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Voices Carry


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Table of Contents

Introduction Part I: The Adventures of Prison Life Chapter 1: My First Year Behind Bars Chapter 2: The Prison at Jixian Part II: Family History and Early Education Chapter 3: The Ying Legacy Chapter 4: A Princely Childhood Part III: Professional Life in Arts and Politics Chapter 5: My Stage Career Chapter 6: Cultural Diplomacy Epilogue

About the Author

Claire Conceison collaborated with Ying Ruocheng on his autobiography until his death in 2003, and has since completed the project for him. She is Quanta Professor of Chinese Culture and Professor of Theater Arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Visit the author's website at:


This 'collaborative autobiography' reveals Ying as a complex and contradictory figure: Catholic and communist, artist and informant, actor and politician. Although Ying's insights from within the Cultural Revolution are fascinating, of equal value are both his view of the US and the echoes of the history of modern China as filtered through his personal history-not to mention his wit and warmth. This book will prove of interest far beyond theater and Asian studies. Highly recommended. * CHOICE *
A gem, not to be missed by any student of Chinese culture or politics. . . . The passages on prison are among the most detailed and vivid we have in the literature. And throughout the volume there is a refreshing bluntness. . . . Voices Carry has been a major project for Conceison, a labor of love, persistence, and understanding. She has gone to great lengths to offer context in endnotes for readers who may need them. It is hard to think of any US-PRC literary collaboration more complex and valuable than this one, or to think of a personal cultural bridge between the PRC and the West as active and influential as Ying . . . it is quite clear Ying had his faults, but I found the book totally engaging. -- Ross Terrill, author of Mao, The New Chinese Empire, and Madame Mao * Modern Chinese Literature and Culture *
Ying's vitality, ingenuity, humor, and creativity as an artist and a larger-than-life character are in full display, making the book a great joy to read. . . . Conceison should also be commended for skillfully and fluidly weaving Ying's life together in the chapters and for corroborating, supplementing, or occasionally correcting Ying's memories with historical records and/or recounts from family members in her introduction, epilogue, and thirty-five pages of endnotes. . . . Her serious scholarship is augmented by skillful writing and organization. * Theatre Journal *
A truly excellent book. It is full of information and insight into the life of a wonderfully generous and learned human being, a most unusual Chinese and man of the theatre, a man who understood the theatre both of his own country and of the West, and who had highly practical and valuable experience in both. As for the author whose job was to transmit this character to a readership, her knowledge and feeling for her subject is exemplary, as is her ability to write that kind of English that conveys his character and views sympathetically and truthfully. This is not only a lively read but also a convincing one. * Asian Theatre Journal *
A must-read for anyone interested in the performing arts. Furthermore, [celebrated Chinese actor Ying Ruocheng's] life touched on fascinating aspects of Chinese history and society seldom discussed. What happened to the Manchus after the 1911 revolution? What was it like being a Catholic in those years? How did (and perhaps does) the government collect information on foreigners? How does it treat its political prisoners? How are personnel decisions made? This book is one man's attempt to make sense of cataclysmic events. * China Review International *
For readers unfamiliar with the history of the performing arts in China, Voices Carry provides a window into modern Chinese theatre through the life story of a man integral to its development. For specialists in Chinese drama, Ying's behind-the-scenes perspective and Conceison's detailed annotations shed new light on landmark plays like Lao She's Teahouse (1957). Every reader will have the pleasure of discovering Ying through his own depiction of the key events in his remarkable life. Conceison writes fondly of her time spent with Ying: 'Each of these conversations over the course of a decade was indeed like having a fireside chat with a best friend' (xvii). While I never had the good fortune of meeting Ying Ruocheng in person, Voices Carry enables me to feel that I, too, have enjoyed such a chat. * TDR: The Drama Review *
An autobiography of a key figure in post-1949 China is a welcome addition to enrich our understanding of how theatre came to be a vital institution in modern Chinese life. Readers looking for such insights will be intrigued by this idiosyncratic autobiographical account, not least because it sheds new light on Ying Ruocheng's dual role as government informant and cultural ambassador in East-West relations. * China Quarterly *
Ying Ruocheng was an extraordinary individual, a man of integrity and creativity whose story must be more widely known. Through this brilliant collaborative telling with Claire Conceison, we understand how he inspired so many and we learn how the arts can impact world events. -- Ralph Samuelson, Asian Cultural Council
This autobiography of Ying Ruocheng offers us a rare treat: a completely new vantage point from which to view twentieth-century China. Ying was a Manchu and a Catholic, an actor and a translator, a political prisoner and a vice minister of culture, as well as being a man of subtlety and wit. Claire Conceison has done us a real service in making this unusual life available to the general reader. -- Jonathan D. Spence, Yale University; author of The Search for Modern China
Ying Ruocheng is, of course, a star in China. . . . [He] is not only a translator and actor but of necessity a kind of diplomat. . . . He has been my rock, a man of double consciousness, Eastern and Western, literary and show business. -- Arthur Miller, from "Salesman" in Beijing

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