Some people say it is not deep, but this was written not long after Liberation, it was written in 1953. This play exposed  the negative things of imperialists running hospitals, I have seen it a few times, every time, I was moved. “Gall and Sword” has its good parts, the main part is successful, but I don’t feel as moved. It is as if writers have been somewhat fettered, and this has been caused by new superstitions.

Now, we must enter the third phase, to come at a negation of the negation, which still is an upwards spiral. We must confirm the good things of the second phase, and affirm achievements, but we must delete new superstitions, and liberate thoughts again. This Forum must first liberate thoughts, and must second come to a negation of the negation. Lift the Three Red Banners, liberate thoughts, dare to think, dare to speak, dare to do, and enter a new phase. Return again to Mao Zedong Thought, Mao Zedong Thought is Marxist. As long as dialectical materialism and historical materialism are studied even better, there will be possibilities for progress. Which are new superstitions and which aren’t; which thoughts have been liberated and which still have not been liberated, must be made clear. Printed materials are done quite well. These problems must be answered and explained at the forum.

What I have talked about is the first issue, now I will talk about the second issue.

II, How the Party leads drama and film work

How do Party Committees represent the Party in leadership? During this period, the leadership of the Party has been established, the Party’s leadership has gone more deeply into all departments during the second phase than during the first phase, including in the areas of drama and film. But, this period again shows the phenomenon of running the whole show, administrative work and artistic work are all decided by Party Committees. During the last two years, there were difficulties, for example supply difficulties, non-staple foods were in short supply, there were life issues, grain quota issues, these issues must be handled by Party Committees. But some problems must not be handled by Party Committees. Party Committees should lead everything, and command everything, but must not run the whole show. What are expert matters and what are administrative matters must be divided clearly, and Party Committees must not run the whole show. Chairman Mao has a leadership method of 32 characters. At this rotational training of cadres, we shall produce a set of even more concrete methods and provisions. That the Party is able to lead everything is a good thing, this is the result of the masses respecting the Party and the cadres loving the Party. Chairman Mao and the Party Centre have led the Party in a manner that strengthened it, and built up the prestige of Party Committees, As for concrete Party Committees and exceptional Party Committees, exceptional localities, departments and work units, it may be that results are not the main thing, flaws and achievements are not divided 30-70, it is not an issue of one finger and nine fingers. In some regions, departments and work units, it isn’t achievements that are the main thing, it isn’t a 30-70 division, it is the opposite of 30-70. Does this situation not exist in the literature and art area? That Party Committees can lead everything, and obtain achievements, is first and foremost due to the achievements of the entire Party.

I would like to rectify a designation. When filling in forms, Party members and non-Party members are written down as Party members and masses. This opposes Party members and the masses. If non-Party members are named masses, are Party members then not masses? This is being a degree too self-proud! This is extremely mistaken. I am also one of the masses. Party members and masses are not a concept of the same category. What should be said is Party members and non-Party members. Saying leaders and masses is permitted; this is the relationship of leaders and led. But is every Party member a leader? I have always had objections against this, but have not officially put this forward to the Organization Department. If a locality only has one Party member, must he be obeyed in all matters? The son of a past security secretary of mine, after graduating from the institute of geology, was allocated to go and edit a geological journal, just because he was a Party member, and the journal’s editorial department did not have Party members, he was made to go there. Afterwards, he went to the troops in Fujian, his younger sister reported this and said, my older brother has gone bad. He has taken the cigarettes of his father (head of a logistics department in some military regions) and given them to his political instructor, this is bribery! Four generals’ sons have all been evaluated as “five good fighters” among the troops. Only he was not evaluated as such. I think, this may be related to his having been an editor for two years. In the editorial department, he was the only Party member, and considered himself as able to lead everything, and had everyone obey him.

