Professor Xing Fan was recently awarded a SSHRC Insights Grant for her project, “Tracing a Hidden Path: Female Transgression in Beijing Opera, 1880–1949.”
Xing’s project revisits Beijing opera’s heyday during 1880–1949 when it transitioned from a male-dominated arena to both a forum for competition between male and female performers and a platform hosting mixed gendered collaboration. This study will recover neglected yet significant changes in Beijing opera by bringing to light the hitherto marginalized actresses. Employing gender as a critical category of analysis, it will spearhead the search for an appropriate theoretical framework within which to situate gender representation in Chinese traditional theatre. This research will reveal Beijing opera actresses’ contributions to stage art through an analysis of their artistic innovations and aesthetic pursuits. The audio and visual dimensions of their stage presence form the core of the performing art, though it is virtually unknown to the world. This study will thus bridge a methodological gap in theatre history studies which tend to focus on textual products, leaving the practitioner’s voice and body missing from the historical narrative.