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宝刀未老—95岁老戏骨秦怡的传奇人生 - 2017年04月07日

At 95, actress Qin Yi still in the spotlight

STANDING by a grand piano, 95-year-old actress Qin Yi recited “Lu Ma’s Monologue” from Chinese dramatist Cao Yu’s famous work “Thunderstorm” in front of an audience at the Equatorial Theater in Hotel Equatorial Shanghai.

The recital was part of a celebration of Qin’s 70-year career in the limelight, which dates back to her first major film role in “Far Away Love” in 1947.

Qin stopped in the middle of her speech to find her lines, and waited for an explosion of feelings to come from the music of Chen Gang, who especially composed a piano piece for her recitation.

Cao’s “Thunderstorm” is one of the most popular Chinese dramatic works during the War of Resistence Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45). It deals with the disastrous effects of traditionalism and hypocrisy within the wealthy, modern, somewhat Westernized Zhou family.

A film adaptation of the play was first screened in 1984, and Qin earned praise from Cao for her performance in the role of Lu Ma. A piano recitation of “Lu Ma’s Monologue” was also created in the same year for a charity event, and immediately became a classic in its own right.

Over the past 30 years, Qin’s “Lu Ma’s Monologue” with Chen’s piano accompaniment has been staged across the world, from a coal mine theater in north China’s Shanxi Province to theaters in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

Qin was born into a large family in 1922 in Shanghai. After the Japanese occupied the city, Qin, then serving as a Red Cross volunteer, followed an army regiment to Chongqing, where she joined the China Film Studio as an actress.

She played revolutionary characters, calling upon the people to rise up against foreign invasion. In the 1940s, she won fame for her roles in Dumas’ play “La Dame aux Camelias,” and was honored as one of the top four actresses in China. Despite her lack of formal education in acting, she was diligent and scrupulous in every performance.

After 1949, Qin was appointed deputy head of the Actors’ Theater Troupe at the newly established Shanghai Film Studio. She played leading roles in many films including “Railway Guerrillas,” “Woman Basketballer No. 5,” “Lin Zexu,” “Song of the Youth” and “Loyal Overseas Chinese,” as well as supporting roles in many others.

She remained one of the most popular film actresses in China throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and late Premier Zhou Enlai once called her “the most beautiful woman in China.”

In an acting career that spanned decades, Qin made a deep impression on audiences at home and abroad, starring in 35 movies, more than 30 stage operas and eight TV series. She is now the chairwoman of the Shanghai Film and Television Company.

Her personal life, however, has not been without its share of pain and suffering. She married twice and had a son who was schizophrenic. In 1993, at age 71, she starred in a movie called “Meng Fei Meng” (“Dream until Your Dreams Come True”). In the film, Qin played a soprano who has a daughter with mental illness.

Qin spent decades caring for her son until he died in 2007 at the age of 59. She has been involved in charity work for children with autism in China.

In 2008, she donated 200,000 yuan (US$29,000) to the victims of the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province, which killed nearly 70,000 people and displaced millions in May that year.

“This might be payback to society for my celebrity. I have been an actress for 70 years and I keep asking myself if I could do better to give back the love the audience has given to me,” Qin tells Shanghai Daily.

Now in her 90s, Qin continues to look for ways to contribute to society through the art of performance.

Like an actress in search of a character, she wrote a film script “Qinghai Hu Pan” (“The Beautiful Kokonor Lake”) in which she plays a meteorological engineer who spends years carrying out research on the Qinghai Plateau.

Qin says the character came from a news report she heard of 30 years ago, involving the wife of a scientist from Australia who was killed in a road accident near a base station in Qinghai where her husband worked. The pair were about to return to their home in Sydney. The husband declined an offer to transport his wife’s body back to Australia, and instead buried her in a local cemetery and donated the compensation money to the establishment of first-aid stations along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway which passes major towns that have easy access to the highway.

Having visited the memorial park in Qinghai devoted to the scientist’s wife, Qin says she was so inspired that she wanted to make a movie about them.

Years later when she happened to be in Sydney, she paid a visit to the scientist to learn more about the details of their life in China for her script.

“He choked and buried his face in both hands at the mentioning of his wife during the interview,” Qin recalls. “I knew I shouldn’t carry on and backed out at that time. But in a letter he wrote to me the next year, he shared with me all his emotions. And he said he even dreamed of his wife hugging him on the train when he went back to Qinghai for a tomb sweeping.”

“It’s not that I want to break a record of being the oldest actress ever starring in a film,” Qin says, “I am just glad I can play someone I have always admired for their courage and selflessness in fulfilling their duties in life. I want the audience to be moved as well.”

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