Ballet diplomacy: Political agency in the Japanese adaptation of The White-Haired Girl

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This article presents a sociological study of the various agents involved in the production, circulation and reception of a 1955 Japanese ballet adapted from the Chinese Communist opera The White-Haired Girl (1945). The ballet served as an effective means of unofficial diplomacy between China and Japan, even prior to normalisation of bilateral relations between the two countries. Apart from the expected agents such as translators and theatre practitioners, this case study also reveals the role of some extraordinary agents including Chinese Communist leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and senior Japanese political figures and institutions. Saturation with political agency renders the Japanese adaptation into a text consumed mostly by audiences from the source culture. The artistic life of the ballet, which was sustained by political needs, demonstrates how fundamental political factors are to research on translation in authoritarian contexts and amid geopolitical tensions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-29
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • The White-Haired Girl
  • ballet diplomacy
  • Japanese adaptation
  • Chinese communist opera
  • (political) agents

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