In 1933, Shih-I Hsiung (1902-1991), a student from China, met with Allardyce Nicoll, a Shakespearean scholar at the University of London, to discuss his PhD study in English drama. After learning about Hsiung's interest and background, Nicoll suggested that he should consider studying Chinese drama for his dissertation and writing a play of a Chinese subject. Hsiung took the advice to heart and set out to write Lady Precious Stream, a play based on a classical Beijing opera. In six weeks, the writing was completed; six months later, the manuscript was accepted for publication by Methuen; and not long after, Little Theater in London agreed to produce the play, which ran for 900 successive shows. The phenomenal success turned Hsiung into stardom all at once: he became the first Chinese to write and direct a West End play in England; in 1936, the play had its Broadway premiere and subsequent performances in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and other U.S. cities; and it has been produced and staged in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia ever since. Following the success of Lady Precious Stream, Hsiung translated into English the Chinese classic The Romance of the Western Chamber; in addition, he wrote a number of plays, novels, and essays, in both English and Chinese, as well as the biography The Life of Chiang Kai-shek. Shih-I Hsiung: A Glorious Showman unfolds the transnational and transcultural life experience of an extraordinary showman: a literary master, a theater man, and a social actor bold and impassioned on socio-cultural stages. Hsiung introduced English and American literature to readers in China through his translation works in the 1920s and early 1930s. After his arrival in England, he began writing in English for audiences not familiar with the Chinese culture. His works were known for their originality, humor, and a deep sense of cultural and historical engagement. Later in his life when he was residing in Hong Kong, he was devoted to education and was also active in Chinese literary and theater circles.
About the Author
Da Zheng is professor of English at Suffolk University.