A Chinese Culture Vulture

Nicholas Quirke was certainly having a week feasting on Chinese culture and on 24 June 2021, having already gorged himself at the Palace Museum and been to the cinema twice he was now going to the theatre to see ‘White Deer Plain’, 白鹿原; based on the prize winning novel of the same name by Chen Zhongshi. The tickets had actually been purchased some time in March and he had never genuinely thought he would get to see it. But the day had arrived and he would be now spending an evening in pursuit of one of his most treasured pastimes. But it was a long hot day to get through before he was able to enjoy the treat. His usual ‘cleaning day’ had been eschewed the day before in favour of going to the cinema and this meant the morning was full on chores. Dusting, vacuuming, mopping and then ironing. The only relief for him was as he smoothed out the creases in shirts and shorts he was able to watch the final episode of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ which, had been waiting for him to resolve for some weeks. He had enjoyed this stylish drama immensely though it had taken a long time to get to its fully expected finale in Moscow. Despite the sun being shrouded by grey cloud the temperature was again over 30 degrees and humid. It didn’t stop him from cycling to the bookstore in Dongsi for afternoon tea before his class with Harry and Willis. To his surprise the store was full and he had some difficulty finding a table to sit at where he could work on his blog. He spotted an older woman pushing in a chair and hoped she was leaving he tried to signal but realised that she was only getting up to get a refill. He ordered his tea and found a seat in the nether regions of the bookshop. he worked away at his blog till he was joined by the woman who he had thought was vacating her table. It transpired that she was Huan an American Chinese from San Francisco who had come to celebrate New Year with her parents in 2020 and like him had stayed on. They had a good conversation about theatre and agreed to try and meet up again before she retuned to the USA and her husband the following week. The lesson with Willis and Harry passed as expected and as soon as it was over he got on a bike and cycled in intermittent rain the 7km to Tianqiao and its arts centre. He was fully conversant with the plot of the film and even though it was in Chinese he was able to follow some of the story. To his annoyance though the film focuses primarily on Bai Juaxian, his son Xiaowen and Hei Wa up to the point of the war with Japan and many of the other characters in the novel are not mentioned which, meant that he was in the dark about some of the sub plots that were weaving through the epic 3 hour performance. The story spanned over 30 years and along with some fine comic moments the drama including whippings and hangings, adultery and incest was thrilling and felt momentous. The curtain call was as epic an event as the stage and it was the first time that he had been in a theatre where the cast did not actually leave the stage but as a scrim dropped they were silhouetted as the audience left the theatre. It was past midnight by the time they got home and after a quick show he retorted for a well earned nights sleep.

Leave a Reply