Arthur Miller on Ying

The following are remarks made about Ying Ruocheng by American playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005), with whom Ying collaborated on Death of a Salesman in Beijing in 1983. (Ying arranged the collaboration, translated the play into Chinese, and played Willy Loman.) Miller and Ying formed a close bond that lasted their lifetimes–Miller agreed to write the foreword to Ying’s autobiography, but died before writing it. These quotations come from Miller’s 1984 book ‘Salesman’ in Beijing.

Original cover for 'Salesman in Beijing' (1984)

Original cover of 'Salesman in Beijing' (1984) featuring Ying and Miller

“Ying Ruocheng…is, of course, a star in China, and all the reporters know him and seem to have confidence in his candor”

“Ying Ruocheng…is fantastically energetic and steady-minded, refusing either to illusion himself or to despair…”

One of the best rewards for me in this project is to be able to get to know Ying Ruocheng better.”

Ying Ruocheng as Willy Loman

Ying Ruocheng as Willy Loman

About Ying’s acting:

Ying has a kind of absolute control that brings Olivier to mind—he simply does what is called for, easily, directly, effortlessly.”

Ying Ruocheng’s performance is already a joy. A real pro, yet a man full of intelligent feeling who is ready to try anything. He is about the size and shape of Cagney, balanced on short legs, a compact man who is able to come on cold, step onto the forestage and simply call up the feelings and joys of his great moment, decades ago, when through Biff he felt he was within inches of some fabled victory over life’s ignominious leveling.”

“Sitting and watching Ying making up I feel his ownership of the role, his security in its convolutions. Willy, it has been said a thousand times, is so American because he so wants love; but why then has this Chinese actor responded so quickly to the same profile of fear and longing? I sensed in the beginning that Ying had felt a certain superiority to Willy, as though to say, ‘I understand Loman but I am not to be mistaken for him.’ But when he gave up his own invulnerability he began to acknowledge his affinities with the character and in the bargain transcended himself.”

Ying interpreting for Miller

Ying interpreting for Miller

About Ying’s translating:

“…I am spoiled by Ying’s instantaneous and colloquial renderings…with him beside me I forget altogether that I am not understanding the Chinese instantaneously; he is but a breath behind the speaker, with not a single hesitation.”

Ying Ruocheng is not only a translator and actor but of necessity a kind of diplomat who, like it or not, represents this theatre before me, and this obligation, I believe, must narrow his field of candor.”

From the day Death of a Salesman would open in Beijing:

“In the afternoon I go to Ying Ruocheng and Wu Shiliang’s house to sit together one more time…I have never had this kind of relationship with an actor—primarily, I think, because Ying is also a scholar and approaches concepts passionately; thus he can draw feeling from ideas as well as from sheer psychological experience…Ying Ruocheng has been my rock, a man of double consciousness, Eastern and Western, literary and show business. And he has managed to contain his actor’s necessary selfishness through all our trials. I am happy to be in his house now with nothing to do but enjoy the delightful absence of necessity.

Cover for reprint of 'Salesman in Beijing' (2005)

Cover for reprint of 'Salesman in Beijing' (2005)

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