Party members should hear the opinions of the masses, and cannot consider themselves too highly, when they occupy a leading position. Why have there been some Party members whose work style changed for the worse in the past few years? Because they consider themselves too highly and have not had supervision. Some branches only listen to Party members and do not listen to words from outside the Party. How will people doing leading work be able to do it well? First and foremost, march the mass line, carry forward democracy and implement democratic centralism. Only by centralization on a democratic basis can there be correct centralization. Concentrate to a high degree on a broad democratic basis, and carry democracy forward under the leadership of a high degree of centralization. This is the system of the Party and the State, any group of individual must abide by this system. Party Committees must be careful and cautious, and listen to the opinion of the people. Politicians can centralize the opinions of the masses and formulate policies. Wisdom comes from within the masses. Politicians speak on behalf of the masses by centralizing the wisdom of the masses. Writers must also listen to the opinions of the masses, and centralize the opinions of the masses. But politics and art are still different, writers must also give rein to their creative personality. Politicians drawing up policies are required to be more complete. Party Committees that are removed from the masses are certainly unqualified; Party members who are removed from the masses, do not meet standards to be a Party member.

I say, at the creative forum, first give vent to your anger, and when you have vented your anger, it will be possible to breathe freely.

Xiang Yu was someone who did not listen to people, Liu Bang was able to listen to people. Xiang Yu considered himself too highly, and cold not be tolerant of others, in the end, there was nothing for him but to say “farewell, my concubine”. If there are some Party Committee leaders that want to be like Xiang Yu, they will inevitably have to bid “farewell to their concubines”.

At this meeting, first, understand the terrain, second, talk a little about Party leadership. This is not to doubt the leadership of Party Committees, but to consolidate it even more. The Party has prestige, the Party’s prestige does not match the prestige of some individual. Non-Party writers and artists, if they have something to say but don’t, they still are not a good friend of the Party. If Party Committees do not carry forward democracy, they are not good Party Committees. If Party Committees do not have the basis of the masses, how can they consolidate the leadership of the Party Committee? They must listen and receive criticism, and must not fear criticism. Criticism cannot harm prestige. If there has been criticism, in the course of time, one’s mistakes will be revealed. If criticism was correct, and you receive it, you may gain even more prestige.

Those frames and new superstitions that I just talked about, have come from the criticism of Party Committees. This cannot be written, that cannot be written, and still, people must be given “hats” to wear: right-leaning, conservative. In this way, many works have become formulaic, conceptualized and vulgarized things. If writers only seek to do no wrong and do not seek success, naturally their will not draft good works. This is related to Party Committee leadership. What you don’t understand, you may go and ask experts. Writers must also go among the masses to listen to opinions, and revise works on the basis of the opinions of the masses. The wisdom of the masses will always help you. A script, a poem, they may all be revised. The poems of Lu Xun where revised even after they were published, this indicates that he accepted the opinion of friends. In short, Party Committees must handle affairs in consultation with experts, insiders and the masses, and where they don’t understand something, admit that they don’t understand it, and seek to learn from the masses.

As a Party member, revolutionary cadre, and communist warrior, two matters must be acknowledged: first, individual knowledge is always limited, and knowledge is infinite. Even if you study until you’re old, you will never finish learning, even when your heart stops beating, you will not have finished learning; second, society is always in transition, we have transitioned from the old society into the new society, we have transitioned from an exploiting society into a society without exploitation, because of this, people must also eternally change. You have come from the old society, therefore, the influence of the old society, such as the force of habit, will make a sneak attack on you like bacteria. Because of this, we are eternally changing, and even if you change until you’re old, you will never finish changing. Having acknowledged these two matters, people can move ahead, and many matters will not be done wrong. It is impossible that Party Committees can understand everything. Do you understand everything? The life someone else wrote about in a script, do you understand all of it? You can only talk from one side, it is impossible for you to understand everything. The film “Spring Forever”, I praise unreservedly, but in the film, a person is compelled to donate a sewing machine, this is utterly not good, it is a problem, if this bit is taken out, it may become a film to be preserved. That role Zhang Ruifang plays, in which a family member brings the child into the nursery to go to work herself, also has a little that is not suitable. With the energy in society at that time, the film naturally could only be like that. Looking at it now, there are some biases in matters of policy, and some excesses. But this is a good film. Good films are still like this, how the more is this true for these works of slogans and catchphrases.

