China, Canada to co-create musical ‘Bethune’

CCTV News

Zhang Wenhui, a veteran of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, unveils the monument to Norman Bethune at Chengdu's Jianchuan Museum, in Southwest China's Sichuan province, on April 15, 2016. (Photo/Xinhua) Zhang Wenhui, a veteran of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, unveils the monument to Norman Bethune at Chengdu’s Jianchuan Museum, in Southwest China’s Sichuan province, on April 15, 2016. (Photo/Xinhua)

Chinese and Canadian art institutions will co-create a musical, “Bethune”, to commemorate Canadian doctor Norman Bethune, a household name in China who devoted his life to healing people of this land during war.

As a member of the Canadian Communist Party, Bethune went to China as head of a medical team to help with the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in 1937. The doctor set up a mobile hospital in Yan’an, a center of the Chinese revolution, and helped save the lives of thousands.

Meeting between Dr. Norman Bethune (left) and Nieh Jung-Chen (centre), Commander-in-Chief of the Chin-Ch'a-Chi Border Region, 1938.

Meeting between Dr. Norman Bethune (left) and Nieh Jung-Chen (centre), Commander-in-Chief of the Chin-Ch’a-Chi Border Region, 1938.

Chinese musical writer Yu Rongjun will join Canadian director Brian Hill and composer Neil Bartram for the musical creation, an agreement signed by the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and the Canada Sheridan College Musical Theater in Shanghai shows.

Chinese artists will launch an art collection tour and a workshop in Canada next year and release the Chinese version of the musical in 2018, while later releasing the English version on a North America tour in 2019.

Norman Bethune

Norman Bethune

Bethune was born to a religious family in Gravenhurst, Ontario in 1890. He graduated from the Toronto School of Medicine in 1916. In November 1935, he joined the Communist Party of Canada. Three years later, Dr. Bethune led a medical unit of Canadian and American doctors to Yan'an, base of the 8th Route Army in Northwest China, to provide medical services. During his stay in China, he saved lives by performing emergency surgeries on the battlefield. He once conducted a record of 71 operations in 40 hours and saved 115 lives in 69 hours. Bethune died on November 12, 1939, of blood poisoning from a cut he received when performing a surgery. At the news of Bethune's death, late Chairman Mao Zedong mourned the loss of the great doctor and internationalist saying that this foreigner made light of traveling thousands of miles to help us, selflessly adopted the liberation cause of the Chinese people as his own.

“Bethune stayed in North China’s Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Hebei province after arrived at China in 1937,” Yu said. “Those regions are famous for their folk music and songs, and we are looking for Chinese composers to work with Canadian composers for musicals with both international and Chinese elements.”

The musical will present both international war scenes and Chinese style music on the stage, Yu says.

“From Canada to Spain to China, Bethune experienced a lot through his short but brilliant life. He must have looked for some kind of spirit, and the spirit has supported him travelling from a peaceful and plentiful land to a war-ridden place far away from home. The spirit also supported him to adapt to the enormous change in his life and finally devoted his life to the people of another country. This kind of spirit is rare and precious at any time and in any place,” Yu said.

Story by China Daily