Professor Ruru Li

Professor Ruru Li

Professor of Chinese Theatre Studies. (Retired from teaching but continuing in research capacity).

Summary: Tradition and innovation: performance of Beijing Opera; comparative theatre: traditional and modern theatres in China and Western theatre; intercultural performance art


About Professor Li Ruru

Running workshop of Taste of Beijing Opera in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2004.

Li, Ruru acquired her BA and MA at the Shanghai Theatre Academy and her doctoral degree in Drama and Theatre at the University of Leeds, UK. Brought up in a Beijing Opera actress family, and received some basic training when she was ten. Her research interest lies in performance art, comparative and intercultural theatre studies. She also performs Beijing Opera and runs various workshops. She regards regular contact with the theatre as essential to her academic work.

Recent Activities

  • A series of events on the great Chinese playwright Cao Yu, including exhibitions in London, Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle, a stage production and seminars/lectures. Exhibition: Cao Yu: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Drama was opened on 10 February. Both Cultural Councillor Mr WU Xun of the Chinese Embassy and Lady Youde OBE gave short speeches at the opening. I gave a lecture: Cao Yu and China's Modern Drama after Thunderstorm: Commemorating Cao yu's Centenary.
  • I ran a one-day workshop today (12 Feb) for OPENCOV (Opera Encounter; Common Voice), a project supported by EU, as dissemination after the end of the work.
  • Public lecture "How to Promote Chinese Culture Abroad" at the Summer Camp for Teaching Chinese Abroad, organized by China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, August 2009.
  • "Beijing Opera Actress-training in the 1930s", a one-hour programme for Shanghai Oriental TV Station, Theatre Channel (Shanghai Dongfang Xiju Pindao), August 2008.
  • "Opera Encounter; Common Voice", a 2-year cultural exchange project sponsored by the EU, aims for a better understanding between the two sides. The project is led by the School of Performance and Culture Industries, Leeds University. This project involves 5 institutions: UoL, Opera North, Bregentz Opera Festival, Austria,  Sibelius Academy, Finland and Shanghai Theatre Academy. Practitioners meet and work together on a theme of "Two mothers and a baby"; scholars, researchers, cultural administrators and managers meet and exchange experiences. I have been involved in both the artistic and cultural groups.
  • "100 Words", a cultural exchange project, aims to capture the essence of a language and culture, and is a project for young people. The project uses 100 words (either in English or in Chinese) to write short plays, which open young people's imagination, taps into their creativity and creates global connections. This project has two strands: drama and language. I have worked with two other dramatists in the past three years in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and in London.

Key Publications and Activities

Books and Monographs

  • The Soul of Beijing Opera: Theatrical Creativity and Continuity in the Changing World, Hong Kong University Press, 2010.
    • Review By Colin Mackerras, Griffith University, Australia, CHINOPERL Papers No. 29 (2010) ©2010 by the Conference on Chinese Oral and Performing Literature, pp 268-73.
      • ... The author is definitely neihang 內行 when it comes to Chinese theatre. But there are other ways in which her experience and learning are difficult to surpass. She has studied jingju as a performer and a scholar, the second for much longer than the former, and lived a long time both in China and England, with a notable academic career at the University of Leeds. 
      • This is an extraordinary book, which takes a novel approach to the study of jingju. Through an examination of the acting of six major controversial performers it looks at the "soul" of jingju. The term "soul of jingju" (jingju hun 京劇魂) comes from an interview with Li Yuru. It is explained in a crucial sentence by Li Ruru: "Performers and their endeavours in their new work re-form but also continue the tradition, and the dynamic between the creativity and continuity form the 'soul of jingju', which has made the theatre relevant to audiences since its inception about two hundred years ago" (p. 10). The interplay between creativity and continuity amid change is of critical importance to this book, and appropriately emphasized through inclusion in its subtitle.
  • Selected Performance Scripts by Li Yuru (李玉茹演出剧本选集), edited by Li Ruru. Shanghai: Literature and Arts Publishing House, 2010.
  • Translucent Jade: Li Yuru on Stage and in Life (晶莹透亮的玉:李玉茹舞台上下/家庭内外), Shanghai People's Publishing House, 2009.
  • Li Yuru on the Art of Jingju (李玉茹谈戏说艺), author: Li Yuru,edited by Li Ruru), Shanghai: Literature and Arts Publishing House, 2008.
  • Shashibiya: Staging Shakespeare in China, Hong Kong University Press, 2003.

