Cao Yu and His Trilogy

If modern Chinese drama has come of age in the 1930s, then Cao Yu and his dramatic trilogy of Thunderstorm Sunrise and The Wilderness are a hallmark of this maturity. Rich in implications and excellent in techniques, these dramatic works are regarded as the classics of modern Chinese drama.

Cao Yu (1910-1996) is a renowned modern Chinese dramatist who is regarded as "the Shakespeare of China". His original name was Wan Jiabao alias Xiaoshi and he was born into a declining bureaucrat family in Tianjin. His ancestral home was Qianjiang Country, Hubei Province.(Fig.3-7)

His father once served as President Li Yuanhong's secretary. Later he lost his job and stayed at home, depressed with no opportunity to achieve his ambitions. Cao Yu's mother died when he was young. As he grew up in a depressing environment, he developed an introverted and melancholy character Being a theater fan, he went to the theater with his mother at the age of 3. In 1922, he was enrolled by Nankai School and participated in "the Nankai New Drama Troupe." Director Zhang Pengchun liked him very much. He displayed his talent in performance and was well-known for some roles he played such as Nara. In childhood, he liked to write sentimental and sweet poems. In 1928, he was matriculated by the Department of Political Science of Nankai University and then was transferred to the Department of Western Literature of Tsinghua University in the following year During his studies in the universities, he continued dramatic performance and read a lot of Chinese and foreign dramatic works. Just before graduation in 1933 when he was only 23 years old, he, finished his virgin play Thunderstorm to be followed up by Sunrise (1936) and The Wilderness (1937). Like three monuments in Chinese theater, the trilogy secured his fundamental position in the history of modern Chinese drama, especially modern Chinese dramatic literature.

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