China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Symphony of Time and Space: The Representation of Traditional China and Chinese Tradition in Tan Dun’s New Production of Peony Pavilion

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Cypress, New Building

In 2012, Tan Dun, a famous Chinese-American composer, brought his new production of Peony Pavilion to the “Chinese Garden” of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Astor Court. This production is a small-scale version of his production of Peony Pavilion, which is set in Zhujia jiao, a small ancient town on the outskirts of Shanghai, China. Named “Shijing yuanlin kunqu” (Kunqu Opera Set in Real Garden), Tan’s new production crosses the boundaries between the real and the virtual, creating a symphony of time and space. While traditional Kunqu Opera presents the real via the virtual, the new “Kunqu Opera Set in Real Garden” immerses the virtual in the real. The xieyi or impressionistic virtual space in traditional Kunqu Opera is replaced by “the impressionistic real” space in its modern form. By combining local Chinese elements and Western styles and fusing the Chinese lyric tradition and the Western epic tradition, Tan hopes to make Chinese tradition more modern and reflective of the current era of globalization. Tan’s case can help us deepen our reflections on current presentation of China’s image in the West by addressing certain questions: Does Chinese tradition have to be modernized or Westernized? How can China avoid being turned into a visual spectacle under Western gazes? Is such an invention of traditional China an inverted dream? Is this flowing dream of the past part of “fluid modernity”? Can it create a new form of Chinese identity or global culture? 

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