When We Two Parted

The Nine

Written and Directed by Zhu Hongxuan


October 23, 2021, 14:30

October 23, 2021, 20:30

October 24, 2021, 14:30

WHERE: Studio Theatre of the Grand Theatre

Duration: 100 minutes

Performed in Chinese, with English subtitles


The Zing-Whai portrayed in When We Two Parted is based on Zing-Whai Ku, the first female doctor of physics in modern Chinese history. On the one hand is her impressive education—a bachelor's degree from Cornell, a master's from Yale, and a PhD in physics from Michigan—and on the other hand, this diminutive, cheongsam-wearing, high-heeled woman is troubled by a succession of frustrating blind dates; and Chien-Shiung, in men's trousers, as imposing as ever, thinks of nothing but truth and justice, and does not buy into any of the red tape of the human world, relentlessly joking about the age of her female mentor. One is soft-spoken and emotional, while the other is strict and unworldly. After a century, both the career ceiling and the marital dilemma are still women's internal wounds. In the end, their life pursuits make the two great women closer to each other, each going on to a life of uncertainty with national responsibilities.

– Zhang Xiangyang, Intermission Drama

The play When We Two Parted tells a complete story in a remarkably short time, using a rich yet succinct approach to its presentation, and blending what it wants to express with just the right amount of English-language poetry, Suzhou Pingtan, Chinese Brush Painting and original songs to give the intellectual drama an intellectual air, continuing in the tasteful style of this company, The Nine, which never disappoint its audiences.

The title of the play is from Byron's poem, When We Two Parted; the play is as exquisite and meaningful as the poem is. This is the same poem Zing-Whai reads in the scene in which she teaches Chien-Shiung to speak English. When the two parted, they had been together for exactly a year.

– Zhao Yajiao, Drama of Beijing

About When We Two Parted

When We Two Parted is based on a short footnote in history.

Chien-Shiung Wu, an extraordinary physicist reputed to be the Madame Curie of the Orient, had spent one year in 1936 working at the Institute of Physics, Academia Sinica before she went to U.S. for study. At that time, her closest colleague and mentor was Zing-Whai Ku, the first female doctor of physics in China. Another notable physicist and playwright, Ding Xilin, happened to be the then-director of the Institute.

The story takes off from this quietly shimmering corner of history. With deep feeling and restraint, this concise and profound work shows us how they struggled to stand their ground, as women, as physicists, as a minority of their time.


Playwright/Director: Zhu Hongxuan


Lu Wen as Qv Jianxiong

Lv Fuyang as Gu Jingwei

Sun Yizhou as Ding Xilin

Stage Design: Zeng Miao

Music Design: Sun Shuqiao

Lighting Design: Feng Juncheng

Artistic Design: Chen Naibin, Liu Pei

Sound Supervisors: Zou Erjun, Yang Jiayi, Li Wenhao, Guo Ailun

Props: Peng Huifen, Zhu Zihua, Zhang Zhiying, Song Weijuan, Wang Yu, Zhang Qun, Zhang Xin

Product Operation: Zhu Yuyao, Liu Yajing, Song Sizheng

Costumes/Make-up: Jin Xi, He Xiao, Dong Zhujun

Photography: He Tian, Tan Shuting, Wang Ziyan

Back-stage Crew: Ma Yanjing, Song Zhuoru, Gao Yuru, Liu Bohan, Wu Zijin, Ye Shitong, Li Mengqi, Zhang Liang, Liu Xiaoyin, Hua Yiyun, Dun Yuying, Zhang Feifei, Zhou Shitong

Pingtan Singer: Tang Ke

Singers: Han Yujia, Sheng Sijia

Presenter: Jiang Xinwen

Producer: Ren Huiyan

Executive Producer: Pan Xiayan, Zheng Xiaojuan

About Zhu Hongxuan

Zhu Hongxuan is a theatre director and playwright. Her works— such as Double Duai, When We Two Parted and Universitas—are approached with a child's innocence, profound speculation and idealistic concern for humanity.  

Zhu Hongxuan graduated from Peking University and established her theatrical team, The Nine, almost ten years ago. Recently, she has been devoted to the theatrical creation of her "Intellectuals in the Republic of China era" series.

About The Nine

The Nine was founded at Peking University in 2012. Beginning with a ten-year commitment, The Nine has continued to create one original work each year, reflecting on and discussing social issues such as prejudice, the mission of the media, the relationship between doctors and patients, women's advancement, and equity in education. In the past ten years, the works of The Nine have been staged at theaters in Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, and more. In 2019, The Nine created the "Intellectuals in the Republic of China era" series. More than 25,000 audience members have seen Universitas and When We Two Parted, both in the series and scoring an 8.6+ on Douban, the hugely influential cultural community site.

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