For policy deviations, the Centre bears the first responsibility, and provinces and cities bear the second responsibility. One work unit’s Party Committee cannot be blamed. But for some problems, Party Committees must be responsible. Some Party Committees are actually crude, and they cannot but be required to change. There are deviations in campaigns, and I apologise for this to everyone on behalf of the Party. But problems in concrete methods must be investigated by all branches. For example, the result of the investigation of Hai Mo has proven that the “hat” he was made to wear was wrong. This must be the responsibility of work units, those who make trouble should end it, branches must apologise to them. Yes, the Centre must bear the first responsibility, and provinces and cities bear the second responsibility, the roots still come from above.

Old Ouyang’s “Pan Jinlian” cannot be considered as a model of women’s’ liberation. At that time, I just put forward some opinions. This is not his representative work. I believe that this play does not conform to the present times. When I said this, there were still some troubles, and was afraid Old Ouyang is nervous, I didn’t know whether his illness was related to this, and later understood that his illness was not caused by this. I have talked about Xu Beihong once in a report, and just after that, Xu Beihong became ill, I was very worried that this was related to my speech. You say there is no relation, but it was exactly at that time. I felt very troubled. Comrade Cao Yu, today, I talked about you, your health is also not good, do not be worried. I only talk a little about opinions concerning Ouyang Lao’s “Pan Jinlian” in this small circle, I say we must not publish critical articles. If Old Ouyang himself is willing to write one, and has time to do so, he may also write one, but if he doesn’t, that is fine as well.

The Centre has taken up its responsibility, all levels must also do some research. A political picture that is both centralized and democratic, that has both discipline and freedom, that has both unified ideals and individual peace of mind, and that is vivid and vivacious shall emerge. In 1959, I said: we must both exert all efforts, and must have peace of mind. If writers are telephoned every day and being urged to write, how can the minds of writers be at peace?

New circumstances have arrived. Through the negation of negation, we will certainly be able to bring about a new picture. Good works will certainly emerge, at which time they emerge is uncertain. At this forum, times must not be fixed, and there must be no time limits to hand over drafts. That is not necessary. Matters must not be done that nervously, it is then better to write a little less.

III, The spirit of the times

The briefs you have submitted refer to “the spirit of the times”, this is a good reference. When performing modern drama, the spirit of the time may be reflected, when performing historical dramas, the spirit of modern times may also be reflected. It cannot be that because we today both have a collective ownership system and also have an ownership system of all the people, that there will be complete ownership of all the people in the future, that would negate the dramas that are written now. Comrade Cao Yu’s “Thunderstorm” was written after the Mukden Incident, at that time, it was the period of Guomindang Rule, the Republican Era. Writings about the historical background of May 4th, also have no shortcomings. Writings about feudal comprador household, these works reflect a life in conformity with those times, these works are maintained. Dramas such as these can stand up in the present, and can stand up in the future. Some people ask: why did Lu Dahai not lead the workers’ revolution? Why, in “Sunrise” are workers only at the back tamping earth, why do they not rescue Little Thing? Let them talk, these opinions are ridiculous, because workers at that time only had such a degree of consciousness, writers only had such a level of understanding. This is in conform with the level of understanding of advanced writers during those times. At that time, there were also more revolutionary works by left-wing writers, but these had a propaganda flavour, and few of them became artworks. When I talked to Cao Yu in Chongqing, I appreciated yours, because your drama were in conform with your level of thinking. Old Guo’s “Celebrating Brothers’ Reunion” can still be performed.

When Lenin criticized Tolstoy, on the one hand, he pointed out Tolstoy’s insufficiencies, and on the other hand affirmed Tolstoy. He pointed out that there is humanitarianism in Tolstoy, and that this was because there was humanitarianism at that time, Tolstoy is still a mirror of his times. After the Mukden Incident, a number of writers hazily sought progress, such as Cao Yu, their works may be maintained. Lu Xun had thoughts about the theory of evolution in his early period, but “The Complete Works of Lu Xun” can still be maintained to the present.

