Life,  Reading

Tian Han’s Adaptations of “Salome” and “The Legend of the White Snake”: Pioneering Feminist Works Bridging East and West

 Tian Han (1898-1968), who studied in Japan in the early 20th century, came into contact with various trends of thought such as socialism, capitalism, anarchism and European avant-garde in Tokyo, a prosperous metropolis. Tian Han and “Salome” became attached to each other. In 1921, Tian Han translated the masterpiece “Salome” by Oscar Wilde, the master of aestheticism. This translation is “always recognized as the best and the most widely spread”, because it completely retains the style of Oscar Wilde’s original work, faithfully The writing skills and language features of Oscar Wilde’s aestheticism in the original script are kept to the end, without any deletion or modification because of the sensual pleasure revealed in it. In 1929, as the director, Tian Han led the Nanguo Society to put the drama “Salome” on the Chinese stage. The aestheticism represented by Salome—the “beautiful posture of devotion to beauty and art unconditionally” of the decadents is exactly one of the temperaments that Tian Han appreciates. It can be seen that the aestheticism complex of “art for art’s sake” is also in Tian Han I took root in my heart.
  During the same period, Tian Han discussed the Chinese folktale “The Legend of the White Snake” with his Japanese friend Yoshitaro Migishi during the filming of “Going to the Folk”, and he said bitterly, “There are sad and beautiful stories in the sky, and the bright background is still just a piece of art without artistic purification. crude products”. Perhaps because of the desire to turn the folktale “Legend of the White Snake” into art, his drama “Legend of the White Snake” was finally formed after several revisions from 1943 to 1955.
  Both Salome and the White Snake are female figures with a long history whose images gradually change through repeated writing. The prototype of Salome’s character comes from the “Bible”. It was originally just a well-behaved character who obeyed his mother’s orders. In Wilde’s works, he was transformed into a woman who dared to love, dare to hate, aggressive and independent. The image of the white snake in Tian Han’s drama “The Legend of the White Snake” got rid of the demonic nature in previous folk tales and became more pioneering in the context of the revolutionary era through the author’s repeated plot deletions and story reshaping.

  Tian Han’s “Legend of the White Snake” was mostly performed in the form of drama (mainly Peking Opera) in the early stage. There is almost no description of appearance in the text. When the white lady and Xu Xian first met, Xu Xian said, “What a lady! When I saw the gods, I will return to heaven”, and in “Suo Fu”, the little novice said straightly, “She is so beautiful, but your girl , It’s amazing”, probably one of the few descriptions of the white snake’s appearance in the full text. Judging from the subsequent development of the story, the beauty conveyed by the white snake is mainly the beauty of the soul. A snake demon who has practiced for thousands of years gave up her practice because she yearned for the true love in the world, and became Xu Xian’s virtuous wife, curing diseases and saving people, and her husband and wife followed; Faced with Fa Hai’s repeated obstructions, she fought hard for reason, and was seriously injured at the expense of confrontation with swords and guns; in the face of Xu Xian’s hesitation, she bravely stated the reason why she chose the true love in the world, “I love you with affection and grace, I love you. I love you and always think of your mother, I love you to support yourself and not be pitied by others”; after fully recognizing Fa Hai’s true face of ignoring the principles of nature, he told Qing’er to avenge his hatred, saying bluntly, “What kindness and love can you say to a butcher”. At the end of the song, the image of a woman who is sincere, sincere and kind appears on the paper.
  It can also be seen from the article “The Woman and the Snake” that the story of the beautiful snake in Tian Han’s mind is worthy of being put on the stage or even the big screen. At the same time, the snake girl also needs a beautiful and attractive young woman to play. This shows that the concretization of the White Snake is also an important part of the character image of the Snake in the author’s mind. “This kind of snake-like love, heresy and righteousness, that is, the tragic struggle between love and reason, is used as the script, and at the same time, an unparalleled female star is acting in it. I believe that it is better than any mysterious love drama in the world. To arouse the wonderful fantasies of the viewer.”

  As a drama, the early concretization of White Snake is the Danjiao in Peking Opera, and it is Zhengdan. Zhengdan, in dramas, has quite a facial concept—beautiful, gentle, kind, innocent, everything is beyond reproach. However, the White Snake has a special form, transforming from a snake into a human being, which breaks through the stereotype of Zhengdan and combines the characteristics of Tsing Yi, Hua Dan, and Daoma Dan. The art of Chinese opera changes with the times. The flowered shirts in Danjiao created by Mr. Wang Yaoqing in the 1920s can be used to represent the role of the white snake in the drama. Through a small number of early White Snake drama (Peking Opera) styles, we can easily observe that White Snake is visualized in comparison with traditional Chinese beauties: she is dressed in white, and her accessories are mainly white; When fighting in martial arts, it shows perseverance, and the main performance is dignified and generous. It can be said that the inner spiritual beauty of the white snake is embodied in the image of Peking Opera, which is the traditional female aesthetics. Of course, there is also the consideration of whether the demonized doll can be accepted by the public. In short, according to the testable white snake drama image, the concrete white snake is beautiful and dignified, and its external beauty and spiritual beauty are unified into traditional aesthetics.

