Christian Playwright Jiang Yuanlai: The Great Art Must Be about Ultimate Concern

Jiang Yuanlai, a Christian playwriter, gave a speech titled "The Great Art must be about Ultimate Concern" in February, 2022.
Jiang Yuanlai, a Christian playwriter, gave a speech titled "The Great Art must be about Ultimate Concern" in February, 2022.
By Christine Lau March 10th, 2022

“The soul and the core of the great art, or a great culture, must be the ultimate concern,” said Christian playwright Jiang Wenlai in a speech about the appreciation of European classical music. 

“Ultimate concern is a philosophical term,” said Jiang who calls himself the “ floor playwright” as he is living in a tiny room during his playwriting. 

"Just like Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living. We have to make sure that we have a clear understanding about ‘why should we live in this world’, ‘why the world is like this', ‘why should I keep living’, and ‘what’s the point of my life’. After we figure out these questions, we can find the courage to carry on our life,” added the folk playwright living in Shanghai. 

He also mentioned that if art and culture are lacking ultimate concern, people, the objects of art and culture, will not be nourished. And that’s how various kinds of mental illnesses appear.

Nowadays, more and more kids are diagnosed with mental illnesses. For example, Xu Kaiwen, deputy director of Peking University Mental Health Education and Counseling Center said, “40% of freshmen of Peking University think that life is meaningless.” He pointed out that the defects of values lead to psychological disorders of some college students, which is called “hollow hearts”.

“These students have a good life, but they just feel depressed and painful. Some of them even want to die.” Jiang also stated that a psychology teacher in a college of Shanghai once told him that the mental condition of students wass serious now. Some students come from rich families who live a comfortable life, but they just keep saying that their hearts are hollow.

Jiang feels painful when he sees this. He finds out that the present popular culture lacks attention for ultimate concern. That’s why adults and their kids are easily addicted to nonnutritive information, but their souls are always empty. Therefore, he suggests that all adults and kids could try to appreciate the elegance and beauty of classical music.

Jiang urged that the greatness of European classical music was that it brought information about the ultimate concern.

He said that the traditional culture of China has always regarded death as taboo. The Chinese would stay as far away as they could when they saw tombs in the countryside. While conversely, European classical music is full of songs like requiem and funeral march, which could comfort people’s hearts.

Jiang's representative works are four large-scale dramas: ‘Beethoven in China’, a six-scene musical drama, has been popular in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing, and performed many times in the past 20 years; ‘Shakespeare in Jiaxing’, a six-scene modern drama, is a historical and ideological drama for intellectuals; ‘The Christmas Eve of Yandang Mountai’”, a six-scene church epic, was once performed in a Beijing Church as a tribute to commemorate Robert Morrison’s coming to China 200 years ago; and his latest work, “Lanlin Easter”, a six-scene drama.

-Translated by Nicolas Cao

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