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    Zhou Xinfang (1895-1975), was Beijing Opera¡¯s renaissance man of the twentieth century.

    A personal vision to advocated justice, patriotism and dignity for performers was a rare and noble quality for a man born in the late 1800¡¯s. As an artist, he was unrivalled both in his performing genius and genuine passion for perfecting the cream of Beijing Opera by replacing the dated with the new.

    Founder of the Qi style, Zhou made his performing debut at the age of just 7, hence his stage name of Qiling Tong - Seven Year Old Child. This alias was later changed to Unicorn Child (pronounced the same in Mandarin) when he grew up to playing Lao Shen (mature roles wearing beard).

    A native of Ci City, an ancient town steeped in 1,200 years of rich history and heritage, boasting 519 Emperor¡¯s Scholars, Zhou¡¯s father Zhou Wei Tang was also an actor. Zhou senior was to rebel from his respectable scholarly home in order to join a Beijing Opera Troupe, and he never looked back.

    Zhou Xinfang grew up in the environment of his father¡¯s opera troupe and was sent to a major repertory company in Beijing at the age of 13 for four years during which he performed before the Empress Dowager.

    A man of great stature and social conscience, Zhou¡¯s productions were rich with characters of historical significance to reflect the signs of the times. He was the first Beijing Opera Actor to adopt the ¡°director¡± method from the western stage, thus systemising Beijing Opera as a fluent artistic form.

    In the 1920s, Zhou branched into the then very new genre of cinematography. He appeared in 2 segments of an unfinished silent film and later penned two screenplays for motion pictures in 1929. During the 30s, he was active with Western stage plays, also a novelty in China. He was a member of the Southern China Theatre Company, one of the first theatre companies that did Western plays in Chinese, and he himself performed in two productions.

    His willingness to experiment with new performing medium allowed him to participate and assimilate the essence of other forms of artistic disciplines: Chinese operas in various dialogues, films (from actors such as Charlie Chaplin, John Barrymore and Ronald Colman), stage plays, ballet, tango, waltz etc. Zhou Xinfang developed his unique Qi style, so powerful and authentic that it appealed to a diversified spectrum of audiences.

    During the Japanese occupation, Zhou chose the pro-active way to boost the morale of the people ¨C he performed plays calling on all Chinese to remember patriotic heroes of old. When forbidden by the Japanese to perform two major historic titles, he left the posters to remain at the front of the theatre until the company was forced to disband.

    After the war, he led many marches to protest, among which was the objection to actors being required as a ¡°duty¡± to ¡°sign up¡± along side prostitutes. He used strong words appealing to both artists and the public to respect their profession as performers.

    Apart from being an actor, he was also a producer, director, playwright and he wrote for the press periodically. He crossed genre both within the operatic discipline and the technical form, appeared in four motion pictures over 3 decades. Always a pioneer, in nearly 7 decades, he performed some 600 different (mostly full length) titles, a record never having been surpassed by a world class actor.

    His followers are many. Some were formal apprentices who came with full ceremony; others were artists heavily influenced by him who took pride in being a Qi. Among them are Qi Beijing Opera Actresses, Qi Beijing Opera Hua Lian (painted face) actors, Qi dialect opera actors of a variety including that of Shanghai Opera and Cantonese Opera, Qi playwright, Qi Calligraphists, Qi authors, Qi film actors, Qi painters , Qi stage play actors etc. etc., the list is still growing¡­

    International film star Stephen Chow has recently been reviewed by critics to be acting in Qi style, this endorses the common saying: ¡°Zhou Xin Fang is not only of yesterday, he is of today, and even more, he is of the future.¡±

    Zhou had inspired and influenced generations of audiences and colleagues with his Qi courage on and off stage ¨C courage to defy tradition, courage to embrace the new and discard the dated, courage to lead his peers in the face of repression, and above all, the courage to always take a stand on what is JUST.

    Zhou Xinfang died in 1975, eight years after the tragic death of his beloved wife Lillian. He was survived by 3 sons and 6 daughters.