Representations of History in Chinese Film and Television


Actor Li Moran
(starring as Deng Shichang)

Li Moran 李默然 (*1927) is commonly identified with his role as Deng Daren 邓大人 (Mr. Deng, i.e. Deng Shichang) in the film “Jiawu Fengyun” 甲午风云 (The Navel Battle of 1894), due to this being his most well-known role and to the film’s great popularity since the 1960s. Li, original name Li Shaocheng 李少成 and born in 1927 in Manchuria, is one of the most famous actors in China. Even though being an octogenarian, he is still popular with the Chinese audience. He has acted in many theatre plays and several films, most notably, of course, in “Jiawu Fengyun”.

His theatre roles include:
  • “Danjianpian” 胆剑篇 (The Revenge) as Wu wang Fuchai 吴王夫差 (King Fuchai of Wu)
  • “Richu “ 日出 (Sunrise) as Li Shiqing 李石清
  • “Di’erge Chuntian” 第二个春天 (The Second Spring) as Feng Tao 冯涛
  • „Shiwei Shuji” 市委书记 (The Secretary Of The Municipal Party Committee) as Secretary Chen Ming 陈明
  • „Zhiqu Weihushan” 智取威虎山" (Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy) as Yang Zirong 样子荣
  • „Baochunhua” "报春花" (Fairy Spring Rose) as the Party Secretary

Because of his success as an actor, Li Moran was received by Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, Chen Yi and other members of the elder leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. After the Cultural Revolution he again starred mostly in theatre plays, including Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, but also acted in some TV dramas and a couple of films. His main activity, though, was shifted rather to bureaucratic functions then, being a member of several political or artistic committees. He, being a dedicated party member, held several important positions, including:

  • member of “Quanguo Qunyinghui” 全国群英会 (Chinese Association of Heroes of the Masses)
  • member of “Quanguo Zhengxie” 全国政协 (National Political Consultative Conference)
  • vice-president of “Zhongguo Xijujia Xiehui” 中国戏剧家协会 (Chinese Association of Dramatists)
  • president of “Liaoningsheng Juxie” 辽宁省剧协 (Drama Association of Liaoning Province)
  • president of “Liaoningsheng Yishu Juyuan” 辽宁省艺术剧院 (Artistic Drama Association of Liaoning Province)

At the 100th anniversary of the First Sino-Japanese War, he reviewed his most prominent role as Deng Shichang, stating that even though (or just because) films in the 1960s were much rarer than now, they stuck much more with the audience. He still identified with his role as Deng Shichang saying that even though the war was lost, figures as Deng underlined the “correct” message of the Qing court’s being responsible for this humiliating war experience, whereas “the people” fought heroically. If there had been a CCP at the time already, the war would surely have been won!

The legacy of the film “Jiawu Fengyun” and of Li’s acting as Deng Shichang may be gleaned also from the fact that the director of the notorious anti-Japanese film “Guizi Laile” 鬼子来了 (The Devils Have Come) in the 1990s referred to it as having deeply impressed him in his youth by its presentations of the First Sino-Japanese War. This was a film with which “we grew up”.


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© 2007 Gotelind Müller-Saini