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A Chinese scroll painting like a scene from an action movie: a horseman shoots a warrior galloping in front of him with bow and arrow. The transcultural Paper Tiger Theater (Berlin – Beijing) has been inspired by the scroll painting Machang Lays Low the Enemy Ranks in the collection of the Museum für Asiatische Kunst. In their dance-video-installation-performance the artists span an arc from the Chinese imperial wars and their celebration in the imperial palace to the colonial plundering of Beijing in the so-called Boxer War in 1900 to the China of today. Five dancers and actors meet a contemporary witness of SED General Secretary Honecker’s China trip, a skateboarder meets a percussionist, video art meets costumes for everyone.




Performance: Raul Aranha, Simon Chatelain, Oksana Chupryniuk, Gong Zhonghui / Lee Yi-Chi, Thomas Halle / Ariel Nil Levy, Shengnan Hu (percussion), Hans-Jürgen Schreiber, Mieko Suzuki (DJ), Wang Yanan

Direction Tian Gebing, Choreography Wang Yanan, stage Eva Veronica Born, Dramaturgy Christoph Lepschy, Curator Chen Shuyu, Music Mieko Suzuki, Hu Shengnan, Costume Design Chen Shuyu, Tian Gebing, Video Design Andreas König, Julia Kuhnert, Daniela Prochaska, Collaborating Artist Andreas Gedin

Assistant Director Li Jingwen, Assistant Stage Designer Lioba Bangert, Assistant Costume Designer Lam Ophelia, Aline Suter, Maria Yasinover,  Collaboration Costume Making Noemie Cassagnau, Yan Thung Ho, Elena Popva, Edgar Schlüter, Choreography Assistant Xie Yuchen, Translation Li Binyao, Surtitles Nora Rose, Xie Yuchen, Artistic Coordination Liu Chao, Video Recording Tong Xin, Jiang Dingding



We see the fatal moment of an act of war: hit by an arrow and painfully bent, a Dzungarian horseman flees at full gallop. Behind him, also on horseback, a Manchurian officer of the imperial army, Machang, bow in hand, is about to send another arrow after the fleeing man. The picture scroll “Machang Lays Low the Enemy Ranks”, which will be on display again from April 19th until May 8th 2023 in the Galery China and Europe, China’s Court Art in the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (3rd floor), was created in Beijing in 1759 and is part of a large-scale propaganda program commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795) from his court painter Lang Shining alias Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) after the conclusion of the victorious campaign against the Dzungars (today Xinjiang). It was intended to glorify the imperial expansionist policies of the Chinese Empire in the northwest and south of the empire. The Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione had lived in Beijing since 1714. Although he was not able to pursue his missionary activities there as originally planned, he became a court painter who was highly esteemed by the emperor. Through routes that have not yet been clarified, the painting arrived in Berlin either as a result of looting during the “Boxer War” of 1900-1901 from Beijing or as a result of the turmoil during the revolution of 1911 from Shenyang via Hamburg in 1914, where it is now part of the collection of the Museum of Asian Art in the Humboldt Forum. Its provenance, along with other works from the Imperial Palace in German museums, is currently being further researched.


Combining the realist tradition in European painting with Chinese aesthetics, Castiglione and painters in his workshop created an early form of transcultural encounter. The complex genesis and migration history of the painting constitute the starting point for a performative as well as installative research into the historical and contemporary contexts of colonization and revolution. In doing so, Paper Tiger understands the painting as a probe for exploring the present. As an object that has crossed times and spaces, in the field of tension between artist and emperor, between man and animal, between imperial power and impotent resistance, it asks us fundamental questions.

Idea and direction: Tian Gebing

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The “Paper Tiger Theater Studio” (Beijing/Berlin) is an independent theater collective founded by Tian Gebing in Beijing in 1998 and has been based in Berlin for the past three years. Artists with different professional backgrounds from the fields of dance, theater and visual arts gather to develop theater projects in the transdisciplinary area of theater, performance and dance. The central starting point of the theater work is the immediate reality, not only of contemporary Chinese society. Everyday reality in its brutal absurdity is used as material and structure for the performances, transposed into other contexts, translated, misunderstood, expanded with literary fictions, and transformed in such a way that an exchange process between social and performative spaces is set in motion.

From 2010 to 2015, Paper Tiger had its own theater spaces in Beijing, where artists from other disciplines could also work, thus forming a shared artistic network that decisively shaped the theater landscape in Beijing. The company’s productions have been seen in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Antwerp, Krakow, Zurich, Amsterdam and many other places in China. In Germany, Paper Tiger has been visible with several projects, including in 2007 at the HAU in Berlin, in 2014 with “Totally happy” at the Munich Kammerspiele and in 2017 with “500 meters. Kafka, Great Wall or Images from the Unreal World and Daily Heroism” at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater as part of the Theater der Welt festival. In 2021, the second part of a Kafka trilogy entitled “Heart Chamber Fragments” was coproduced with the Münchner Kammerspiele. Most recently, in 2022/23 Paper Tiger realized “Her Face. Theatre about diasporic poetry, disappearance and hauntological reoccurrence” a nomadic project in eight private apartments in Berlin .


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With thanks for their kind support:
Goethe-Institut Beijing, Serinus e.V., Berlin and Hou Ming
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