If what literary words reflect isn’t the times, then as long as there is a resolution, matters are fine. Chairman Mao said, if plays are all like holding meetings, for what are plays still necessary? Chairman Mao does not like to watch drama, because drama resembles life too much, and because language is not good enough. Chairman Mao doesn’t watch plays like we do, when he watches plays, it is mainly for relaxation. It is not sufficient for dramas just to move life to the stage, drama and real life are different from each other. One work cannot be required to completely reflect the whole content of the times.

Plays can only reflect one aspect of the times, and cannot reflect a whole period. The stage is only that big, a film can only have so many reels, it cannot have one hundred reels, it is impossible to completely reflect the times. What is called the spirit of the times is not equal to moving Party resolutions onto the stage. We cannot completely interpret the spirit of the times as Party policies and Party resolutions. The spirit of the times can also only be reflected through one aspect of the times. As long as this happens according to historical materialism, and conforms to those times, it is all right. If you write about Cao Cao or Qin Shihuang, if you only pay attention to the spirit of the times and do not pay attention to historical facts, people will say your work doesn’t conform to the times of Cao Cao or Qin Shihuang. The spirit of the times – on is writing about the times, one is writing about history, one is writing about ideals. Ideals must have a scientific basis, not be Utopian, they must have a scientific basis, and also be artistic. We cannot be constrained by the spirit of the times, and must have a broad understanding of the spirit of the times. Otherwise, you will be unable to write historical plays, mythological plays or children’s plays. If you only put real life onto the stage, what is there worth seeing?

The spirit of the times must be broadly understood, the problem lies in whether works can stand or cannot stand. Comrade Cao Yu’s trilogy has displayed aspects of life at that time, and has displayed the ideals of writers at that time. Two pieces can stand up, but “Grasslands” is relatively bad. I deeply love one of his works, and recommend one of his works. I just touch upon this issue, you must talk about it more broadly.

IV, Model characters

Now, model characters will be raised. Where do so many heroic characters come from? Literary works always refer to model characters, model characters include everything, and include heroic characters. There is more than one model. One era has one representative character, the representative character of this era of ours is Chairman Mao. Chairman Mao represents China, now that China has become stronger, and its power of discourse is larger, his representativeness is greater. The “Lenin Era” or “Stalin Era” indicate that they all have their representative character. But if this is to be written into novels, plays or films, this becomes very difficult. There has been an unofficial decision in the Central Committee that the images of leaders must not appear in plays or films, because this would be hard to do well. Chairman Mao appears in Li Bozhao’s opera “Long March”, and Chairman Mao appears in Lazikou in the drama “Ten Thousand Rivers and A Thousand Mountains”, but these have not been done successfully. I am written into the drama “The August 1 Tempest”; some people say “it is both alike and non alike”. Therefore, I do not see it. At that time, my leadership was defeated, you have not criticized me, therefore, I do not see it. Wanting to write about the highest representative characters is very difficult, this is the experience of China. Put model characters into dramas and films instead. It is nit certain that every play must contain heroic characters. Where are there so many heroic characters? But there must be model characters. All sorts of characters may be written, positive and negative, great and small, there may be all sorts of models. There must be central characters, there must be characters serving as a foil or antagonists. You must imagine it thus: there are subjects, there are characters and there are models, all in many forms; there must be a protagonist, an opposite, and there must be contradiction and struggle. There must be descriptions of many sides, this must not be limited. Some people put forward heroic characters of “high standards”, how can there be heroic characters like that? Dispositions are different in every person, if everyone would say the same thing, what would there still be worth listening to? Leader Chen has his manner of speaking, I have my own manner when I speak, how can there be one fixed standard? When writing dispositions, there can be different characters, the real, living life cannot be written into lifeless stagnancy. In production, a great variety and high quality are advocated. Party Committee secretaries, commanders, opportunists, cannot all be of the same mould. Huang Jiguang has Huang Jiguang’s disposition, Dong Cunrui has Dong Cunrui’s disposition. There are also various kinds of operatic roles.

