About this Recording
82029 - GONG: Shajiabang (Orchestral Highlights)

Revolutionary Operas and Ballets

In a letter of 9th January, 1944, to the pingju (Ping Opera) theatre at Yan'an, the political capital of the Chinese Communist Party before the Revolution, Mao Zedong mentioned the importance of reversing the trend of traditional Chinese operas, where, for obvious reasons, there was little room for the lower ranks of society. This attitude epitomized the philosophy of the Chinese Communist Party towards stage art, manifested in particular during the period of the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976. During this period, Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing, a former actress from Shanghai who had become heavily involved in politics, chose six revolutionary Peking operas and two ballets to serve as yangban (models) for the three thousand performing stage groups of the country. The six revolutionary operas are: Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, The Red Lantern, Shajiabang, Attacking the White Tiger Society, Harbour and The Cuckoo Mountain, while the two revolutionary ballets are The White-haired Girl and The Red Detachment of Women. These were considered models for the Chinese stage, proletarian revolution and the three elements of the Cultural Revolution, struggle, criticism and rehabilitation. Works in the same style soon appeared. These included In Praise of the Yimeng and In Praise of the Longjiang. An additional motive in their creation was also the possible elimination of political rivals connected with the Party Secretary of Beijing city, including Zhou Vang, Qi Vanming, Xia Van, Lin Mohan, Tian Han and Zhang Geng, who were labelled 'anti-revolutionary', because of their support for traditional Peking opera.

It was the desire of Jiang Qing to produce Peking operas that might have the desired effect in as short a time as possible, and this inevitably involved large teams of script-writers, musicians and artists. Jiang Qing's advice was to attempt first works on a smaller scale and later expand them to larger forms. She also saw the possibility of borrowing material from existing operas and pointed out that singing and acting styles ought to be in accordance with those of traditional Peking opera, with no concession to the individuality of the performer, no matter how famous. One element she realised must be overcome, namely the portrayal of the villain, who may often appeal to the public through a display of martial arts and in exaggerated stage make-up. She praised in particular the Shanghai Peking Opera Company in its revision of Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, in which scenes involving the villain were cut in order to stress the qualities of the good characters.

It has been said that the Cultural Revolution began with the revolution in Peking opera. The Red Lantern played a significant part in the opening phase of the movement, praised officially by the authorities as 'a high quality modern Peking opera' after its first performance in Beijing in 1964 and subsequent revised performances in Shanghai and Guangdong in the following year, after which it was taken as a model for all varieties of regional Chinese operas. It was the most frequently performed of all these works between 1964 and 1966.

Lam Ching Wah


The opera Shajiabang is set in the period of the War of Resistance against Japan. The town of Shajiabang served as the headquarters of the resistance. A group from the New Fourth Army had been fighting the enemy and had withdrawn from the Changsu area, leaving behind eighteen of their wounded. Responsible for their care was A Qing, a secret worker for the Party, while wounded were sheltered by the people of Shajiabang, with whom they had formed a very deep relationship. The Japanese invaders, however, were engaged in mopping-up operations, while Hu Chuanki and Diao Deyi, leaders of the so-called Loyal Patriotic Army, a reactionary organization, collaborated with the Japanese, taking orders from the Japanese Kuroda and doing their utmost to find the wounded men.

The political instructor Guo Jianguang led his wounded comrades to hide in the reeds of the marsh-land. Cut off from the outside world and without food or medicines, they faithfully followed the teaching of Chairman Mao, analyzing the situation of the enemy, resolving to banish all difficulties, keeping active, but waiting for a command, unmoved as a pine-tree in the storm. A Qing disguised her position by running a tea-house, exploiting the weaknesses of the enemy and in particular differences between Hu Chuanki and Diao Deyi.

Under the guidance of the Party and with the help of the base unit and the people, she overcame all difficulties and succeeded finally in transferring all the wounded. Once these men were out of danger, Hu Chuanki and Diao Deyi were furious and interrogated old Granny Sha and other revolutionaries from among the people in front of A Qing, attempting to destroy the Party organization in Shajiabang. A Qing and Granny Sha worked together to conceal Party activity, the latter abusing the enemy bitterly. At the same time the former took the opportunity of learning about the enemy dispositions.

A major force from the new Fourth Army, joined by the med now recovered, returned and marched East, forming a shock-troop and driving directly towards Shajiabang, where they captured the Japanese Kurodu and the traitors Hu Chuanki and Diao Deyi. The sun rose in the East: the red flag flew and Shajiabang was once again in the hands of the people.


[I] Prelude
The New Fourth Army fought heroically in the front line against the Japanese, outflanking the enemy in the Jiangnan area.

[2] The Communist Party is like the sun in the sky.
Granny Sha was filled with hatred and could not restrain herself from complaining tearfully to her relations about the bitterness of her life. It was the Communist Party which had rescued them from suffering and allowed them to see the sky. The Communist Party is like the sun in the sky.

