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Refined Beauty, New Woman, Dynamic Heroine or Fighter for the Nation? Perceptions of China in the Programme Selection for Mei Lanfang's Performances in Japan (1919), the United States (1930) and the Soviet Union (1935)

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

One of the seminal cultural transformations in twentieth-century China was the rise of the female impersonator, the dan actor, to national stardom, with Mei Lanfang (1894–1961) as the most famous example (see Figure I). In the short span of 20 years, this figure, once strongly associated with being the 'male flower' and the 'call-boy' of elite men, became the representative and high point of Chinese cultural achievements. The three visits Mei Lanfang made to Japan in 1919, the United States in 1930 and the Soviet Union in 1935 helped establish the image of cultural China through the art of the female impersonator.

Affiliations: 1: Boston University


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