Han Lao Da



Han Lao Da (b. 22 October 1947, Singapore–), original name Han Yong Yuan,1 is a Mandarin playwright, theatre director and xiangsheng (or crosstalk, which is a traditional Chinese comedic performance featuring witty dialogue) pioneer who has worked in the local Mandarin theatre scene for more than four decades. He is a prolific playwright who has written a number of full-length and one-act plays and more than 50 xiangsheng scripts under the pen name of Tan Tian.2 Han has also written children’s literature under the pen name of Hai Shu.3 For his achievements and contributions to local theatre, Han was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Theatre in 1990.4

Early life and career
Han was born in Singapore in 1947 to Hainanese immigrant parents. He attended Catholic High School (1955–1961) for his primary education and Chung Cheng High School (1962–1965) for his secondary education, before proceeding to do his pre-university studies at The Chinese High School (1966–1967). He then joined the Teachers' Training College (or TTC, now known as the National Institute of Education), graduating in 1970.5 During his teaching career, Han taught in schools such as The Chinese High School6 and was also at one time a specialist writer for Chinese language teaching materials with the Curriculum Planning and Development Division, Ministry of Education. He subsequently became the principal of a private Chinese language school, Han Learning Centre, which he founded in 1993.7


Artistic career
Han’s interest in theatre started during his time at Chung Cheng High School, where he was a member of the school’s drama society between 1962 and 1964.8 Han was enthralled by the magic of the stage. His most memorable experience was as a stagehand in a local drama where his job was to climb the ceiling of Victoria Theatre and release snow onto the stage.9 In 1968, while he was a student at the TTC, Han started the Chinese Drama Club and was also the president of the Poetry Recital Society.10


Han was so keen in theatre that in 1970, he enrolled himself in the Practice Performing Arts School (now known as the Theatre Practice) for a two-year theatre training course conducted by Singapore theatre practitioner Kuo Pao Kun and his dancer-choreographer wife Goh Lay Kuan. Han also participated in the school’s theatre productions.11 After two years of training, Han realised that he preferred writing to acting and thus decided to focus on perfecting his writing skills.12

In 1972, the Southern Arts Society was formed and Han joined the society the following year. He was a playwright for the society and occasionally performed in its plays.13 His first major work, Walking Out of Prison: Ah Seng’s Story (1972), was produced by the society. Han played the role of a gangster and acted alongside his mentor Kuo Pao Kun for this play.14

In the next four decades, Han wrote nine full-length plays, 12 one-act plays and more than 50 xiangsheng scripts.15 Some of his notable works include Five Libras, which he devised and directed for the 1986 Drama Festival, and the Tan Kah Kee Story (1991). For the Tan Kah Kee play, Han took a year to travel to China to do in-depth research before completing the play, which was performed with a cast of Chinese High students.16 Another of his plays, Door, won second prize in a writing competition organised by the then Ministry of Culture in 1984.17

Han is recognised not only for his playwriting and directing skills, but also as Singapore’s pioneer of xiangsheng, or crosstalk. A chance encounter with a book by Chinese xiangsheng master Ma Ji began his fascination with the comedic art form.18 His first xiangsheng piece, The Gift Ticket (1973), was performed in both Singapore and Malaysia.19

During the 1980s, Han wrote many xiangsheng scripts for xiangsheng events held at community centres around Singapore that were co-organised by the Southern Arts Society and the former Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.20 To date, he has published three volumes of xiangsheng scripts.21

Han is passionate about promoting the art of xiangsheng. In 1986, he founded the Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society with the objective of promoting xiangsheng in Singapore.22 He became acquainted with various well-known Chinese xiangsheng performers such as Ma Ji, Jiang Jun and Tang Jie Zhong, and used his interactions with them as opportunities to hone his own xiangsheng skills. He also invited these xiangsheng masters to perform in Singapore so as to expose audiences to the art form and improve the standards of local xiangsheng performances.23

Han continues to write, direct and produce theatre and xiangsheng plays with the Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society.24

Stylistic conventions
The themes in Han’s plays are drawn from his observations of life and society. They speak to the audience because the stories are something the audience can easily identify with.


His first play, Walking Out of Prison: Ah Seng’s Story, was based on the life of Ling Wan Ling, a kidnapper of the 1960s known for always leaving money for the poor.25 Another work, The Teochew Kangaroo (1998), reflected the unhappiness of Singaporean children with learning Mandarin.26

Han has written several newspaper articles about the state of Chinese theatre in Singapore. He believes that local Chinese theatre should delve deeper into Chinese culture and language, as well as revisit Chinese classics to make them more relevant to modern society.27

Awards28
1990:
Cultural Medallion for Theatre (National Arts Council, Singapore).

1995: Hou Bao Lin Award (The People’s Republic of China).
1995: Broadcast Award (The China Federation of Literary and Art Circles).
2000: Hou Bao Lin Award (The People’s Republic of China).

