Professor Ruru Li

Professor Ruru Li


I acquired my BA and MA at the Shanghai Theatre Academy and my doctoral degree in Drama and Theatre at the University of Leeds, UK. Brought up in an actress family, I received some basic traditional theatre training when I was ten. My research interest lies in performance art, comparative and intercultural theatre studies. I also performed jingju (or Beijing Opera as known in the West) and I'm still running workshops for students and theatre professionals.

After teaching the Chinese language including classes focusing on the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing as well as courses on Chinese culture for nearly three decades at Leeds, I recently retired from teaching, but have re-engaged with the School focusing on my research. Currently I am is running two projects:

The first project focuses on a jingju school (1930-1940), which pioneered training of acting and music, aiming to reform traditional theatre through a more rounded education than the standard training troupes of the time. The school’s motto was “Respect our profession and entertain our people.”
The project contains a monograph and two huge appendices.
      Appendix 1 consists of the documentations of the School and correspondences between the School and Municipal Bureaus of Education/of Society and 4 play scripts created and performed by the School.
      Appendix 2 is comprised of performance records of the School. Students performed for the public from their 2nd year onwards; the School offered altogether over 3200 performances including over 500 repertoire between September 1932 and November 1940.

The second project functions as part of a major research in arts funded by China’s National Social Science Foundation. The title is ‘The System of Performance Aesthetics in the Traditional Chinese Theatre’. There are altogether four subordinate groups and Li is in charge of the overseas criticisms about Chinese theatre performance aesthetics. The outcome will be a book in Chinese of 500,000 characters.

Research interests

My research interests lie in performance art, comparative and intercultural theatre studies. I have written extensively on Shakespeare performance in China (including a monograph Shashibiya: Staging Shakespeare in China 2003) and on Chinese theatre (modern/traditional). My recent work includes Staging China: New Theatres in the Twenty-First Century (ed. 2016), The Soul of Beijing Opera: Theatrical Creativity and Continuity in the Changing World (2010), Translucent Jade: Li Yuru on Stage and in Life ([in Chinese] 2010), and two photographic exhibitions: one on Cao Yu (1910–1996), the pioneer of modern Chinese drama (exhibited from 2011– 2015); and the other on the Yuan dynasty’s play The Orphan of Zhao (2013) covering productions from China, Nigeria, Korea and Britain. I runs xiqu workshops for both students and theatre professionals because I regard regular contact with the theatre as essential to my academic work. The latest work I have led was the 2016 Shakespeare-Tang Xianzu, an international collaborative project, which celebrated 400-year legacy of two playwrights and poets. 

On the basis of my research carried out since I came to Leeds in 1988, two websites were created. They are now administrated by stage@leeds.

Digital Library of Chinese Theatre 
This bilingual website is a Pilot of the Digital Library of Chinese Theatre that contains a good number of performance episodes including foreign adaptations of Chinese plays, for example, by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK and Korean Michoo Theatre in Soul, and introductions to these performance episodes including the explanation of different theatrical genres. Differing theatrical genres are indicated on the map of China showing areas where these genres are popular. There are also two articles written by the leading Chinese theatre experts discussing both the traditional and modern theatres, and a bibliography of research on Chinese theatre carried out by Staging China international network members. 

Staging China 
This is a bilingual website, concentrating on the intercultural work that Staging China international network has carried out since it was established in 2012. Apart from exhibitions, international symposium proceedings and videos, there are a number of productions staged by Leeds student companies. They are intercultural work based on the plays by Cao Yu, Wan Fang, Tang Xianzu and Shakespeare (part of the  Staging China’s 2016 Shakespeare-Tang Xianzu project). The resources are rich including videos, photographs, play scripts, students’ rehearsal notes and performance reviews from Edinburgh Festival Fringe and from Chinese media when two of these productions toured China.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, University of Leeds, UK
  • MA, Shanghai Theatre Academy, China
  • BA, Shanghai Theatre Academy, China

Research groups and institutes

  • Theatre, Music and Performance
  • Chinese
  • Digital cultures
  • Digital Cultures
  • Popular culture