Mobilities, Diversities and Identities: Contemporary Interpretations of a Canonical Chinese Play in Singapore

A/Prof. Ann-Marie Hsiung1

1I-shou University, Taiwan

Globalization increases mobilities and multiplies identities in Asia. Singapore, a city state with diverse Asian communities, amplifies this trend. In the 1990s, Singapore recruited large numbers of Western educated Chinese scholars, who formed new diasporas across Asia and became catalyst for further cultural diversities. This multifaceted Asian phenomenon can be best exemplified in Chinese scholar-director Grant Shen’s contemporary productions of the traditional Chinese opera—The West Wing (2008, 2016).

This study discusses issues of mobilities, diversities and identities through The West Wing, in which the performers are predominantly from Asian diasporas. The mobility of Grant Shen from China to Singapore via the US diversifies his cultural identity, at once rooted deeply in Chinese culture while openly embracing Western liberalism and Singaporean plurality. His theatre productions, boldly adopting pop music, employing trendy language, and recreating pro-feminist scenes, vividly attest to cultural diversities. Identity issues come to the fore when this well-received play in Singapore toured Shanghai, where it was welcomed by the young but frowned upon by others as subversive to Chinese tradition. This study views the multiplicity of Singapore as a fertile land for productions foretelling the plural future Asias.


Prior to Associate Professor in Taiwan, Dr. Hsiung was Assistant Professor at Singapore Nanyang Technological University for years. With PhD of East Asian Language and Literature, and MAs of Asian Studies and Comparative Literatures, she has published widely in Chinese studies. Her recent research focuses on Chinese-related cultural translation.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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