This actor has “died” on stage over 6,000 times and has even been subjected to beatings from audience members while playing a Japanese soldier during reenactments of China’s resistance against Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War at a Shanxi cultural park.
Yang Lei, 27, plays a much despised “Japanese devil” during regular performances at the Eighth Route Army Cultural Park in Wuxiang County, Shanxi. Whether by gun wounds or a knife to the back, Yang said that on average he gets “killed” on stage six or seven times a day.
“Whatever the plot may be, I always die in the end,” he told reporters at Legal Evening News.
The performance group is made up of 46 grassroots actors and their shows at the cultural park attract large crowds, especially over the weekend. One of their most popular 25-minute shows is about a group of Japanese soldiers in 1943 who raid a once-quiet Chinese town, eventually looting it and burning it to the ground. In the end, heroic soldiers in the Eighth Route Army get ahold of Japanese intelligence and shoot two of the “devils”.
The story has historical significance to the area as one of the sites of the Eighth Route Army Headquarters is located in Wuxiang County.
Yang, who graduated from the Sichuan Institute of Media, had to put on 20 pounds to play the role of a lifetime: a loathed and beefy Japanese soldier with a drawn-on toothbrush mustache.
While most audiences members are generally keen on getting photo with him, he has been the target of abuse from patriots who take the performance to heart. A few years ago, he recalls that a female tourist slapped him in the face after his show and later had to apologize for “getting too excited”.
Previously on Shanghaiist:
Residents in Lingbao, Henan mark Yuanxiao festival by attacking ‘Japanese devils’
Beijing women dance with toy guns to defeat ‘Japanese devils’
In new People’s Daily video game, players get points for shooting Japanese ‘devils’