Saturday, October 13, 2012

Li Ling-Ai: The Streamlined Sage

If you've been following my blog, you already know about filmmaker Robin Lung and Finding Kukan, her in-production documentary about Li Ling-Ai and the Academy Award–winning documentary she produced with photographer Rey Scott. Robin has already raised some $4,000 through her Kickstarter campaign to help complete production of the film. But she's still got a long way to go to meet her goal of $16,000 (and the way Kickstarter works is that it's all or nothing). Please check out her Kickstarter page and consider making a donation. If you're feeling generous (and financially able), a donation of $500 will get you a signed, first-edition copy of Li Ling-Ai's memoir Life Is for a Long Time. Don't have that much money to spare? Then a mere $10 will get you a digital download of the film once it's completed.

To give you a little taste of what surprises Robin's film might hold, here's an excerpt from a programme for Li Ling-Ai's cross-country lecture tour (circa 1944) to raise Americans' understanding of China and Chinese culture.

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Li Ling-Ai posing in a gown by Hattie Carnegie. Originally featured in the August 1, 1941 issue of Vogue and reprinted in the programme for her lecture tour.
Li Ling-Ai is the possessor of that rare personality which results from a balanced combination of both Oriental and Occidental — Eastern and Western — civilizations and backgrounds. She was born in Honolulu and educated in an American school there, being taught Chinese culture at home at the same time. Both parents are doctors and Chinese scholars of distinction. Her mother is one of the first women medical graduates of modern China; her father, one of the pioneers with sage Kang Yu Wei in introducing political reforms into China. Miss Li is a graduate of the University of Hawaii.

She went to Pekin in 1930 where she spent several years doing research work on the Chinese theatre and directing plays for the Fine Arts Institute there. She became interested not only in the ancient Chinese drama but in the correlating of old and new Chinese art, and in the similarity of early South American and Chinese culture. She made trips all over the world in connection with her dramatic research and studied under Prof. Harry Tauber of the Imperial Theatre in Vienna and with Chu Kuei Fang, the great Chinese dancer.

Because the war put an end to her theatrical activities in Pekin, Miss Li came to New York as a world center of dramatic interest, via Europe, and in 1940 became the program director of the Chinese Pavilion at the New York World's Fair.

Miss Li is the only Chinese woman producer in the world and is most famous for her work with Rey Scott, as co-producer, of the gripping documentary film of China "Kukan". This was taken in natural color and received the Hollywood Academy Award of 1941, as well as major editorial comments in Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other key cities.

She has made over one hundred radio broadcasts on China and the Allied cause; contributed to the U.S.O. on Believe-It-Or-Not Robert Ripley's programs; directed many Bowl of Rice parties, and is a constant worker for China Relief.

Miss Li is an energetic believer in the fundamental similarity in concepts of China and our New World; in philosophy and in respect for the dignity of the individual, justice and democracy. In fact, she might well be called a streamlined sage!


Robin Lung said...

According to friends, Li Ling-Ai was one of those vibrant women who lit up the room whenever she walked in. Like a Chinese Aunty Mame. Playing her would be any Chinese actress's dream role, yet most people have never heard of her. We are trying to change that with FINDING KUKAN. Please support our efforts on KICKSTARTER and LIKE us on Facebook The LIKES really do help to spread the word. Mahalo, Dave for all your efforts in making sure we don't forget about all these amazing Chinese actresses from the past who are inspirations for all of us Asian women seeking artistic careers. aloha, Robin Lung, producer/director of FINDING KUKAN

Justin Choo said...

Hi Dave,

Just to announce that I have arrived!!

That was a fantastic journey through your blog.

Thanks, and please continue this blog.

duriandave said...

-- Robin, it's my duty and pleasure to help you out. I know you're going to a great job presenting Li Ling-Ai to those who have never heard of her.

-- Justin, wow... can't believed you traveled through my entire blog. You deserve a special badge for that!

Justin Choo said...

Yes Dave,

A special badge with the pretty face of Chin Ping will make me innocently and nostalgically happy. Not her latest photo please. Honestly I haven't seen her latest photo, but I am assuming that her "Early days" photo should be prettier! (LOL)

duriandave said...

Haha... I'll see what I can do! It might have to be a virtual badge. ;D