  As the character who can best express his idea of ​​”art for art’s sake” in Wilde’s most aesthetic works, Salome is stunningly beautiful on the one hand, and destroys the viewer’s aesthetic sense on the other hand. This seemingly split contradiction between two aspects is combined in Salome. Wilde described Salome’s appearance through the mouth of Herodia’s attendants and the young Syrian officer: her face is pale and melancholy, like white roses and daffodils. All eyes were on Salome. Salome is a user of beauty. In order to meet John, she would use eyes, smiles and coquettish words to seduce the young Syrian officer Nerabos; she believed that John would fall in love with her when he looked into her eyes. At first she Love John’s voice, white body, black grape-like hair, bright red lips, and then see it as a shroud, a poisonous snake; whether it is a plea to a Syrian officer, or a love for John , or the rejection of King Herod and the subsequent request for John’s head, she lightly opened her lips and repeated the will in her heart, everyone would be seduced by her, John escaped the temptation because he didn’t dare to look into her eyes, but in the end Beheaded. When the moon is as red as blood, people suddenly realize that Salome is also the destroyer of beauty. The moon in the article is like a portrayal of Salome’s spiritual world, no matter what the attendant said, “Tonight’s moon looks a bit strange, she is like a woman who has risen from the grave, like a dead woman. Maybe she is still looking for the dead”, “She moves so slowly like a dead woman”, or King Herod’s description – “The moon looks strange tonight. Doesn’t she look strange? She may be a crazy woman, a crazy woman looking for a lover everywhere. She is still naked, naked”, all pointing to the crazy not the moon but Salome, which burst out at the moment when Salome kissed John’s head Evil, terrifying, sick and contemptuous gestures all appear reasonable and beautiful under the moonlight. She destroyed the image of the weak woman trapped between the palace and various powers in the hearts of the characters in the play. She is a strong executor of her own will and a martyr of extreme love. Salome’s praise of the goddess of the moon, who has never been touched by a man, is a kind of self-comparison. It is precisely because she is full of yearning for purity that she falls in love with John who represents purity without hesitation. At the same time, the beauty of Salome lies in that in order to achieve the spiritual purity and perfection she thinks, she does not hesitate to stain blood and deprive her life. The thrilling kiss completes the purity, but it is instantly reversed into the opposite of purity.

  In April 1893, the first issue of “Studio” magazine published the famous illustration drawn by the famous British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley for “Salome”. Wilde and publisher Ryan were very impressed when they saw it. Enjoy, when the English edition of Salome was published, the illustrations were done by Beardsley. Although this version was never published, Beardsley’s illustrations have been handed down and are regarded as masterpieces because of their high degree of agreement with Wilde’s works in terms of spiritual temperament. Beardsley’s illustrations are in line with the extreme extreme of aestheticism, with sharp lines, strong black and white collisions, exaggerated and out-of-balance proportions, and the weird taste barely reveals a trace of beauty that people expect. Salome shows A mysterious, distanced and exaggerated staring posture is a strong self-expression mental outlook, the center of vision, and a proud woman that is difficult to tame. Salome is a lovely, pure and noble princess in the mouth of military officers, but Beardsley’s illustrations capture the essence of the moment of pure disillusionment, abstract the spirit of Salome and integrate it into the painting, and freeze the readers in the story The moment of lingering fear at the end of the curtain. The concretized Salome shown in the illustration is like the “woman in the moon” that everyone hates. She has a weird appearance, wearing a yellow veil, silver feet, and the moon is as red as blood. will bring misfortune…

  Whether it is the dramatic image of the white snake or the illustration of Salome, it is an intuitive and external display of the characters themselves, incorporating the author’s thoughts and intentions. The Victorian era was an era with the strictest moral requirements and even the suppression of human nature. Wilde’s play “Salome” was once criticized by officials of the British House of Commons on the grounds that it was “half religious, half pornographic”, and ultimately failed to be staged on the British stage. . The move to ban performances in the UK also illustrates the avant-garde character of Salome’s image. Although the avant-garde opposed the artistic self-discipline advocated by aestheticism, which is also one of the schools of modernism, the anti-traditional thought contained in the play—in the pursuit of love and beauty, Salome is not afraid of power and life—highlights the The strong rebellious spirit and clear self-awareness deeply awed those in power at that time, blew the vanguard clarion call of the desires deep in human nature, and publicized the free personality.
  Critics once pointed out that Tian Han’s early dramas had obvious “Salome” complex. It is obvious to all that Tian Han was obsessed with aestheticism. There are similarities between Tian Han and Wilde in personality, experience, likes and dislikes, cultivation, artistic pursuit and expression style. But in “The Legend of the White Snake”, its aestheticism has begun to fade, and what remains unchanged is its pioneering nature. Zhou Yang once said: “The success of (Tian Han’s) adaptation is concentrated in the understanding and handling of the characters. The White Snake is a beautiful and lovely character. Tian Han’s adaptation not only got rid of the irrationality of ‘Nie Yuan’, but also made the characters beautiful. The character is richer and more delicate, the warmth and patience of love, the ruthlessness and stamina of hate, concentratedly embodies “women’s invincible will to pursue freedom and happiness, and their brave spirit of self-sacrifice.”

