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Set of Plates depicting model opera heroes

This set of four plates, painted by the celebrated ceramic painter Wu Kang, depicts heroes and heroines from the model performances. In the distance, the artist has portrayed backgrounds referring to scenes from the operas. The first plate features the lead character Li Yuhe from The Red Lantern (红灯记), a Beijing opera about an undercover Communist agent at a railway station during the Japanese occupation of China in the late 1930s. In the opera, Li Yuhe sacrifices his life for the revolutionary struggle and as a result, inspires his daughter to follow in his footsteps. The second plate shows the main character from On the Docks (海港), an opera about dock workers in Shanghai loading a shipment of rice intended for their Communist comrades in Africa. This plate shows the heroine, Fang Haichen, who serves as the Party Branch Secretary overseeing the project and ultimately saves the shipment from a saboteur. Behind her is the port of Shanghai, with boxes of grain, cranes, and a ship. On the third plate, Wu Kang has painted the hero Yang Zirong from the opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (智取威虎山). The story, which takes place in the northeast of the country during the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), was based on actual events. The opera tells how Yang Zirong, a People’s Liberation Army soldier disguises himself in order to infiltrate a gang of local bandits and suppress them. Here, he is presented in his disguise as a bandit and behind him is the eponymous Tiger Mountain, covered in snow. The final plate depicts the heroine Jiang Shuiying from Song of Dragon River (龙江颂). The performance, in the form of a Beijing Opera, portrays peasants under the leadership of the Communist Party and their fight against a severe drought. This is the only one of the plates that depicts a model work that was created after 1969.
Wu Kang
20th c.
37.5 x 37.5 cm