Heroes must be integrated with the masses. But now, in not a few plays, heroes are often not integrated with the masses well. Heroes are written in a manner that belittles the role of the masses, masses are written in a manner that leadership is not clear. Or it is written clearly, but there still are indiscrete remarks. The wisdom of the masses must be centralized by leadership, before rein can be given to its strength, and these two shall be integrated very well. Leaders and masses being integrated, is very good politics, and expressing this in works is good art. But, our scripts are always biased to one side. This refers to writing about our ties, it is different for writing history. But historical characters, also have characters around them, otherwise, they would be isolated loners, such as Xiang Yu saying farewell to his concubine. When Gou Jian, the King of Yue heard Fan Li speaking, he was successful in the end. Fan Li said he might share adversity, but could not share peace and joy. Comrade Cao Yu’s “Gall and Sword” has grasped this point. Xiang Yu did not listened to what other people had to say, and had no choice but to say farewell to his concubine. Li Shimin is good at listening to opposite opinions, when he sees Wei Zheng coming, he is on pins and needles, but when he has listened to his opinion, it is as if he has taken a dose of medicine. We must not be deaf to negative opinions. Scripts must be written with an antithesis, any persona’s limitations, and aren’t that perfect. There is no absolutely correct person. We must not fail to dare to go and exposé this, otherwise, there will not be any drama to play. Contradictions, there are contradictions between the enemy and ourselves, and contradictions among the people, without contradictions, there is not play. When little children see a play, they always ask: is this a good person or a bad person? Not having good or bad won’t do. A person always has good points and bad points. Things themselves always have good points and bad points. Saying someone is completely good, there are no people like that in the world. Not recognizing that heroes have flaws does not conform to Mao Zedong Thought and does not conform to the law of dialectics. Saying that someone is completely correct, is arrogant, and they will fall from the stage. If matters have no contradiction, they cannot advance. If humanity has no contradictions, humanity will perish. If the world does not have contradictions, the world will perish. We must use the most essential things in the most vivid way, and vividly express them, we must not talk about great truths. Party Committee secretaries don’t have flaws? Party Committees don’t have flaws? Impossible. Comrade Chen Qitong’s “Among Comrades” contains a bit where a political commissar has flaws, some people say this is good, some people say this is not good, take it out and look at it! Who says political commissioners do not make mistakes? Saying political commissioners do not make mistakes is a strange thing. This is where wordings themselves are mistaken, this is superstition. Heroic characters must not make mistakes, this is a new dogma. It isn’t that flaws can be written about, the problem is how to write about them, do we write more about the flaws or do we write more about the correct things. Concerning the issue of emotions and wisdom, saying that heroes cannot cry, is also a new dogma. For whether or not they can cry, it must be considered at what time, during arduous times, where comrades have made sacrifices, they must control emotions, it isn’t a matter of sacrificing one and letting one cry. It is as Chairman Mao said: “They get up off the ground, wipe clean the bloodstains on their bodies, bury the corpses of good comrades, and continue to struggle”. But at the time where victory is near, and comrades are sacrificed, emotions are very difficult to control. When the news that Comrade Wang Ruofei and others had been sacrificed reached Yan’an, the entire Party cried greatly. At that time, we held the old consultative conference with the Guomindang in Chongqing, in the face of the enemy, we did not bat an eyelid, but as soon as we arrived at Hongyan, we were choking back sobs. Revolutionaries do not cry in the face of the enemy. Zhuge Liang flicked a tear when he had Ma Su beheaded, this has become a famous play. This is because he employed people badly, he also had a responsibility. But for the sake of military discipline, he could not but kill Ma. Communist Party members have emotions, but emotions are governed by reason. The problem is that we must look at what time, what occasion and what counterpart. When facing deadly peril, it seems as if we can only say “Long live the Communist Party”, otherwise it would be vacillating, this sort of saying is strange. There is a play that was criticized for writing that a hero wavered when a soldier said to her husband before being sacrificed that “It would be so much better if we had a child”, this is a strange thing. I’d like to tell everyone a story: during the revolutionary period, Zong Wenyong, commander of the Red Guards in the Guangzhou Uprising, met a female comrade called Chen Tiejun, both of them fell in love, because of being busy with revolutionary work, they could not be joined in wedlock rapidly. After the defeat of the Guangzhou uprising, they did not manage to withdraw, were both arrested, and condemned to death in a Guomindang court. The both of them  felt love in the courtroom at last, and Zhou Wenyong took his scarf from his own neck, and tied it around the neck of Chen Tiejun, kissed her, and they both went to the execution ground, where they died together for their country. Writing this scene into a play is very moving. Are acts like this wavering They are not. Comrade Tian Han’s “Guan Hanqing” is written about Guan Hanqing’s hope to “not be in the same bed while alive but to be in the same grave when dead” with Zhu Lianxiu, why can this not be written like this today? Possibly, there is a new dogma! If you face death unflinchingly, can you still talk about live? It is because he faces death unflinchingly, that his love becomes the purest and noblest sentiment of love. Revolutionaries have human emotions, they are the emotions of the revolution. Why don’t we want such outstanding qualities? At that time, when I heard that news in Shanghai, I was very moved, and wanted to write it into a script, but have never done so.

