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From Imperial Concubine to Model Maoist: The Photographic Metamorphosis of Mei Lanfang

  • SUK-YOUNG KIM

Abstract

This article traces the transnational career of the celebrated Beijing opera female impersonator Mei Lanfang (1894–1961) through photographic documentation of the performer. A wide spectrum of Mei's photos is analysed, which captures him both onstage and offstage. The timeline of these photos ranges from those produced during the Republican period (1911–49) to those produced in the People's Republic of China (PRC) (1949–) and includes media coverage from the US (1920s) and the USSR (1930s). This article raises questions about how nationalism, transnationalism and female impersonator's gender identity are represented in ever-transforming modes.

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The essay on which this article is based was awarded the FIRT New Scholar's Prize in 2004.

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From Imperial Concubine to Model Maoist: The Photographic Metamorphosis of Mei Lanfang

  • SUK-YOUNG KIM

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