  The concretization of the white snake is traditional, a concretization of beauty from the inside out that conforms to the public’s aesthetics. The beauty of White Snake is opposite to her identity. As a demon, she has the inner and outer beauty of a human being. The concretization of Salome is “spiritual”. The perverted love and sensuality of corpse lover after killing the beloved impacts the well-known beauty on the surface of Salome. Through Beardsley’s illustrations, readers realize The “woman in the moon” is Salome’s self-portrait in the mirror. The unknown side of Salome is hidden under her hypocritical and sinister court life. Once love bursts out, people can get a glimpse of the true face behind the clouds. The mysterious veil is abstracted into twisted and grotesque lines, extreme love is transformed into bloody “sin”, and the naked desire that cannot be revealed is presented by the painter with a sensory feast. Tian Han’s artistic transformation of the legend of the White Snake elevates the image of the White Snake to the level of sincerity, truth and kindness, but still retains a certain “Salome” plot; and he chooses to adapt it on the basis of traditional plays, while It’s not “acted by a beautiful and unparalleled female star” as mentioned in the article “The Woman and the Snake”, and it is finally expressed in the form of traditional Peking opera (opera). This behavior of returning to tradition to a certain extent can be seen This work is a transformation of Tian Han’s “art for art’s sake”, linking national politics and popular culture, making it naturally integrated into the camp of international avant-garde.
  Yang Yidan and Luo Liang, scholars from the University of Kentucky in the United States, clarified the historical and academic connotations of the definition of “pioneer” from the synchronic and diachronic perspectives in the article “International Pioneer Vision and Tian Han Research”, pointing out that avant-gardeism has been born at the same time since its birth. Political goals and visions are inseparably linked. Avant-garde figures actively participate in political movements, trying to use their own literary and artistic works to publicize their political views and demands, and expand their influence through artistic performances.
  Judging from the initial visualization of the two works of “Salome” and “Legend of the White Snake”, Wilde’s implementation is still to retain the thorough rebellious spirit of the works. Salome in Beardsley’s illustrations is beautiful, dissolute, sensual and evil , with a strong aesthetic and decadent atmosphere. Wilde also wanted to put Salome on the stage. He invited the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt to play Salome. She is a woman with fair skin, red curly hair, sweet voice and good looks An all-around actress who has already made a name for herself at a young age, with her traveling troupe touring the UK, US, Canada and Europe. Their team has even customized pearly and expensive costumes based on gold threads, pearls, gemstones, and flowers, but in the end they failed to perform in the UK due to political and religious reasons. However, Tian Han introduced “Salome” to China and successfully performed it on the stage, largely because he weakened the decadent and aesthetic side of the script, and put the image of Salome in the transition period of China. In the tide of thought, the significance of “Salome” rebelling against religion and traditional society is specially emphasized. This is similar to what Tian Han mentioned in his 1929 article “Art and the Artist’s Attitude” “My translation of “Salome” was successful in the eleventh year of the Republic of China, and it has been seven or eight years since it was performed. We also have very good John, Salome and Herodias. This script has the most obvious attitude towards rebelling against the established society.” The statement is consistent. Later, Tian Han emphasized this statement in “The Relationship between Art, Times and Politics”: “Art is a leap in art, and it is biased towards ideals; while politics advocates maintaining the status quo. Artists cannot wait, be impatient, and must resist established morality. For example, “Salome” is now recognized as a masterpiece by everyone, but it was banned in England at that time, so Wilde had to take it to France to perform it, and even wanted to be a Frenchman, which shows the characteristics of art and artists and their relationship with politics. There is a difference. Art dictates faster than politics, art precedes politics.”

 In short, Tian Han hopes to spread a new set of anti-traditional modern consciousness through artistic works that resist the established society and morality, so that modern thoughts can be deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, so as to gradually transform the old China into a modern new China. This can also explain why Tian Han, who “threatened” to completely artisticize the legend of the White Snake Girl, finally chose to rewrite the traditional script and spread it in the form of opera. Among the forms, it played a good role in the dissemination of the author’s revolutionary new ideas. Of course, “Legend of the White Snake” has been deleted and edited several times, and the performance has been forced to stop many times, which is also a manifestation of the political avant-garde of its ideological core. The aesthetic and decadent color has faded away, replaced by more links between the author and current affairs and politics. There is a compromise in it. This kind of compromise in a traditional shell is still within the scope of interpretation of international avant-gardeism. Therefore, Tian Han’s adaptation of “The Legend of the White Snake” The arrangement with the performance image is still nothing less than a pioneer expression.

error: Content is protected !!