Yi-Wei Yao

Yi-Wei Yao, born Gong-Wei Yao (April 5, 1922 – April 11, 1997), grew up near Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, China. His ancestors came from Jiangxi’s capitol Nanchang. In 1938 at the age of 16, he entered Jian Middle School. But not long after he entered school, several years of successive warring began and he was forced to move with the school. Finally he was admitted to Xiamen University and made the school his new home. After graduating in 1946, Yao moved to Taiwan for work. However, not long after his move, political problems resulted in Taiwan being diplomatically cut off from the mainland. It was not until fifty years later, in 1989, that Yao was finally able to visit his home in China again. 

Yao worked at the Bank of Taiwan for 36 years. He never asked for a promotion, but he did request enough to keep him and his family fed and clothed. Throughout his life, reading was his favorite form of entertainment, with creative pursuits, writing and education being his strongest endeavors. Yao firmly believed in the spirit of traditional humanities and classical aesthetics. He was rigorous in his scholarship and far-reaching in his creative concepts, and his accomplishments in the fields of playwriting, aesthetics, theory, criticism, essay-writing among others were brilliant. Starting in the 1950’s, he began actively participating in and editing important literary publications like Literary Review (《筆匯》) and etc.. In his work with these publications, he was a leader for up-and-coming generations, sparing no effort to discover new talents. Because of these efforts, in the literary world he was known as “the torch-bearer in the dark night”.

Yao first began teaching the arts, focusing on theatre education and practice, at the age of 35. For over twenty years, he taught at such schools as Fu Hsing Kang College and in the graduate school of arts at the College of Chinese Culture as well as in their department of film and theatre. In 1982, he was able to retire early from the Bank of Taiwan, giving him time to put all his efforts into the preparations for opening the new National Institute of the Arts and establishing the Institute’s theatre department. He was the department’s first head as well as the first dean of Academic Affairs. Prof. Yao dedicated himself to education for 40 years, nurturing countless future leaders. In particular, he presided over five seasons of contemporary experimental Taiwanese theatre exhibitions which cultivated numerous practitioners in the fields of the arts and education. He is widely renowned by theatre practitioners as “the mentor of a generation.”