NEW YORK, June 22 (Xinhua) -- An opera about a legendary monk who played a vital role in China-Japan religious and cultural exchanges made its debut here Saturday, achieving a unique fusion of Western-style opera with Mandarin lyrics.
Based on history, "Voyage To The East -- A Fearless Buddhist Master's Mission To Japan" told the story of Monk Jianzhen from China's Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.).
Jianzhen and his team started sailing to Japan in 742 A.D., but only succeeded in 754 A.D. after five failed attempts. Apart from Buddhism, he also introduced Chinese art, medicine and craftsmanship to Japan, thus becoming a highly respected figure and a symbol of friendly exchanges in both countries.
Jianzhen in the opera is played by famous Chinese-American opera singer Tian Haojiang, who has so far played some 50 roles in all major opera houses worldwide. According to Tian, Saturday night was his first time singing in his mother tongue of Mandarin Chinese at the Lincoln Center, where he had staged over 340 performances.
In order to better depict the role, Tian lived with real monks for some time in Daming Temple in the eastern Chinese city of Yangzhou, where Monk Jianzhen stayed before embarking on his journey to Japan.
Chinese Consul General in New York Huang Ping, who joined over 2,000 people at the David H. Koch Theater to enjoy the show, said at a pre-show reception that people today can learn from the Buddhist master's life, especially when bilateral ties between China and the United States are facing some difficulties.
No matter how difficult the road ahead is, "we must have courage and faith because this relationship is so important," he noted.
People-to-people exchanges, which were promoted by Monk Jianzhen some 1,300 years ago between China and Japan, are the foundation of all diplomatic ties, said the veteran diplomat.
"So we should also encourage such exchanges in all sectors (between China and the United States)," he added.
Produced by China's Jiangsu Performing Arts Group, the opera's score combines modern opera with the original sounds of the Japanese koto, the zither, the Chinese Guzheng, temple blocks and Buddhist chants.
The opera was staged in Los Angeles earlier this month. A second performance at the Lincoln Center is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.