Mei Lanfang(1894-1961),the outstanding exponent of Beijing Opera, was the great master of China's dramatic art. Mei Lanfang was born into a family of Peking Opera performers. He began his stage debut at 11 and then dedicates all his rest life to the art of Beijing Opera. During his stage career over half a century, he showed great skill inherited from the primes of the traditional opera and adapting them into a new stage. His most famous roles were those of female characters; skillful portrayal of women won him international acclaim. He had always ameliorated and enriched his performance by adding some new elements and techniques. He blended acting, singing and dancing in one performance, turning the Beijing Opera into a colorful, comprehensive art of the highest stage effects. And thus his smooth, perfectly timed and poised style has come to be known in opera circles as the Mei School. Besides, Mei Lanfang also made great contribution in promoting the culture exchange. He had visited some foreign countries such as Japan, the United States and the Soviet Union and had introduced and spreaded the Beijing Opera to the world. The performing art of the Chinese theatre represented by Mei Langfang is now recognized as one of the three world contemporary main systems of performing art.
Mei Lanfang Memorial is situated at Huguosi Street in West City District, Beijing. It was the former residence of Mei Lanfang from 1949 to his death in 1961. In 1965, the Mei family donated the house and almost all of Mei Lanfang's valuable lifetime collection of books, manuscripts, calligraphies and paintings both of his own and distinguished artists, as well as other precious cultural relics and antiques to the government. Most are now preserved here with great care. The memorial is a typical Beijing courtyard and was originally a part of Prince Qings Mansion. In the inner courtyard, the main quarters are the living room, the study and the bedroom. In these rooms the furniture formerly used by Mr. Mei is displayed, and walls are hanging on the calligraphies and paintings by his renowned artist friends. In the study, a part of Mr. Mei's collection of Chinese and foreign books, scripts and manuscripts of operas are kept on the bookshelves. While the outer courtyard, which was the former reception room, is now an exhibition hall. In the exhibition hall, "A Brief Account of the Life of Mei Lanfang" is on display. There are more than a hundred photographs recording his artistic career and glorious life, together with a small portion of his theatrical costumes, head-ornaments and stage properties, as well as repertoire programs of various periods. The east wing-room has placed some souvenirs presented by Mei's friends both at home and abroad, calligraphies and paintings by distinguished ancient and contemporary artists, and programs of the performances by Mei Lanfang and earlier Beijing Opera actors in different periods of time. Those fine collections have great value and the Mei Lanfang Memorial is really a charming place for the lovers of Beijing Opera and those who are interested in Chinese art and culture.