Parts of Books

  • 'Negotiations in the Uncomfortable Zone: Identity, Tradition and the Space between European and Chinese Opera', co-author with Jonathan Pitches, in The Orientations Trilogy: Theatre and Gender; Asia and Europe, edited by Michael Walling and Roe Lane, Border Crossing LTD, 2010 (ISBN 078-1-904718-08-6), a project supported by the European Commission, pp 196-210. 
  • 'Millennium Shashibiya: Where Does Shakespeare Stand in Today's Chinese-speaking World?' in Shakespeare in Asia: contemporary performance edited by Dennis Kennedy & Yung Li Lan. Cambridge, New York, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 170-87.
  • 'Six People in Search of "To be or not to be ..." - Hamlet's Soliloquy in Six Chinese Productions and the Metamorphosis of Shakespeare Performance on the Chinese Stage' in 'Re-Playing' Shakespeare: Performance in Asian Theatre Forms, edited by Poonam Trividi and Minami Ryuta. New York and London: Routledge, 2010, 119-40.
  • 'Chinese Prince: Three Chinese Operatic Adapations' in Shakespeare's World/ World Shakespeare, edited by Richard Fotheringham, Christa Jansohn and R. S. White, Newark: Delaware Press, 2008, pp.303-29.
  • Area Editor for 'China: Modern', Encyclopaedia of Asian Theatre, two volumes, General Editor: Samuel L. Leiter, Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press, 2007. The Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre, has been named an "Outstanding Academic Title" of 2007.
  • 'Negotiating Intercultural Spaces: Much Ado About Nothing & Romeo and Juliet on the Chinese Stage' in World-Wide Shakespeares: Local Appropriations in Film and Performance , edited by Sonia Massai, London and New York:Routledge, 2005, pp. 40-6.

In Press

  • 'Negotiations in the Uncomfortable Zone: Identity, Tradition and the Space between European and Chinese Opera', co-author with Jonathan Pitches, in Border Crossing, edited by Michael Walling.

Journal Articles

  • "Who is it that can tell me who I am? / Lear's shadow." - A Taiwanese Actor's Personal Response to King Lear' , Shakespeare Quarterly , Vol. 57, No. 2, summer 2006, 195-215.
  • 'Chinese-Speaking Theatre in Perspective', in Asian Theatre Journal , Vol. 22, Fall 2005, 310-23.
  • 'A Drum! A Drum! Macbeth doth come! - When Birnam wood moved to China ', Shakespeare Survey , No. 57, October 2004, pp. 169-85.
  • 'Mao's Chair: Revolutionizing Chinese Theatre', Theatre Research International , Vol. 27, No. 1, March 2002, pp. 1-17.

On-line Articles

  • Hamlet in China: Translation, Interpretation and Performance, New Variorum Hamlet []
  • Old Man Sha in the Middle Kingdom, in Shakespeare Around the Globe [http://web.UVic.CA/shakespeare/Foyer/aroundglobe.html]
  • Shakespeare on the Chinese Stage 1979 - 1989 Authors: Ruru Li & John Gillies. Multimedia concept and discursive structure: John Gillies Multimedia development: Russell Bywater. It is now included in Stanford University 's programme: Shakespeare in Asia [] This CD ROM project, including episodes, photographs and commentary, is an intensive research and teaching resource of some 100,000 words and some 350 images. The joint research project with La Trobe University, Melbourne was financed by the Australian Research Council.


  • Convenor of the academic link between the Workshop Theatre at Leeds University and Shanghai Theatre Academy.
  • Consultant for Chinese Crackers, an organization based in London working on promoting the link between British and Chinese theatres. This organization has been funded by Yorkshire Arts, Sino-British Fellowship and Foreign Office.

Funded Research Projects

  • A piece of Glittering Jade is one of the 6 volumes in the series, a project under the aegis of the Shanghai Municipal Publicity Department.
  • The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Senior Scholar Grant: €25,600 for "Performing Beijing Opera: Acting through Negotiation"
  • 'Tradition and Innovation - Performer and Performance in Contemporary Peking Opera' by British Academy and China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language

Teaching (Undergraduate)

Semester 1

  • EAST1010 Basic Chinese Language 1: Practical Class
  • EAST1011 Chinese Cinema
  • EAST2022/23 Chinese Media and Communication
  • EAST3060 Chinese Literature from the 1980s
  • MODL2001 Linguists into Schools

Semester 2

  • EAST1020 Basic Chinese Language 2: Conversation
  • EAST1080 Chinese Culture in the 20th Century
  • EAST2012/2013 Chinese 2A/2C: Grammar and Readings
  • MODL2001 Linguists into Schools