Gao Xingjian’s Escape from Orientalism
Of Mountains and Seas (1989) and Snow in August (1997) are two plays which Gao Xingjian completed in France and contain direct references to ancient Chinese cultures. With reference to Gao’s “cold” theatrical techniques of suppositionality and tripartite acting, I argue such plays not only expose the Orientalist impulses in their portrayals of Chinese mythology and Zen Buddhism but also breathe new life into these ancient Chinese traditions. By highlighting Gao’s emphasis on observation, this paper demonstrates how his “escape” from Orientalism via literature is less about the avoidance of Orientalism than the reflexive observation of Orientalism.
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