For Ying Ruocheng, all the world's a stage from which he is reluctant to step down. The actor, 73, best known for his role as a communist interrogator in Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci's epic The Last Emperor, will retire as an NPC delegate next year but he is not yet ready to call it quits. 'Doing nothing doesn't appeal to me,' Ying told the South China Morning Post at the Great Hall of People. Ying had been critically ill for much of the past two years with cirrhosis of the liver. 'I practically lived in the hospital,' he said. 'My wish now is that I don't ever have to go back there.' Despite his poor health, Ying still wants to pursue his lifelong passion - the theatre. In the late 1980s, he won worldwide acclaim for translating and bringing Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman to China. These days he is enjoying the demands of translating a British television production of Hamlet as well as Coriolanus into Chinese. 'Hamlet is a television production. But because it is a TV production, it has to be very detailed down to every single line of dialogue,' he said. Coriolanus, he said, might be put on stage by the People's Art Theatre in Beijing. The former vice-minister of culture (1986-91) conceded that he had to cut back his workload and might never tread the boards again. 'I am just too old now to do stage work. You can't make mistakes on stage.' Like many other veteran thespians, Ying finds some young actors lacking in the 'basics', although they are much better paid these days and the cultural scene in China has become less restricted than in the past. 'The quality of young actors is something we old actors worry about very much. We don't think it can go on like this,' Ying said. 'Young actors don't study any more. They sometimes take on three jobs in a single day and then ask me when they come to the studio things like, 'What are my lines today?' 'Performance art is at its best when an actor is building character,' Ying said. 'But how can an actor build character like that with three jobs a day?' Although he might never perform on stage again, Ying was still interested in what he jokingly sees as the lesser demands of movie and television work. 'That kind of work is all right,' he said. 'Because I can always have a new take when I make a mistake.'