Zhu Xu



Zhu Xu (朱绪) (b. 15 November 1909, Quanzhou, Fujian, China–d. 19 December 2007, Singapore), real name Choo Kui Chao (朱季灶), was a pioneering figure in the history of Singapore theatre.1 A renowned playwright and director, Zhu played an instrumental role in the development of Singapore’s early theatre scene.2 Besides writing, editing or adapting plays, Zhu also wrote extensively on the history of theatre in Singapore and Malaya, authoring works such as Xin Ma Hua Ju Huo Dong Si Shi Wu Nian (新马话剧活动四十五年).3 In addition, Zhu published a biography titled Wo Yu Xi Ju (我与戏剧) and contributed literary reviews on theatre works.4 His other pen names include Shi Ling, Zhou Cang, Ji Zi and Ju Zi.5

Early life
Zhu had developed a keen interest in the performing arts since he was a boy. It began with puppetry, and he frequently attended puppet shows held near his home. During his third year in lower-primary school, Zhu met two like-minded classmates. Together, the threesome would discuss puppetry techniques and stories. They also consulted and learnt the techniques from professionals, and attempted to make their own puppets.6

When Zhu was in upper-primary school, he became interested in li yuan xi (梨园戏), a type of Chinese opera.7 Before long, he developed a passion for drama. His interest in the art form sparked when he was helping out and watching the rehearsals of a drama troupe formed by his primary-school teachers. Together with three friends, he then started an informal drama club with rehearsals taking place at home. In July 1922, they gave their first performance, which had only one audience – the mother of two of Zhu’s fellow club members who were siblings.8

The informal drama club continued to remain active until 1924, when Zhu completed primary school. He then continued his education at a teachers’ training school in Fuzhou.9

Career
Teaching career
After completing four years of education at the teachers’ training school, Zhu became a primary-school teacher in China.10

When Zhu immigrated to Singapore in 1932, he was planning a career switch from teacher to businessman.11 The plan, however, did not materialise. Three days upon his arrival in Singapore, he met a relative’s friend who was a school principal, and the latter persuaded Zhu to become a teacher at his school.12 Zhu joined the school for only one semester, following which he taught at the Chinese Industrial and Commercial Continuation School (present-day Gongshang Primary School) and subsequently Ai Tong School in 1947.13 In total, Zhu was a teacher for about half a century.14

Others
During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Zhu was arrested and jailed for six months; following that, he became a hawker.15 After the end of the Japanese Occupation, Zhu took on the job of a news reporter and then an assistant director with film production company Shaw Brothers.16

Drama and related activities
China
Zhu was actively involved in drama activities even before he immigrated to Singapore. In 1928, he established the theatre group Ren Jian Ju She (人间剧社) with a few friends in China.17 He also set up a drama club with several colleagues while teaching in a primary school.18 In addition, Zhu was active in promoting children’s drama, and held acting classes for pupils of the primary school where he taught.19

Singapore
Zhu became active in the theatre circle soon after he arrived in Singapore. In around 1932, he set up Ying Huo Ju She (萤火剧社; The Firefly Theatre) with four friends.20 On 7 September 1934, the theatre group held its first performance at the Great World Amusement Park. The performance comprised three plays, including Ya Po (压迫) and Wei Shei Xi Sheng (为谁牺牲). Zhu was the director and one of the actors. The performance, which received good reviews, marked the beginning of Zhu’s involvement in the local theatre scene. The Firefly Theatre, however, closed down after a few performances, mainly due to a lack of funds.21

In 1937, Zhu founded Xin Jia Po Ye Yu Hua Ju She (新加坡业余话剧社; Singapore Amateur Theatre) and became its first chairman.22 Shortly after, he led a travelling drama performance group known as Ma Hua Xun Hui Ju Tuan (马华巡回剧团) to Malaya, with the aim of raising funds in support of China’s war against the Japanese.23 The performance tour lasted about half a year, and it covered various parts of Malaya, including Yong Peng in Johor, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang.24

On 1 April 1939, the Singapore Amateur Theatre held its last performance titled Qian Ye (前夜). Due to the anti-Japanese nature of its plays, the colonial authorities banned the group from holding public performances and activities thereafter.25

During the 1950s, Zhu became actively involved in the drama society of the Chinese Industrial and Commercial Continuation School’s alumni. His roles include directing plays and overseeing rehearsals.26 In 1958, Zhu took on the role of a lecturer for acting classes organised by film company Cathay-Keris, and Kuo Pao Kun, who later became a famous playwright, was one of his students.27

In 1965, Zhu served as a consultant for the National Theatre.28 For the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1982, he was engaged as one of the consultants for the combined performance by 13 Chinese drama groups. He was subsequently reappointed to a similar role in the following two festivals.29

Written works
A prolific playwright, Zhu wrote many plays on war efforts against the Japanese during the second half of the 1930s. After World War II, his works became focused on capturing social phenomena such as interracial marriages and the differing influences of the Chinese and English education systems on individuals.30 His key works include Shei Zhi Jiu (谁之咎), Bei Huan Li He (悲欢离合), Hai Lian (海恋) and He Ping Yi Hou (和平以后).31

While Zhu wrote many plays during his lifetime, the scripts were often discarded after the performances ended. Also, none of his scripts written before 1937 were kept.32

Besides playwriting, Zhu wrote extensively on the history of theatre in Singapore and Malaya, and he authored the publication Xin Ma Hua Ju Huo Dong Si Shi Wu Nian (新马话剧活动四十五年).33 He also contributed literary reviews on theatre works, and his articles were often published in the supplements of major newspapers such as Sin Chew Jit Poh (星洲日报) and Nanyang Siang Pau (南洋商报).34

From 1935 to 1936, he set up literary arts group Xin Ye She (新野社) with several friends. The society produced two weekly publications titled Xin Ye (新野) and Wen Yi Yuan Di (文艺园地).35 In addition, he also wrote for a regular newspaper column known as Jiao Yu Sui Bi (教余随笔) for about a year in 1947. Zhu published his biography titled Wo Yu Xi Ju (我与戏剧) in 1987.36

Selected plays written by Zhu37
1946: He Ping Yi Hou (和平以后), also director.
1955: Tong Hua Guo (童话国), also director.
1955:
Chun Dao Ren Jian (春到人间), also director.

