The Sky of Li Wo
Chapter 1 – Behind the Scene
Li Wo shares interesting stories behind the Chinese Opera industry. Who would have known that worshipping the God of Chinese Opera in fact dates back to the Tang Dynasty? One night the Emperor Xuan-zong of Tang (唐玄宗) dreamt of himself wandering in the Palace of Moon, where he saw beautiful actors and actresses playing as different characters with songs and music. Soon, the Emperor decides to establish Pear Garden (梨園) and have plays on show every night. Legend has it those plays eventually infuriate the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝) so badly, that he ordered Wah Kong (華光) to descend to the Pear Garden to punish the actors. However, Wah Kong does not do what he is told, instead he teaches the actors how to act and hide from the chasing of the police from above. Ever since then, Wah Kong is respected and known as the patriarch Wah Kong (華光大帝/華光先師).
Li Wo also introduces the first Chinese film that comes with sound- the Cantonese film Romance in Mekong River (湄江情浪), which comes from Annam (today’s Vietnam). Apart from that he also briefly sums up the history of Chinese films, from silent movies to movies with sound, as well as the story of China’s first film narrator, Chen Ju-jing (陳菊井).
Chapter 2- Anecdotes of the Silver Screen
There is a saying that goes “There is Sit Kok-sin (薛覺先) in the south, and Mei Lan-fang (梅蘭芳) at the North”. When Li Wo shares stories of Chinese Opera industry, how could he not mention the King of all – Sit Kok-sin? Born in a poor family, Sit Kok-sin is a star pupil in school. Before he starts acting, he works in the herbal medicine business, from where he is cultivated in literature, grounding a firm foundation for his future acting in Chinese Opera. Screenwriter Fung Chi-fun’s (馮志芬) adaption of the Japanese true story – Why Not Return? (胡不歸) establishes Sit Kok-sin’s status as “Opera Star of the Era”. Sit Kok-sin is cautious both at work and outside work, always striving for the best, his unique way of singing influences future generations deeply. Before and after WWII, his career hits a low point, soon he chooses to go to mainland to further develop his career but unfortunately it yields little. In the end, he never recovers to his best form. When Li Wo recalls his friendship with Sit Kok-sin, he admires Sit but also feels deeply for him.
Chapter 3 – Stories of Artists
Li Wo intimately talks about big names in the Hong Kong Cantonese Opera industry, as well as their history and anecdotes. Early screenwriters are known as “grandpas of the opera”(開戲師爺), who are familiar with all sorts of arrangements and always come up with creative ideas, yet they are often addicted to opium. After WWII, screenwriters such as Mo Chi-kan (莫志勤) and Fung Chi-fun (馮志芬) write in their own rights, creating many productions that become household names. When we talk about famous screen writers, we must not forget “Nam Hoi Sup Sam Long” Jiang Feng (「南海十三郎」江楓 )and Tang Ti-sheng (唐滌生) . Kong is always relaxed but his literary skill is of a high standard and patriotic while Tang is humble but brimming with talents. Li Wo are friends with both, copies Cantonese Opera for Tang and he always treats as his mentor. Apart from that, New Voice Opera Troupe (新聲劇團) which is headed by Yam Kim-fai (任劍輝) adapts Li Wo’s Crime Doesn’t Pay (蕭月白) to the stage for the first time, and it is very popular among the audience. In regards to other famous Chinese Opera Actors such as Ma Sze-tsang (馬師曾) , Sit Kok-sin (薛覺先) , Bai Yu-tang (白玉堂) and Bai Ju-rong (白駒榮), Li Wo admires them a great deal.
Chapter 4- Medical anecdotes
Raised in a family with strong medical background, Li Wo has come across with a number of medical anecdotes. Doctor Ye Tian-shi (葉天士) from Qing Dynasty is nicknamed “Freak Doctor”, one day he goes to cure the daughter-in-law of a minister, who gives birth to a baby but wakes up to find that both of her hands are unable to move. Ye Tian-shi asks the minister to prepare a red pocket of 100 dollars, and donate it to charity when the woman recovers and he himself will not ask for any of it. Ye Tian-shi invites many men to observe the process of the treatment, which shocks the entire village. In the end, Ye Tian-shi uses his wisdom and successfully cures the woman, with all remuneration goes straight to charity. Li Wo wishes to remind those who practice medicine that they must not treat anyone without knowing what they are doing. Even if they have the correct prescription, without appropriate judgment or attention to details, the patience could easily die innocently, wasting all previous efforts of saving him.