image004From a live performance of traditional Chinese opera excerpts to a contemporary video installation, from classic Chinese opera films to concerts that marry musical traditions from East and West, the University of Chicago is proud to present Envisioning China: A Festival of Arts and Culture, February–June 2014.  Incorporatingover 40 events and exhibitions related to Chinese culture and heritage, the majority of which are free to the public, Envisioning China is presented in venues throughout the University of Chicago.

The new festival begins in February and will open in a kick-off celebration on the evening of February 13 with a reception for the Smart Museum of Art’s Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture, an exhibition of rarely seen works from late imperial China. The festival continues through June with art, film, music, conversations and performances organized by UChicago’s Center for the Art of East Asia, Center for East Asian Studies, Court Theatre, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Department of Visual Arts, Doc Films, Film Studies Center, Oriental Institute, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and University of Chicago Presents, as well as other collaborative partners.

Envisioning China is an opportunity to magnify a selection of the incredible work on the arts and culture of China that is being done by our faculty, students and professional arts organizations,” said Lawrence Zbikowski, Associate Professor of Music and the Humanities and Deputy Provost for the Arts at the University of Chicago. “The festival offers the greater Chicago community a wealth of opportunities to engage in the cultural discourse that is taking place across campus.”

Performing Images was originally meant to be a small exhibition at the Smart,” said Judith Zeitlin, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. “However, as our ambitions expanded so too did the opportunities to invite new dialogues about China and make interdisciplinary connections through some wonderful events across campus.”

The festival also includes collaborations with Chicago-based arts organizations, including the Chinese Fine Arts Society’s first performance in its five-part concert series exploring the Chinese Five Elements.


Following are highlights of the programs and exhibitions from Envisioning China: A Festival of Arts and Culture at the University of Chicago; a complete schedule of programs, including additional offerings, will be posted online at envisioningchina.uchicago.edu.

Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture

February 13–June 15, 2014

Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 5550 South Greenwood Avenue


During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), Chinese passion for opera and theater permeated the visual and material world of everyday life. Opera was at the heart of Chinese social life, from the village to the court, and the spectacle of theater was found not only on the stage—in costumes, props, and face painting—but also across the full spectrum of Chinese visual culture, from scroll paintings to popular prints.

This one-of-a-kind exhibition focuses on the vibrant imagery of Chinese opera. The exhibition showcases how operatic characters and stories were represented in a wide array of media, including ceramics, illustrated books, painted fans, prints, photographs, scroll paintings, and textiles. Featuring approximately 80 remarkable and rarely seen objects on loan from major public institutions—the American Museum of Natural History, Asian Art Museum, Field Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts Boston, among others—the exhibition reveals how Chinese visual and performing traditions were aesthetically, ritually, and commercially intertwined.

Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture is curated by Judith Zeitlin, Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, and Yuhang Li, assistant professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin, in consultation with Richard A. Born, Smart Museum senior curator

Film Series: Chinese Opera

February 14, 7pm; March 7, 7pm; April 6, 2pm; May 3, 7pm; May 16, 7pm

Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago, 915 East 60th Street,

Film Screening Room

Free. Seating is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Audiences can explore cinematic adaptations of the epic and often scintillating stories from historic Chinese operas. This film series mixes narrative and documentary work and includes the rarely screened gem Romance of the Western Chamber (Xixiang ji) (dir. Hou Yao, China, 1927)—a silent film that will be presented with live music from a newly commissioned score by Donald Sosin.

Presented by the University of Chicago’s Film Studies Center, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and Smart Museum of Art in conjunction with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago

Note: Exact film titles and sequence in the series to be announced.

Yang Fudong: Fifth Night

February 28–March 30, 2014

Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago, 915 East 60th Street

Opening Reception: Friday, February 28, 2014, 6–8pm


Yang Fudong’s epic and otherworldly 2010 video installation Fifth Night is a beautifully complex work that tells the story of seven young people in old Shanghai simultaneously across seven screens. The exhibition is co-curated by Wu Hung, the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Art History, and Monika Szewczyk, visual arts program curator, Logan Center and is organized by Logan Center Exhibitions.

