Performing Religion: Chinese Catholic Biblical Drama in the Republican Era

Mar 8, 2016 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

John T. P. Lai (Associate Professor in Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: David Wang (
Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department, Harvard University)
Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Qing regime in 1911, a corpus of dramatic texts, chiefly rewritings of biblical stories, were published by the Catholic presses in China during the Republican era (1912-49). Some remarkable biblical tales were creatively represented in a variety of traditional Chinese opera, folk performing arts and modern spoken drama. These performative texts were periodically put on stage in Catholic churches, schools, and orphanages during the religious festivals and celebrations. This talk investigates the contexts and ways in which the biblical narratives were transformed into Chinese dramas; and the religious functions these works attempted to perform.