It’s well known that drama is an art. Yu Shizhi (于是之 Yú shìzhī ) was a famous Chinese modern drama actor and the former deputy director of the Chinese Dramatists Association. He died on Jan. 20, 2013, at the age of 86. He was a great person.
He once portrayed the character of “Wang Lifa” in the play “The Teahouse,” a timeless masterpiece by Lao She. It was this famous Chinese drama that triggered Yu’s rise to fame as a leading actor in the Beijing People’s Art Theatre, one of the most prestigious theatres in China.
Yu was born in 1927 in Tangshan, Hebei Province. His father died when he was only three months old, leaving not a penny behind for his family. Yu and his mother then had to make do by pawning their valuables and borrowing money from others. To support the family, Yu started taking on odd jobs when he was only 15. He used to be a storekeeper and a copyist, earning a very low salary. A life in poverty turned out to be the best teacher. Yu met different kinds of people from different classes of society.
Accidentally, Yu found himself in the entertainment business. He went on stage for the first time when he was 17, in a play entitled “Circus Troupe.” As his interest in drama grew stronger every day, he became more diligent in the field. Luckily, his early life experience helped a lot; he was so familiar with the life and backgrounds of his characters that he could easily portray them on the stage.
In the autumn of 1945, Yu enrolled into the Western Language Department of Peking University, but he soon dropped out and joined the Motherland Troupe.
In February 1949, Yu joined the Beijing People’s Art Theatre.
In 1951, Yu played Mao Zedong in the opera “The Long March” and he reprised the role for the play’s 1978 movie-adaptation, making him the first actor to play Mao Zedong both on stage and on screen.
In 1980, Yu toured across 25 European cities with the play “The Teahouse,” which proved so successful that it was nicknamed “a miracle of Far East Drama.”
In May of 2007, Yu was honored with the “Modern Drama Artist for Prominent Contribution” award.
Throughout his life, Yu portrayed many characters, yet most of them were ordinary people, belonging to the weaker groups at the bottom of society. His acting style has greatly influenced the Beijing People’s Art Theatre.
Yu died on Jan. 20, 2013, in Beijing, at the age of 86. A famous Chinese actor had left the stage, but his spirit never gone.