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February 26, 2011

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Mourners rush for one final look at legend

CROWDS anxious to bid farewell to legendary Yueju Opera artist Yuan Xuefen at her funeral yesterday tried to push their way into the hall.

Hundreds gathered at Shanghai Longhua Funeral Parlor to pay their respects to Yuan, who died on February 19 at the age of 89.

The funeral hall was too small for the number of mourners, who were asked to queue and enter in groups. However, some of the mostly middle-aged and elderly people tried to push guards out of the way.

Order was restored when the crowd was assured that everybody would have an opportunity to say farewell to Yuan if they waited patiently.

Also paying their respects were figures from the arts and entertainment. These included Huju Opera actress Mao Shanyu and comedians Li Qing and Tong Shuangchun.

The funeral was a simple affair, as Yuan had asked. A large screen showing clips of her works and interviews was set outside the hall. Visitors left their names on a banner and were given yellow flowers before entering the hall.

"Yuan made a great contribution to not only the development of Yueju Opera but to culture in general," said Mao Shi'an, a local arts critic. "Her death will leave a big gap in the soul and art of Shanghai."

Yuan began training in Yueju Opera at 11 years old and performed for more than 70 years. She created her own singing style and reformed Yueju Opera, introducing elements in Peking Opera, drama and film.

The opera "Xianglinsao" is considered her masterpiece.

Yuan was always willing to help young artists, said Huaiju Opera actress Chen Cheng who consulted Yuan several times before creating the Huaiju version of "Xianglinsao."

"Be a good person in life and be a good actress in the opera is what Yuan repeatedly taught us," said Chen, "We will follow her steps."

Yuan's ashes will be scattered on the Huangpu River.


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