V, Concerning writing about contradictions among the people

It is hard to write about contradictions among the people, this is a fact. Because there are some frames here. Contradictions between enemies and ourselves, and struggle with reactionary forces must be written about. Now, we are faced with a formidable foe, and should write about contradictions between enemies and ourselves. But, in daily life, there are many more contradictions among the people. Avoid them, and many more scripts cannot be written. If we write modern dramas, most of them are written about contradictions among the people, these cannot be avoided. Because they are contradictions among the people, saying that must not be too intensified, and saying they are small contradictions, or that there is only a spear and not a shield, that there is a contradiction but not a conflict, how can these conditions be established? If there is a spear but not a shield, what sort of drama can  there be? It is just shooting at random, firing blanks. This is fettering oneself. We must dare to write about contradictions among the people, affirm positive things and criticize mistaken things. We must write about magnificent achievements, but mistaken things must also be criticized.

The “People’s Daily” has recently also begun to report on some flaws in our work. In 1958, we also reported on some situations where mistakes had been made, such as the matter of the Meilin food factory. Now, it is as if faults are concealed for fear of criticism, and for fear of triggering bad consequences. Naturally, reports must also have a sense of propriety. Now, the market is nervous, and excessive reporting is also not good. Where we can redress flaws, what we can get done, must be reported, this has benefits, it can push work forward. Matters that cannot be done for the time being, do not have to be reported, in order to avoid overly high requirements. Since they may be reported in newspapers, they may also be written about in scripts. Writing about flaws also has benefits on one side. A few satirical plays, comedies and tragedies may be written. First and foremost are satirical plays. Tragedies may change sorrow into joy, such as “A New Lease on Life” which is tragic in the beginning and joyful at its conclusion. Satire may be used in comical dialogues. “Buying Monkeys” satirizes bureaucratism, it may be performed. Why not perform it? There may be a bit of satire. Comedies naturally must inspire the people, be joyful, and guide the people to advance. Flaws and mistakes certainly may be corrected. Today is not the old society, in the old society, there was no way out, and certainly, the outcome was tragedy; today is different, the new society naturally cannot be like this. It must also not be so that their e is satire everywhere, satire must not become the main aspect of film or drama material. The side of flaws must not cover the side of achievement. Achievement is the main matter. Writers may use different themes and genres to write scripts. But performance programmes must have a complete arrangement.

