2015.048.014 The Family Journey of Kenneth Pai

Writer Kenneth Hsien-Yung Pai talks about his tumultuous childhood living in China during and after the Second Sino-Japanese war. He was diagnosed with Tuberculosis as a child and it affected his views on the world. He discusses his inspirations to become a writer and talks about writing the biography about his father Bai Chongxi, a Kuomintang general. His travels led him to the US at the age of 25 to pursue his studies and eventually becoming a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. He later returns to China and begins to promote Kun opera and putting together a revival of the play “Peony Pavilion” in 2004.

0:00 - Introductions, coming to the US in 1963 from Taiwan ( age 25), purpose for coming to NY, Being born in Nanning moving to Guilin then Chongqing, life after the Second Sino-Japanese war (Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan), early school years in Hong Kong, how his childhood experiences influenced him to be a writer, anecdote about a cook that told great stories and inspired him.

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11:07 - Tuberculosis and how it affected his demeanor, wanting to study engineering in high school but deciding to study literature in college, his interest in foreign languages, his desire to help improve China, cultural identity of the older generation that went to Taiwan.

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20:51 - Starting a modern literature magazine while attending National Taiwan University, how they were influenced by the May 4th movement, the state of art and literature during the Mao era, family leaving Guilin in 1944 due to Japanese attacks, grieving his mother’s passing in 1963 when he decided to come to the US.

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32:03 - Uncertainty about his future when deciding to come to the US, “The Guangxi spirit,” arriving at JFK airport in NY, applying to the university of Iowa (famous writing program), how he saw himself culturally after coming to the US (comparing American and Chinese culture), exploring human nature with his writing and being true to your own beliefs.

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41:24 - Teaching at the University of California Santa Barbara, retiring in 1994, getting involved in Kun opera and writing, writing his father’s biography to address misinformation, lecturing about his father throughout China.

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54:44 - Why he thinks his father’s story is important to China, February 28th incident, awakening childhood memories during his first time returning to Guilin, history of Kun opera, recollections watching a Mei Langfan performance in the show “Peony Pavilion” as a child, seeing the performance of palace of eternal life in Shanghai as an adult igniting his passion for supporting Kun opera, putting together revival performance of “peony pavilion” (2003- debut 2004 at the national theater in Taiwan), perfo

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