Buddhist legend gets revamped in tale, ‘Liou Ching-Ti’s Hell’

The China Post, Dec 12, 2008

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Chinese legend meets contemporary art with Taiwan Bang Zi Company’s rendition of “Liou Ching-Ti’s Hell,” which opens tonight at the National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center’s Experimental Theater.

“Liou Ching-Ti’s Hell” is a modern adaptation based on the popular tale of “Mulian Saves his Mother,” which tells the story of a disciple of the Buddha who goes to hell to rescue his sinful mother.

Liou Ching-Ti (or “Liu Qingti”), mother of Mulian (also known as Moginlin in the Buddhist sutras), is a legendary character condemned to hell for serious sins she committed after she renounces Buddhism and its teachings following her husband’s death.

“This is not merely a religious story,” remarked playwright Liu Hui-feng during a press event yesterday. “Liou Ching-Ti is a symbol of humanity, while hell represents human suffering.”

“Most people when they think of ‘hell’ immediately conjure up images of terrible punishments and torture, but don’t we all feel this way at some point in real life?” Liu noted. “When we lose love, we feel like ‘going through hell’! The same logic applies here; Liou Ching-Ti is a reflection of human suffering.”

“Mulian Saves his Mother” is said to have given origin to the modern-day Zhongyuan Festival, or the festival of Midyear, which falls on and around the fifteenth day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar.

Buddhist and Taoist faithful believe the Gates of Hell are opened two weeks before this date and closed two weeks thereafter. During this period, popularly called the Month of Ghosts, it is believed that hungry ghosts in hell are free to visit their relatives in this world.

Directed by Fu Hung-cheng, “Liou Ching-Ti’s Hell” will have four showings from today through Sunday. Tickets are priced at NT$500 and may be purchased online via the National Theater and National Concert Hall ticketing system at www.artsticket.com.tw or by calling (02) 3393-9888.