A Cultural Treasure

Liao Chiung-Chih, the Embodiment of Taiwanese Opera

Liao Chiung-Chih, the Embodiment of Taiwanese Opera

Today, Martine and I did something a little different. The Taiwan Academy had a film, presentation, and performance by the star of the Taiwanese Opera, Liao Chiung-Chih. Most of the presentation was in the Taiwanese dialect, but it didn’t matter, because I was enthralled from start to finish. Ms. Liao was phenomenal: I have never seen anyone with her extraordinary control of voice and movement. After a short film, she demonstrated several vocal singing styles, followed by a library of hand, foot, and torso gestures—and this at the age of approximately eighty.

While we did not understand a word of the language, we appreciated an artistry that goes far beyond anything that performers in the West are called upon to demonstrate. Ms. Liao kept me on the edge of my seat for two hours. There was a translator with a microphone, but still many sentences got lost. It almost didn’t matter, however, because the actress’s talent was so apparent that it almost obviated the need for translation.

At the end, of her presentation, Two performers from the Taiwan Opera, Chang Meng-I (below right) and Hwang Yea-Rong (below left), acted a sequence from one of the most famous operas in the genre, The Butterfly Lover. Based on a folktale some 1,600 years old, the opera can be traced to the Jin Dynasty. It has become the Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet, with their star-crossed lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai.

Two Taiwanese Opera Performers Dressed for a Scene from The Butterfly Lover

Two Taiwanese Opera Performers Dressed for a Scene from The Butterfly Lover

Originally, I thought I was going to have to work on taxes today, but I got a last-minute reprieve. So we took the bus to the main branch of the Los Angeles Library downtown, where the performance was held in the Mark Taper Auditorium. Sponsoring the event was the Taiwan Academy, which has opened a branch in Los Angeles.

Below is a photo of Liao Chiung-Chih made up as a character in the Taiwan Opera:

This Woman Is Eighty Years Old?

This Woman Is Eighty Years Old?

A Frugal Chariot

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Here is one of Emily Dickinson’s simpler poems—but no less powerful for all that. It is called “A Book”:

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

At a time when poetry is being pushed aside by the young in favor of video games and other more spurious entertainments, it is good to see a simple statement of why it should not be so.

There are few things one can read that can so work the mind and enliven the spirit as a powerful poem, such as those of Emily Dickinson. Usually, they are complex arrangements of relatively few words. Fortunately, there is a reward for making the effort, a reward in the form of greater understanding.