The Five Elements Project: Water

April 27, 2014, 3–4pm
Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago, 915 East 60th Street,

Performance Hall
$10 general admission, $5 students

The first of the Chinese Fine Arts Society’s (CFAS) series exploring the Chinese five elements, this concert features traditional and contemporary works by renowned composers Chen Yi, Lei Liang, Bright Sheng, and Liu Wenjin, and the World Premiere of Huang Ruo’s Phrases of the Stream for pipa and erhu. The program is curated by Qing Hou, Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist and the Chinese Fine Arts Society’s artist in residence. Concert artists will include erhu master Betti Xiang. The five elements are used in Chinese philosophy, art, and science to describe natural phenomena. Inspired by CFAS’s late founder, Barbara Tiao, who was considered by many to be “a force of nature,” this series celebrates the society’s 30th anniversary.

Shanghai Quartet

May 2, 2014, 7:30pm performance; 6:30pm pre-concert talk with Philip Gossett

Mandel Hall, The University of Chicago, 1131 East 57th Street

$35 reserved seating, $5 students

Celebrating its 30th anniversary season, the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles and is renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique, and multicultural innovations. The elegant program, presented by the University of Chicago Presents, includes Verdi’s only string quartet, written during a production delay of his opera Aida, and Zhou Long’s Song of the Chi’n.

M. Butterfly

May 8–June 8, 2014

Court Theatre, The University of Chicago, 5535 South Ellis Avenue

Ticket prices vary.

M. Butterfly is an exquisitely delicate and aggressively original play about sex, espionage, and imperialism. Skillfully intertwining the story of Puccini’s opera Madama Butterflywith an extraordinary plot inspired by true events, playwright David Henry Hwang untangles the story of René Gallimard, a meek French civil servant who meets the woman of his dreams in Song Liling, a beautiful Chinese opera diva. What Gallimard doesn’t realize—or refuses to see—is that his “modest Chinese girl” may be much more than she appears. M. Butterfly has become a postmodern classic whose exploration of the sexual politics of East and West continues to resonate today. This production is directed by Court Theatre Artistic Director Charles Newell.

Pipa Recital: Lan Weiwei

June 1, 2pm

Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 5550 South Greenwood Avenue

Free. Seating is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Enjoy a performance from virtuoso Lan Weiwei—considered one of the best pipa players in China and professor in pipa performance at the China Conservatory of Music. The pipa, a plucked Chinese string instrument, was often featured in Chinese opera accompaniment, and a rare, lavishly decorated pipa that dates from the Ming dynasty (1580–1644) is on view in the Smart Museum’s special exhibition Performing Images. The recital will bridge ancient and modern, featuring Ming dynasty and other traditional works from the pipa repertoire as well as the debut of a newly commissioned piece by composer Chen Yao (UChicago PhD’12, assistant professor in composition at Illinois State University).

About Envisioning China: A Festival of Arts and Culture

UChicago Arts presents a diverse selection of art, film, music, conversations and performances connected to the arts and cultural history of China during a five-month festival. From the magnificent art and spectacle of Chinese opera to rarely screened silent films and world premiere performances, the festival opens a window on the rich cultural heritage of China, past and present.

Envisioning China is directed by Leigh Fagin, Assistant Director of Collaborative Programming at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Professor Judith Zeitlin is the faculty director of the festival.

Visit the festival website for the latest announcements, envisioningchina.uchicago.edu and like the festival on Facebook, facebook.com/envisioningchina.

About UChicago Arts

The University of Chicago is a destination for artists, scholars and audiences to converge and create. With a strong tradition of cross-disciplinary, intellectual curiosity and creative energy, UChicago fosters a bustling arts community on Chicago’s South Side.

UChicago Arts is comprised of renowned museums, theaters and music organizations; initiatives connecting the arts with scholars and the city; academic and research programs; and more than 60 student arts organizations, forging an integrative model for practice, presentation and scholarship.

Professional and presenting organizations include the Court TheatreOriental Institute MuseumSmart Museum of Art, the Renaissance Society and University of Chicago Presents. UChicago Arts initiatives include Arts + Public Life and its Arts Incubator in Washington Park, the Arts|Science Initiative, the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.

Learn more about UChicago Arts at arts.uchicago.edu and follow UChicago Arts on Facebook facebook.com/uchicagoarts and Twitter twitter.com/uchicagoarts.