City Research Online

Staging China, Excising the Chinese: Lady Precious Stream and the Darker Side of Chinoiserie

Yeh, D. (2015). Staging China, Excising the Chinese: Lady Precious Stream and the Darker Side of Chinoiserie. In: Witchard, A. (Ed.), British Modernism and Chinoiserie. . Edinburgh University Press.


On 27 November 1934, ‘a traditional Chinese play’, Lady Precious Stream premiered at the Little Theatre in the Adelphi off the Strand. Within months, its author, Shih-I Hsiung, an unknown student from China, was hurled into worldwide fame. Lady Precious Stream ran for three years in London, vying in 1936 with Michael Egan’s The Dominant Sex as the longest running play. It was attended by powerful figures in British society including the Queen and successive prime ministers and critically acclaimed by J.B. Priestley and H.G. Wells, while George Bernard Shaw and Sir Barry Jackson selected it for the Malvern Theatre Festival. While there had been plays ‘done in the Chinese manner’ such as The Yellow Jacket(1913) and The Circle of Chalk (1929) on the English stage before, Lady Precious Stream was the first written by a Chinese playwright. It played a major role in reviving the fashion for ‘all things Chinese’ in the 1930s and contributed to the unprecedented success of the International Chinese Exhibition of Art at the Royal Academy in 1935. This chapter examines the success of Lady Precious Stream in the context of British chinoserie fashions in the first decades of the twentieth century. This at once comprised a fascination with ‘China’ among the social, intellectual and artistic elite, and the more denigrated vogue for mass-marketed ‘Chinese’ exotica among the wider public. In achieving both critical and popular acclaim, Lady Precious Stream highlights the connections between the two, and demands an acknowledgement of chinoiserie’s darker side.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Yeh, D (2015). Staging China, Excising the Chinese: L ady Precious Stream and the Darker Side of Chinoiserie. In: A Witchard (Ed.), British Modernism and Chinoiserie, 2015, Edinburgh University Press, reproduced with permission of Edinburgh University Press. This extract is the publishers final version of the article. The full published, version of record is available here:
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Culture & the Creative Industries
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