VI, Life truth, historical truth and artistic truth

Leader Chen has also talked about this issue. It is impossible for writers to be versed in all areas of history and all areas of the life of the times. A writer surely has limitations. Good writers may go and ask others for advice, everyone may help them, it is impossible for a writer to know everything about history and life, he must go and understand. Some matters are the problems of writers, some are everyone’s affair. If a writer brings high quota and the common practice of exaggeration into works, he cannot be blamed. Higher levels have requirements, newspapers have printed them. There are some matters that I did not believe at that time, but pictures were taken. Writers have written about this, how can they be blamed? The Ministry of Culture must bear this issue readily, and settle matters once and for all. In the future, we must let writers understand the real situation, and must give them opportunities, let them interview comprehensively, and let them reflect the truth. On the other hand, writers must also establish the viewpoints of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, and straighten out their worldview. Workers also have flaws, but these are created by the social system, Gorki has also written about workers’ flaws, but has pointed out that these are created by the system. The labouring people’s good side is the main thing. Our system of today is able to overcome these flaws, and this requires of writers that they raise their own levels. The level of writers of the present has been raised in comparison to the level of writers before Liberation, their powers of observation have also risen. They are thus able to write good works.

A good many writers are interested in historical themes. Matters after the Opium War, the Sino-French war and other historical themes, are a bit far away; to write about matters after the Sino-Japanese war, the 1898 Hundred Days reform or the Xinhai Revolution, one may still find some old people and interview them. However, they also will not certainly be completely correct, possibly they have subjective biases, they may have prejudices or be partial. Old people from the 1898 Hundred Days period, old people from the period of the Xinhai Revolution, old people from the research institute of culture and history, have very good anecdotes, but they may also have their own one-sided views. For the historical phase after the founding of the Party, comrades from inside the Party must be sought for a talk. But even among these revolutionary elderly, it is not so that any person’s viewpoint is consistent, and there may also be one-sidedness. First, they may only know about a little bit, and don’t know about other things; second, the things they know about may also not necessarily be completely correct. At that time, that revolutionary group in Tianjin was only an initiation organization under a patriotic movement, and was even more inferior than the Hunan New People’s Society. Some people say that this is Communism, this is utterly incorrect. Therefore, the interviewer himself must also have a level. Writers must have their own level, writers must grasp this well, they must be able to grasp the characteristics of the times, succeed in grasping historical truth, and succeed in grasping artistic truth. Therefore, even though all windows are open, and we have done away with superstition twice, writers themselves must still have self-cultivation – ideological self-cultivation and artistic self-cultivation. Only having self-cultivation in the ideological area is insufficient, there must be artistic self-cultivation. Old writers’ self-cultivation certainly is relatively high. There must be help from old writers. New writers move “People’s Daily” editorials into scripts, old writers don’t repeat one line of text. Drama must be written in artistic language. This is neither the language of “People’s Daily” editorials or strict political language, nor is it the language from daily life, but there must be a language  that is refined and becomes true stage language, or language for the silver screen. The language of Comrade Cao Yu’s scripts contains some good lines, we can recite these from memory. Lu Ma says a sentence to Zhou Ping: “I am you – the mother of the person you hit”. This is a famous line, and has been deleted by new directors. Comrade Deng Yingchao discovered that and it was only reinstated after she raised it with the director. Good lines are worth a hundred readings. Other writers also have good lines.

A new situation has arrived, now, the economic situation has already begun to improve, but there still will be a period of difficulty, perhaps there will still be some inconvenient places in the material treatment of writers, but looking from political conditions, a vivid and vigorous situation will emerge. A new situation has emerged politically, literature and art will also certainly see a new situation. This creative forum will bring gains. Today’s speeches of the two of us, are only banal remarks to spark abler thoughts, we hope you will go to Guangzhou and let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools contend, and hold the forum well.



One thought on “Speech for Drama, Opera and Children’s Theatre Writers in Beijing

    Latest updates | China Copyright and Media said:
    January 19, 2013 at 10:51 am

    […] Speech for Drama, Opera and Children’s Theatre Writers in Beijing (1962) […]

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