[3] We will not give up an inch of the good mountain and river of the fatherland.
The rosy clouds of dawn are reflected on the Yang Cheng Lake. The reed catkins blossom, seedlings grow and the willows by the river-bank stand in rows. The beautiful picture of the Jiangnan fishing-village, with its rice-fields, is created by the labour of the people. We will not give up an inch of the good mountain and river of the fatherland. Will anyone allow the Japanese bandits to flourish?

[4] You treat comrades as your own family.
You treat comrades as your own family, carefully looking after them. We will wait for the recovery of our wounded comrades and then ride fast through Jiangnan to kill the enemy. When the clouds part and the sunrise is seen, every family will fly the red flag. Then I will come again to visit you, Granny.

[5] Thinking of the past. And Is their name Jiang or Wang?
Thinking of the past, when my team had just started, there were only about a dozen of us, with seven or eight guns. When the Japanese army pursued me until I was faint with fatigue, A Qing sent the soldiers away and saved me.

This is an unusual woman. Whenever Diao Deyi has any evil ideas, he does not show it. This grass, nevertheless, is a wall against the storm. This woman's attitude is neither modest nor arrogant, her face shows neither brightness nor darkness. What is Diao Deyi doing? Is their surname Jiang or Wang?

[6] Flying far and high, so that they cannot be found.
Commander, why do you need to know the details? This place has harboured soldiers of the Fourth Army before. When they hear the command to fall in, they will set off bravely. The wounded soldiers too have gone, flying far and high so that they cannot be found.

[7] Lure the enemy to fire.
Diao Deyi, bandit and rogue, is vicious as a viper and savage as a wolf. Whenever the oars of the fishing-boats move, disasters come suddenly upon us. If there is ever a shot heard in the town, warning shots will be fired and the reeds will move. One must be cool and avoid panic. The sound of the wind and the cry of the cranes lure the enemy on to fire.

[8] Chairman Mao and the Central Party show the way to go.
Hearing several shots on the opposite bank and seeing the reeds move, I cannot help feeling an upsurge of emotion in my heart, like the Chiangjiang River. Why has A Qing not come? Something must have happened. I must prevent any spread of anxiety or impatience and encourage the men, learning the true situation, observing the situation of the enemy, waiting for orders and standing firm, with our guns held tightly in our hands. Chairman Mao and the Central Party show the way to go, giving us heart to fight again another day.


[9] Looking forward to the triumphant return of the scouts.
Two of you, disguised, row to the opposite bank and return at once, when you know the disposition of the enemy. Our comrades have their trust and hope in you, and now wait for the triumphant return of the scouts.

[10] Learn to be that green pine on the top of Mount Taisan.
Learn to be that green pine on the top of Mount Taisan, standing erect and braving the heavens. Lofty virtue is praised by everyone. We, the eighteen wounded men, will stand as eighteen green pine-trees.

[11] Intermezzo -I will conquer the strong enemy and overcome all difficulties.
The wind sounds and rain is in the air, with lowering sky and dark clouds. I cannot help feeling uneasy, whether sitting or standing. Our dear friends lack food and medicine and are cut off. In the reed-marshes how can anyone stand the vigorous waves and flood-water. How can I face this danger and difficulty without doing anything, letting down the Party that has cared for me over so many years. Chairman Mao, with your guidance and the wisdom of the people, I will conquer the strong army and overcome all difficulties.

[12] The illness is not serious. Do not worry.
The illness is not serious, do not worry. When the heart is calm, worries will go. In the family, there is someone taking care from the heart... a dose of herbs will ensure good health.

[13] Make use of an excuse so that I can go into the tigers' den to see what they are up to.
The New Fourth Army is returning and marching East. Shajiabang will see the light again. I make use of an excuse to go into the tigers' den to see what they are up to ... to congratulate the Commander on his marriage.

[14] Shajiabang will be liberated one day.
On 13th August the Japanese fought in Shanghai, the soil of Jiangnan was laid waste, burned and scorched by the flames. The New Fourth Army Communist Party came and fought against the enemy and the people could then see the sunlight. You called yourselves the Patiotic National Army. Why did you not shoot even once when you saw the Japanese invaders? Shajiabang will be liberated one day. Let us see what sort of an end you traitors and running dogs will come to.

[15] The army makes a sudden rapid attack on Shajiabang.
The shock-troop is formed and sets off for Shajiabang at double speed. They make a sudden rapid attack on Shajiabang. Seeing the town from the distance, we know we will destroy the bandits den and the chief and his minions will be caught. The sun rose in the East: the red flags flew and Shajiabang was once again in the hands of the people.

Shanghai Ballet Orchestra
The Shanghai Ballet Orchestra was established in 1958, drawing on former students of major Chinese conservatories to form an ensemble of sixty players. In the 1960s the orchestra, under well known conductors such as Fan Chengwu and Chen Xieyang, performed popular revolutionary ballets and stage-works such as The White-haired Girl, The Red Detachment of Women and The Thunderstorm. More recent performances have included Swan Lake and Don Quixote. The orchestra gives regular concerts of Western classical repertoire under its own conductors and under the direction of distinguished guest conductors. For the purposes of the present recording the orchestra has been augmented from other Shanghai orchestras and includes some eighty players.

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