I am a performer from the Shanghai Kunqu Troupe. In the course of my kunqu journey I came to New York and met the former president Mr. Fu-yen Chen, as well as other colleagues who are present here and have dedicated their lives and time to kunqu. Time flies and it has been more than nineteen years since I first met President Chen. His laugh, speech, and mannerisms are still vivid and greatly impress me. I remember the first time he drove to visit us, when he took many wrong turns before he reached us. We have felt deeply his compassion and sincerity, his integrity as a person, his sharpness in managing affairs, and his respect for the arts.
The frequent activities of the Society helped us build our friendship. Whenever we met, President Chen would come forward and shake hands with warmth, asking about our wellbeing. In cards and letters he would address us as brothers, which was indeed a humbling act for him. In arranging the extension of our stay, President Chen was not deterred by the trivial legal procedures and sought lawyers on my behalf. His help extended to our residency application for which he generously wrote supporting documents and letters. Sometimes when he drove us home after the events were done, to show his care for us he would tell us the struggles he went through when he first arrived in this foreign land. He used his own examples to inspire us and serve as our moral support. Especially, President Chen set a high goal for promoting and presenting the kunqu art. When we first rehearsed Spring-grass, I was asked by the Society to report on the budget. We went through the report very carefully, time and again. With his persistent efforts, the Society was able to present quality productions, one after another, and offer New York opportunities to appreciate the essence of Chinese performing arts. Today we are able to maintain the good work of promoting the kunqu art, thanks to the prescience of the wise from the former generation who built a solid foundation. It is now our duty to maintain this culture of refinement and elegance of the Society: The Heavens will help those who continue to strive for excellence; the orchid will emit its subtle fragrance carrying its distinct character. May the Society remember its roots and last for a long time to come!
Here we offer a verse as our consolation to the respected Mr. Chen above:
The orchid’s pure fragrance was your dream, the precious treasure of the arts your concern.
In the forum of kunqu Spring-grass was presented; many plays followed, in diverse forms, showing brilliance and new spirit.
The music from the old days was played on the zither; today you, sir, suddenly left us behind,
In empty remembrance and long sighs we think of your caring; as we now live in peace we address you as a great gentleman.
Dezhang Wu and Peihua Lin
August 19, 2012