The young Monkey King at the China National Peking Opera Company


The Mei Lanfang Theater was almost full during the Spring Festival holiday, the audience watched the stage attentively. As the sound of drums and gongs intensified, the drama’s protagonist, the Monkey King, entered the stage surrounded by a group of small monkeys.

“Tumult in Paradise” is the opening performance of the National Peking Opera Company for the Year of the Tiger. Adapted from previous episodes of the 16th century Chinese novel “Journey to the West”, the famous repertoire of traditional Peking opera shows the audience the story of Sun Wukong, known as the Monkey King, who rebels against the Jade Emperor of Heaven.

It may be hard for audiences to imagine that the actor who vividly portrays the cunning, villainy, greed, bravery, fearlessness and a bit of arrogance of Monkey King on stage, is a young man. calm and somewhat shy born after the 90s.

Zhu Lingyu, the actor who played this important and beloved role, received a lot of applause during his performance. While the bouquet at the curtain call is an affirmation for all actors, Zhu has also received more romantic affirmations from young fans, which are normally naïve questions such as: Can you teach me how to do all 72 transformations? (72 transformations is one of the Monkey King’s magic powers.)

A small fan watching Zhu Lingyu put on makeup backstage. April 27, 2022. /CGTN

A small fan watching Zhu Lingyu put on makeup backstage. April 27, 2022. /CGTN

Neither from a Peking Opera family, nor particularly gifted. This is his first self-assessment in his interview with CGTN. Zhu attributes today’s success to good teachers, good platforms, and most importantly, his daily efforts since entering the profession. In his eyes, there is nothing special about him except his willingness to endure hardship.

“I had a really good relationship with the doorman, who was like, ‘Keep practicing, just close the door when you leave.’ Then I repeatedly practiced every move and skill taught by the teacher, every performance of inner activity,” Zhu recalled of his day practicing alone late at night at the National Academy of Theater Arts. Chinese.

Despite Zhu’s success on stage, he admitted that the Monkey King was a very difficult role. The high demands of the teacher made him doubt his own abilities for some time. But just like the Monkey King in the play, “The indomitable spirit is also what Peking Opera actors should have,” he says.

Zhu Lingyu as the Monkey King on stage at the Mei Lanfang Theater on February 6, 2022. /from Zhu’s photo album

Zhu Lingyu as the Monkey King on stage at the Mei Lanfang Theater on February 6, 2022. /from Zhu’s photo album

His efforts paid off. “I didn’t expect the audience to applaud so enthusiastically during the curtain call of ‘Tumult in Heaven,'” Zhu recalled, adding, “This is the highest reward for our actors. Peking Opera and the most rewarding moment for us”.

As a Peking opera actor after the 90s, Zhu also has his own vision of spreading this traditional art.

On his Douyin (Chinese version TikTok) account, Zhu focuses more on behind the scenes to show everyone what’s going on there.

“I will show how I make up, how I wear costumes, headwear and how I hold accessories, which the public usually cannot see. There is a post with more than 3.4 million views and 30,000 likes. Those who have seen Peking Opera before and those who haven’t all said they’ve never seen what backstage was like,” Zhu said.

Talking about Peking Opera facing the impact of a hectic culture, he has the confidence of a down-to-earth person. “Now we play snippets of our snippets, just half-hour or 40-minute pieces, to extract the essence of a big piece, and that effect is also very good. As long as the performance is good , I believe there has to be the audience watching, so we can only start with ourselves, improve, and then adapt and fit in to this time.”

(Best Image Creator: Du Chenxin)

About Madeline J. Carter

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