Actor Li mourned by theater peers

Updated: 2012-11-10 09:05

By Pu Zhendong (China Daily)

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"If I were a bird, I should sing with my husky throat ... after that I died, the feathers corrupted in the earth," performing artist Li Moran recited Ai Qing's poem with passion in his last TV appearance in April 2011.

Now the legendary bird of art has fallen.

A celebrated drama and film actor, honorary chairman of Chinese Dramatists Association and honorary president of Liaoning People's Art Theater, Li died of a heart attack at the age of 85 on Thursday afternoon in Beijing.

Actor Li mourned by theater peers

His son, Li Longyin, confirmed the news on Sina Weibo later in the evening. More than 10,000 friends and fans expressed condolences as the news spread, including screen celebrities like Cao Kefan and Sun Haiying.

Born in 1927, Li officially started his acting career at the age of 20 when he joined the Northeast Art Troupe in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. In 1954, he transferred to the People's Art Theater of Liaoning province, working first as an actor and then, the director of the theater.

The Naval Battle of 1894, released by Changchun Film Studio in 1962, was among Li's most acclaimed works. In the film, he acted as the naval hero Deng Shichang in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). His giant stature and passionate acting techniques combined to make the character a screen legend.

"I was completely amazed by the emotions and power of the character," Li said once about the film role. "By the time I finished reading the story, I already knew in my head what he should look like, what kind of things he should do."

Zha Mingzhe, vice-director of the National Theater of China, commends Li's acting style as inspiring and soul-touching.

"He held a very profound understanding of stage acting, especially in a traditional Chinese style," says Zha, who was acquainted with the actor for more than 20 years. "His lines, full of strength, rhythm and passion, always blow the mind of audience."

A "theater person" as he called himself, Li always advised young professionals to train hard and improve their skills on stage.

In his more than 60-year career, Li performed in more than 60 dramas and eight films. In 1986, he received the honorary title of "performing artist" from the Chinese Dramatists Association. In April 2007, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the organizing committee of the Magnolia Drama Performance Award.

The deceased dramatist Cao Yu once saluted Li's career achievement: "For more than 50 years, he blazed the trails of art exploration and impressed the audience with a series of shining characters."

"Li stands as the lighthouse to stage performers," says Zha. "He defined himself as an artist and maintained the clear conscience of an artist."