List of selected works
Plays29
1972: 走出牢房的人 [Zou chu lao fang de ren]

1982: 金银花 [Jin yin hua]
1986, 2004: 五个天平座 [Wu ge tian ping zuo]
1992: 飞天赋格 [Fei tian fu ge]
1998: 潮州袋鼠 [Chao zhou dai shu]

Xiangsheng performances30
地铁惊魂 [Di tie jing hun]
教鞭 [Jiao bian]
九九九 [Jiu jiu jiu]
老虎,老师 [Lao hu, lao shi]
五颜六色 [Wu yan liu se]
译名 [Yi ming]
作文难不难 [Zuo wen nan bu nan]



Author
Chor Poh Chin




References
1. 新风相声学会 [Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society]. (2007–2014). 理事 [Li shi]. Retrieved from http://sinfeng.org.sg/main/index.php/society-menu/li-shi-menu
2. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR); Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrie6ed from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
3. 骆明 (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2005). 新加坡华文作家传略 [Xinjiapo hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. Singapore: 新加坡文艺协会. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP)
4. National Arts Council. (2013). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Theatre. Retrieved from https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/theatre/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-theatre
5.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
6. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
7. Han Language Centre. (2013). Our principal. Retrieved from http://hanlanguage.edu.sg/site/index.php/about-us/our-principal; Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
8. 谭天 [Tan, T.]. (1988). 谭天相声二集 [Tan tian xiang sheng er ji]. 新加坡: 南方艺术研究会, back cover. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.2028 TT)
9. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
10. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR); 韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (2000). 劳达相声集. (三) [Lao da xiang sheng ji (san)]. 新加坡: 新亚出版社, back cover. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.2028 HLD)
11. Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
12. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
13. Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
14. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 227. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
15. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR); Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
16. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
17. 吴启基 [Wu, Q. J.]. (1984, June 7). 得奖者的话 [De jiang zhe de hua]. 联合早报  [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
18. Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
19. 新风相声学会 [Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society]. (2007–2014). 理事 [Li shi]. Retrieved from http://sinfeng.org.sg/main/index.php/society-menu/li-shi-menu
20. Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
21. 新风相声学会 [Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society]. (2007–2014). 理事 [Li shi]. Retrieved from http://sinfeng.org.sg/main/index.php/society-menu/li-shi-menu
22. Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
23. 新风相声学会 [Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society]. (2007–2014). 新风与韩劳达 陈伯 [Xin Feng yu Han Lao Da - Chen Bo Han]. Retrieved from http://sinfeng.org.sg/main/index.php/literature-menu/review-articles-menu/26-2011-11-26-14-32-33
24. 新风相声学会 [Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society]. (2007–2014). 理事 [Li shi]. Retrieved from http://sinfeng.org.sg/main/index.php/society-menu/li-shi-menu
25. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
26. 云乐网 [Yun le wang]. (2006–2013). 从剧本看新加坡社会 [Cong ju ben kan Xinjiapo she hui]. Retrieved from http://news.ynxxb.com/content/2010-6/7/N92030743580.aspx
27. Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
28. Tribute.sg. (2012). Han Lao Da. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Han+Lao+Da
29. 云乐网 [Yun le wang]. (2006–2013). 从剧本看新加坡社会 [Cong ju ben kan Xinjiapo she hui]. Retrieved from http://news.ynxxb.com/content/2010-6/7/N92030743580.aspx
30. 驿寄浮云 [Yi ji fu yun].(2012, March 24).五颜六色 [Wu yan liu se] [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_5c8b402201010hov.html



Further resources
海叔 [Hai, S.]. (1994). 鱼尾狮的故事. 第一集 [Yu wei shi de gu shi. Di yi ji]. 新加坡: 新加坡宗乡会馆联合总会; 龙出版公司.
(Call no.: Chinese J P HIS)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (2004). 劳达校园相声集 [Lao da xiao yuan xiang sheng ji]. Singapore: 新亚出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese YRSING 792.2028 HLD)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (2000). 劳达相声集 (三) [Lao da xiang sheng ji (san)]. 新加坡: 新亚出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.2028 HLD)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (198-). [Men]. [出版地缺]: [出版社缺].
(Call no.: Chinese RSEA C812.7 HLD)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (1986). 劳达剧作: 戏剧创作及随笔 [Lao da ju zuo: Xi ju chuang zuo ji sui bi]. 新加坡: 新加坡潮州八邑会馆文教委员会出版组.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.7 HLD)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (1987). 秦香莲怒斩亲夫 [Qin xiang lian nu zhan qin fu]. 新加坡: 泛太平洋书业.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C813.4 HLD)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (1991). 陈嘉庚: 八场话剧 [Chen jia geng : ba chang hua ju]. 新加坡: 华侨中学.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.7 HLD)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (1991). 信步走过: 80年代新加坡华语剧坛 [Xin bu zou guo: 80 nian dai Xinjiapo hua yu ju tan]. 新加坡: 南方艺术研究会.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.7004 HLD)


韩永元 [Han, Y. Y]. (2003). 华文不难考 [Hua wen bu nan kao]. 新加坡: Pearson Education Asia.
(Call no.: Chinese YRSING 495.1076 HYY)


韩劳达 [Han, L. D.]. (2010). 劳达剧作集, 1972–2004 [Lao da ju zuo ji, 1972–2004]. Singapore: 航速出版公司.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.7 HLD)


韩永元 [Han, Y. Y]. (2010). 事事关心: 写给新加坡的中学生 = Talking point [Shi shi guan xin: Xie gei Xinjiapo de zhong xue sheng = Talking point]. Singapore: 航速出版公司.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 089.951 HYY)


谭天 (编) [Tan, T. (Ed.)]. (19--). 现代独幕剧选析 [Xian dai du mu ju xuan xi]. 新加坡: 人民书局.
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C812.7004 XDD-[LC])


谭天 [Tan, T.]. (1979). 关于相声 [Guan yu xiang sheng]. 新加坡: 风华出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.2028 TT)


谭天 [Tan, T.]. (1984). 谭天相声集 [Tan tian xiang sheng ji]. 新加坡: 文学书屋.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.2028 TT)


谭天 [Tan, T.]. (1988). 谭天相声二集 [Tan tian xiang sheng er ji]. 新加坡: 南方艺术研究会.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.2028 TT)




The information in this article is valid as at 15 January 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Personalities
Arts