Cao Yu Centenary in Britain

When:  21 - 26 March 2011
Where:  (multiple venues - see below for details)
Event type:  Exhibition

Photographic Exhibition: Parkinson Court South, University of Leeds  21-26 March 2011

Devised stage work 'The Sun Is Not For Us' Alec Clegg Theatre, Stage(at)Leeds  8pm 21 March;  7.30 pm 22-23 March 2011

Cao Yu – the foremost figure in the development of modern drama in China – is the subject of new exhibition being held in the University of Leeds' Parkinson Court from 21-26 March. A devised stage work The Sun Is Not for Us, based on the female characters of Cao Yu's four plays will be performed in the Alec Clegg Theatre at 21-23 March (£8.50; £6.50 concession)

Born in 1910, Cao Yu lived through many of the great upheavals experienced in 20th century China and the exhibition presents his life and works as a way of giving audiences a more profound understanding of China's recent history and its culture.

Modern drama in China is known as 'spoken drama' to distinguish it from the traditional Chinese song-dance theatre. Often compared to Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov and O'Neill, Cao Yu is credited with aiding this non-indigenous type of drama reach a degree of maturity in both form and audience reception in the mid-1930s. His early plays gained canonical status due to their artistry and skilful fusion of contemporary political and social themes. His powerful portrayal of people and exploration of human complexity still touch the hearts of twenty-first-century audiences.

'Although crowned with glory in public, Cao Yu remained deeply troubled by inner torment, particularly by his inability to write more plays in his later years,' says Dr Ruru Li, Cao Yu's step-daughter and curator of the exhibition. 'His life and career exemplify the dilemmas and difficulties faced by generations of Chinese intellectuals in the 20th century, offering us a vivid narrative of modern China.'

Although Cao Yu died in 1996, he continues to influence Chinese drama. Jude Kelly OBE, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, said of Cao Yu: 'Anyone involved or interested in theatre will be fascinated by his life and career and how he navigated the twists and turns of the Chinese political regimes and, in particular, the communist ideology and Cultural Revolution. His writing has influenced two generations of young Chinese artists and been the catalyst for the burgeoning state run theatre industry in Beijing, Shanghai and other cites.

Formal opening of the exhibition:  5.30pm Monday 21 March: by invitation only.

For further details please contact Dr Ruru Li, senior lecturer in East Asian Studies at the University of Leeds on 0113 343 3469 or email

Tickets for the performances of The Sun Is Not For Us can be obtained from the box office at stage@leeds.

An Introduction to Cao Yu