The Western heritage of an Asian cultural modernity is no longer reflected as a dominant trend by contemporary sinophone avantgarde playwrights. Rather, it has become a borrowed tradition to be reconciled, or renegotiated, with local theatrical forms and styles. In his play Niaoren (Bird Men, 1992), Beijing-based dramatist Guo Shixing stages the uncanny re-enactment of colonialism’s missionary zeal in the guise of an Asian-American psychoanalyst’s project of scientific human engineering in post-Dengist China. Unlike the Christian missionaries’ peer group, it does not take the urban bird lovers and amateur singers of Beijing Opera long to see through the self-deceptive manoeuvring of their would-be master. In a wildly comical counter-performance, they enact the court trial scene from a well-known traditional play, thus efficiently holding their ground against several self-appointed, alien saviours of the local soul.