1960: Hai Lian (海恋), also director.
1963: Shei Zhi Jiu (谁之咎), also director.
1983: Bei Huan Li He (悲欢离合).
19--: Wei Jun Zi Dao Yan Ji Hua (伪君子导演计划).
19--: Hua Jia De Nü Er (画家的女儿).

Selected publications38
1985: Xin Ma Hua Ju Huo Dong Si Shi Wu Nian (新马话剧活动四十五年).
1987: Wo Yu Xi Ju (我与戏剧).

Plays directed by Zhu
His directorial credits include Wei Wan Cheng Jie Zuo (未完成杰作), Shuang Dou Yi (双斗医) and Hua Jia Ni (华迦尼).39

Family and hobbies
Zhu had a son and a daughter.40 Interested in puppetry since young, he spent many years of his adult life studying the art. He visited China’s Fujian province twice to conduct research on the craft. Besides puppetry, Zhu was also an avid stamp collector.41

Zhu died at the age of 98 on 19 December 2007.42



Author
Cheryl Sim



References
1. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2005). 新加坡文作家 [Xinjiapo hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 479. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP); 追忆朱绪老师 [Zhui yi Zhu Xu lao shi]. (2008, January 10). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php; National Library Board. (2014). Donors showcase: Zhu Xu. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/donors/zhu-xu-%E6%9C%B1%E7%BB%AA/
2. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php; National Library Board. (2014). Donors showcase: Zhu Xu. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/donors/zhu-xu-%E6%9C%B1%E7%BB%AA/
3. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php
4. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: List of works. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/listofworks.php; National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php
5. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php
6. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 1–2, 12. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
7. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 15. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
8. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 27, 29–31. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
9.
 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 32. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
10. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2005). 新加坡文作家 [Xinjiapo hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 479. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP); 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 32. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
11. 怀念本地戏剧先驱朱绪 [Huai nian ben di xi ju xian qu Zhu Xu]. (2008, January 10). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 56. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
12. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 56. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
13. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 57, 143. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX); Gongshang Primary School. (2014). Our history. Retrieved from Gongshang Primary School website: http://www.gongshangpri.moe.edu.sg/about-us/our-history
14. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 56. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
15. 绪资 [Zhu Xu zi liao jia]. (n.d.). (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 ZXZ)
16. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 122. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
17. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 41. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
18. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 32–33. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
19. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 32–33, 41, 50. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
20. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php; 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 57. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
21. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 58. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
22. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php; 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 60. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
23. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 67. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX); 绪资 [Zhu Xu zi liao jia]. (n.d.). (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 ZXZ); 怀念本地戏剧先驱朱绪 [Huai nian ben di xi ju xian qu Zhu Xu]. (2008, January 10). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 67, 74–75, 77. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
25. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 70–71. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
26. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, pp. 91, 93, 95. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
27. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 130. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
28. National Library Board. (2014). Donors showcase: Zhu Xu. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/donors/zhu-xu-%E6%9C%B1%E7%BB%AA/
29. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 179. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX); 13个华语话剧团体首次联合呈献话剧 [Shi san ge hua yu hua ju tuan ti shou ci lian he cheng xian hua ju]. (1982, August 30). 南洋商 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. 怀念本地戏剧先驱朱绪 [Huai nian ben di xi ju xian qu Zhu Xu]. (2008, January 10). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php
32. 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1987). 我与戏剧 [Wo yu xi ju]. 新加坡: 胜友书局, p. 188. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C812.009 ZX)
33. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php; 朱绪 [Zhu, X.]. (1985). 马话剧四十五 [Xin Ma Hua Ju Huo Dong Si Shi Wu Nian]. Singapore: 文学书屋. (Call no.: Chinese C812.7 ZX)
34. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php; 马仑 [Ma, L.]. (1991). 人物: 1925–1990 [Xin ma wen tan ren wu sao miao: 1925–1990]. Skudai, Johor: 书辉出版社, p. 463. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 ML)
35. 方修 [Fang, X.]. (1980, April 7). “白荻作品选”前言 [“Bai Di zuo pin xuan” qian yan]. 星洲日 [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2005). 新加坡文作家 [Xinjiapo hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 479. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP); National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: List of works. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/listofworks.php
37. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: List of works. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/listofworks.php; National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php
38. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: List of works. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/listofworks.php
39. National Library Board. (2014). Zhu Xu: Biography. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/literarypioneers/writers/chinese/zhuxu/index.php
40. 绪资 [Zhu Xu zi liao jia]. (n.d.). (Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 ZXZ)
41. 任芸芸 [Ren, Y.]. (1990, January 21). 敬礼之后 [Jing li zhi hou]. 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. 骆明. (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2005). 新加坡文作家 [Xinjiapo hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. 新加坡: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 479. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP); 追忆朱绪老师 [Zhui yi Zhu Xu lao shi]. (2008, January 10). 合早 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 24 November 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

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