. . .
Love and Remembrance
On October 31, 1963, the streets of central Taipei were taken over by an im-
passioned crowd of hundreds of thousands of women, from middle-school
students to young wives to grandmothers. In a rare upsurge of popular de-
fiance to the Nationalist Party government’s authoritarian regime, the mass
of ordinary women brought traffic to a standstill and stretched the crowd
control capacity of the military police to the limit. The crowd converged on a
gaily decorated tour truck that for several tense moments it effectively held
under siege, with police overpowered by the women’s sheer numbers and
unable to force a break in the throng to allow the truck to exit. On the truck,
only just managing to maintain her professional composure, stood Ivy Ling
Po, the freshly minted superstar of the Shaw Brothers’ smash hit opera film
Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai (The Love Eterne, dir. Li Han Hsiang, Hong Kong,
1962; figure 1). In the film, following southern Chinese all-female opera tra-
ditions, Ling cross-dressed to play the male romantic lead, Liang Shanbo, to
Betty Loh Ti’s Zhu Yingtai. Her performance was such a success that many
women watched the film scores of times; others were reported to carry pic-
tures of Ling in their purses like a sweetheart’s portrait.1 It was to be the first
of a long series of such roles for Ling, and the film’s spectacular box-office
success marked the launch of her stellar career as screen heartthrob for a gen-
eration of Chinese women across East Asia, prefigured by this spontaneous
and overwhelming expression of fandom in an otherwise strictly culturally
regulated 1960s Taiwan.2
The tragic romance of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai is the best-known
popular love story in the Chinese tradition. In the legend, Zhu rebels against
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