Escaping from the Temple

Escaping from the Temple is based on two Kunqu Plays Yearning for the Secular World and Descending the Mountain, both originating from Kunqu Opera A Sea of Sins. Written over three hundred years ago, these two plays pose a bold challenge to China’s traditional, feudalistic moral codes and to its conventional, rigorous Buddhist teaching.

Yearning for the Secular World is about Se Kong, a Buddhist nun who was sent in childhood to a temple by her parents. She has lately been brooding with increasing intensity over what she has come to view as the arid life of a Buddhist nun. Being left alone one day in her present dark mood, she resolves to leave the temple permanently to resume a secular life that she intends to live fully as a woman. So decided, she promptly discards her ecclesiastic robes and flees away down the mountain to fetch herself a sweetheart.
Descending the Mountain is about Ben Wu who complains about his parents whose superstition caused them to send him to a Buddhist temple to become a monk. One day he seizes the opportunity of being left alone in the temple and flees down the mountain. On his way down he runs into Se Kong, who also has just fled from a nunnery. As they talk they find that they share a desire to resume a secular life. In the end they fall in love and marry each other.

These two plays have been playing a significant roll in the Chinese performing arts history. The philosophy embedded in the plays has also fascinated the Chinese audience generation after generation. To ascend or descend the mountain, to enter or to leave the monastery, are the questions for many people. There seems to be only extreme answers to these questions, such as good or bad and right or wrong. However, the ultimate challenge is how to choose when facing these questions.

Escaping from the Temple combines both plays into a dance performance that embraces both the cultural spirit of Chinese traditions and the free expression of contemporary dance. The roles, born out of the original plays, preserve the essence of the plays and demonstrate an extreme solitary beauty from various dimensions. This dance piece presents a free collision and intersection between western contemporary dance language and oriental Chinese culture.

Zhao Liang is a Chinese contemporary dance artist and choreographer. For him, dance is a unique tool to communicate between the mind and body. He has been researching the relationship between physicality and theatre/non-theatre spaces and exploring the
possible languages for dance performance, specifically experimenting on the contemporary dance creation in connection with multiple traditional cultures and their elements. He connects drama, dance, sound/visual art and a lot of other art forms, with his very sensitive way of understanding the world. He has won many awards at home and abroad.