The Great Confucian Purge of the Qin Dynasty is the topic of the National Theater Company’s new period drama Fusheng.
Adapted from the historical record, Fusheng tells the story of a scholar being forced to choose between life and his Confucian beliefs during the mass executions of scholars by Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China.
Formerly acclaimed as an advanced intellectual, Fusheng is stunned by the new emperor’s cruel policy of burning Confucian books and burying Confucian scholars alive. He searches for a way to survive while preserving a copy of Shang Shu, a masterpiece recording the essence of Confucianism.
Fusheng memorizes the text expecting that he can survive the purge and live to reprint it. But he could never imagine the huge sacrifices it would take to stay alive.
When the emperor dies and the purge ends, Fusheng finds himself wondering whether his sacrifice was worthwhile.
“The spirit of Fusheng is deeply inspiring to modern people. There are things being lost today that it takes courage to preserve,” said Meng Bing, the playwright. “He never gave up trying to preserve historic records and culture. Sometimes it’s harder to live than to die.”
Fusheng uses history to express an attitude toward culture, said director Wang Xiaoying. “Culture is linked to one’s life. It takes human awareness to recognize and preserve it.”
Fusheng’s pursuit of culture lands himself in trouble, his son dead and his family ruined. His reaction after being forced to make such a critical choice embodies his force of character, Wang said.
The performances by young actors adds another highlight to the drama. Actors play slaves, Confucian scholars, ministers and even furniture and books. The use of costumes and masks on stage reveals the changing psychological states of major roles.
“You can easily sense the rhythm and music when Fusheng is making his appearance, whenever he is drunk or chanting soberly. The actor’s body language reveal the character’s personality and inner emotions, ” one of the first viewers said.
Fusheng premiered at the end of 2013.
7:30-10 pm, August 28-31
277 Guang’anmen Wai Dajie, Xicheng
80-280 yuan, students 50 yuan