Zheng Junli

Infobox Chinese-language singer and actor
name = Zheng Junli
tradchinesename = 鄭君里
simpchinesename = 郑君里
birthdate = birth date|1911|12|6
deathdate = death date and age|1969|4|23|1911|12|6

Zheng Junli (zh-stp|s=郑君里|t=鄭君里|p=Zhèng Jūnlǐ) (December 6, 1911 - April 23, 1969) was a Chinese actor and director born in Shanghai and who rose to prominence in the golden age of Chinese Cinema.


Early years

Zheng was born into an impoverished family, often harassed by creditors. At early ages, he showed great interest in reading and art performing. He left junior high at second grade and entered "Nanguo Art School" led by Tian Han and studied play acting.

During the 1930s, Zheng was an actor under contract with Lianhua Film Company. While with Lianhua, he played a number of roles, notably as the love-interest Yu Haichou in the film "New Women" opposite Ruan Lingyu.

From Sino-Japanese War to Establishment of PRC

After the war Zheng began to focus his efforts on directing, most notably with the film "The Spring River Flows East" (co-directed with Cai Chusheng) (1947) and his anti-KMT polemic "Crows and Sparrows"(1948). In 1957, the latter was awarded Excellent Movie Award first-class (1949-1955) by Minister of Culture of PRC.

PRC period

Zheng welcomed the establishment of the new government of CPC. As a left-wing director, he was at first one of the beneficiaries. He moved his family from dilapidated dormitory in Kunlun Studio to the best residential area in Shanghai, opposite to the house of Song Qingling.

On 2nd meeting of CPC 7th national congress, Mao Zedong mentioned some issues of CPC cadres after entering the cities. Zheng immediately followed the directive and made the movie "The Married Couple" (我们夫妇之间), starring Zhao Dan and Jiang Tianliu. It told a story that a CPC cadre ditched his original wife in village in order to marry a girl in the city, showing his failure to resist the temptation of "sugar-coated bullet". This movie was banned even before the public release.

Zheng was a member of Art Commission of Shanghai Film Studio, and used to support the making of "The Life of Wu Xun" (武训传). This movie was severely excoriated by CPC authority and Zheng felt guilty of that. His former production, "The Married Couple", was also criticized at this time, which exerted great pressure on the director.

In order to criticize "The Life of Wu Xun", Jiang Qing and her gang went to Shandong to do research. They found another figure, Song Jingshi, a peasant uprising leader of "Black Flag Army" in history. They thus erected Song and Black Flag Army as revolutionary examples to further denounce Wu Xun. They borrowed Zheng Junli for a long time to study this movie script. However, a dilemma was encountered by Zheng and Sun Yu, another screenplay writer. In the real history, Song Jingshi eventually surrendered to Qing Dynasty, but for political purpose, Song must be depicted as a determined revolutionist. A compromise was finally reached as Song's surrendering was designed as a tactic. Due to the false position of "The Life of Wu Xun", Shanghai Film Studio hoped new production "Song Jingshi" would redeem its political mistakes. The then vice director of movie bureau, Cui Wei, acted as Song Jingshi himself. Other famed actors and actresses were all willing to perform minor supporting roles. But because of the fact that Song surrendered to Qing authority, the movie was only allowed to be released for a short period after four-five years after its completion. In the end, this film of "atonement" didn't pass the censorship and was banned.

After continuous lack of success, Zheng's next two biographical pictures on Nie Er and Lin Zexu (both films starred actor Zhao Dan) won wide acclaims, and somehow alleviated his feeling of guilty.

Zheng was severely persecuted in Cultural Revolution, and died in prison in 1969.

He was a delegate to Shanghai municipal People's Congress, a member of 3rd and 4th CPPCC, a councilman of China Film Association, China Playwrights Association and Shanghai Film Association.


Zheng devoted to translating and authoring works on films and plays. So far his published works include "The Birth of a Role" (角色的诞生) and "Voice-over" (画外音), among others.

He used to think his performance was rigid and not satisfactory. Thus he made great efforts to study performing theories. He first tried to translate "Acting: The First Six Lessons" authored by Richard Boleslavsky. Since he hadn't completed his junior high study, his English was poor. Nevertheless he was very diligent. He did the translation relying on the English dictionary, and then double-checked the original book using a Russian-English dictionary and corrected any mistakes. After that, his English was greatly improved. He was also the first one who introduced the performing system of Constantin Stanislavski into China. Stanislavski's works were all written in Russian. Zheng thus found a English-Russian & Russian-English dictionary and translated Russian to Chinese through English, which was indeed a formidable job. His translation of "An Actor Prepares" of Stanislavski, co-authored by Zhang Min, was the first systematic work on art performing in plays in China.

Zheng also authored the book "Art History of World's Movies". At the time when no one in China dared to break ideological shackle and compare films of western world with ones of Soviet Union's, it was a breakthrough by Zheng to write a chronicle of world films from a universal perspective.

elected filmography

As director

* "The Spring River Flows East" (1947) (co-dir. with Cai Chusheng)
* "Crows and Sparrows" (1949)
* "The Married Couple" (1951)
* "Song Jingshi" (1955)
* "Lin Zexu" (1958)
* "Nie Er" (1959)
* "Spring Comes to the Withered Tree" (1961)

As actor

* "Wild Rose" (1932)
* "The Big Road" (1934
* "New Women" (1934) - Yu Haichou
* "Song of China" (1935)
* "Guo Feng" (1935) - Chen Zuo

ee also

*Cai Chusheng, frequent collaborator

External links

* [http://www.dianying.com/en/person.php?personid=ZhengJunli Zheng Junli] by the Chinese Movie Database
* [http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/denton2/courses/c505/temp/springwater.html Analysis] of "The Spring River Flows East" (includes a short biography of Zheng)

NAME= Junli, Zheng
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Film director, actor
DATE OF BIRTH= 1911-12-6
DATE OF DEATH= 1969-4-23

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