You are here

Behind Bars and Backstage in China: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ying Ruocheng

The Renwen Society at China Institute presents a lecture by Prof. Claire Conceison of Duke University on the extraordinary life and legacy of Ying Ruocheng on Saturday, December 4, 2010, 2:30-4:30 pm.

December 4, 2010 12:00am

Ying Ruocheng 英若诚 (1929-2003) was one of China’s most prominent citizens of the 20th century. Famous for his acting in Bertolucci’s films The Last Emperor and Little Buddha, and for his role as Kublai Khan in the NBC television miniseries Marco Polo, Mr. Ying also played renowned stage characters Liu Mazi 刘麻子in Teahouse 茶馆and Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman 推销员之死. It was Ying who translated Arthur Miller’s play and brought Miller to Beijing in 1983 to direct the famous production. Ying Ruocheng also translated many classic plays between English and Chinese, from Ba Jin’s Family to Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. And he directed important productions such as Amadeus and Major Barbara.

Ying was imprisoned for spying during the Cultural Revolution and was appointed Vice Minister of Culture from 1986-1990, serving in that post during the tumultuous events in Beijing of spring 1989.  He was known as China’s “cultural ambassador” 文化大使 for his contributions to cultural exchange between China and the West.

Ying Ruocheng was born into a unique Manchu Catholic family and spent his childhood living in a prince’s palace 庆王府. He was the grandson of Ying Lianzhi 英敛之 (founder of Dagongbao newspaper 大公报 and Furen University 辅仁大学) and the son of Ying Qianli英千里 (famous educator and scholar in Taiwan), and he was the father of contemporary mainland China celebrity actor and television personality Ying Da 英达.

Claire Conceison collaborated with Ying Ruocheng on his autobiography until his death in 2003, and completed the project for him afterwards. The result is their book Voices Carry: Behind Bars and Backstage during China’s Revolution and Reform. Professor Conceison’s presentation at the China Institute includes photographs and documents from Ying Ruocheng’s life and career, and will be in English with Q&A following in both English and Chinese.

Claire Conceison 康开丽 is Professor of Theatre Studies at Duke University, where she is also on the faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies. She has conducted research in China’s theatre community since 1990 and is an active translator and director of contemporary Chinese plays in English. Her current project is on the French-language plays of 2000 Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian.

Advance registration and payment are requested. To register online, please fill out the following form. To make payment online, please click the following button. 

For inquiries, please call (646) 912-8861 or email

Free for Renwen members and $5 for non-members
Phone Number: 
(646) 912-8861