Chinese opera

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Chinese opera
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{{about|the traditional Chinese music theatre|the contemporary opera form based on western opera|Chinese contemporary classical opera}}{{Use mdy dates|date=May 2017}}File:The Limestone Rhyme Shao opera 5.jpg|thumb|260px|A Shao opera performance in ShanghaiShanghai{{Music of China}}

|tl=hì-khek|j=hei3-kuk1|y=hei-kūk}}Traditional Chinese opera ({{zh|t=戲曲|p=xìqǔ|j=hei3 kuk1}}), or Xiqu, is a form of musical theatre in China with roots going back to the early periods in China. It is an amalgamation of various art forms that existed in ancient China, and evolved gradually over more than a thousand years, reaching its mature form in the 13th century during the Song dynasty (960–1279). Early forms of Chinese theater are simple, but over time they incorporated various art forms, such as music, song and dance, martial arts, acrobatics, costume and make-up art, as well as literary art forms to become traditional Chinese opera.BOOK, The History of Chinese Dance, Wang Kefen, China Books & Periodicals, 78, 1985, 978-0835111867, There are over a hundred regional branches of traditional Chinese opera today. In the 20th century the Peking opera emerged in popularity and has come to known as the "national theatre" of China,JOURNAL, Peking Opera before the Twentieth Century, Mackerras, Colin, Comparative Drama, 28, 1, Spring 1994, 19–42, 41153679, but other genres like Yue opera, Cantonese opera, Yu opera, kunqu, qinqiang, Huangmei opera, pingju, and Sichuan opera are also performed regularly before dedicated fans. Their differences are mainly found in the music and topolect; the stories are often shared and borrowed.BOOK, Chinese Opera: Images and Stories, Siu, Wang-Ngai, Lovrick, Peter, UBC Press, 1997, 0-7748-0592-7, With few exceptions (such as revolutionary operas and to some extent Shanghai operas) the vast majority of Chinese operas (including Taiwanese operas) are set in China before the 17th century, whether they are traditional or newly written. For centuries Chinese opera was the main form of entertainment for both urban and rural residents in China as well as the Chinese diaspora. Its popularity declined sharply in the second half of the 20th century as a result of both political and market factors. Language policies discouraging topolects in Taiwan, PRC, and Singapore, official hostility against rural religious festivals in China, and de-Sinicization in Taiwan have all been blamed for the decline of various forms in different times, but overall the two major culprits were China's Cultural Revolution — which saw traditional culture systematically erased, innumerable theatre professionals viciously persecuted, and a generation raised with no exposure to Chinese opera aside from a severely altered propagandist form — and modernization, with its immense social impact and imported values that Chinese opera has largely failed to counter.JOURNAL, Yueju – The Formation of a Legitimate Culture in Contemporary Shanghai, Ma, Haili, 2012, Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, 213–227, 4, The total number of regional genres was determined to be more than 350 in 1957,JOURNAL, Chinese Operas on Stage and Screen: A Short Introduction, Iovene, Paola, 2010, 26, The Opera Quarterly, 2–3, 181–199, Project Muse, but in the 21st century the PRC government could only identify 162 forms for its intangible cultural heritage list, with many of them in immediate danger of disappearing.WEB,weblink 将优秀戏曲纳入“国家典藏”, Guangming Daily, 2017-05-09, zh, Chinese opera is no longer part of the popular Chinese culture, especially for young people, but it remains an attraction for many older people who find in it, among other things, a national or regional identity.


Six dynasties to Tang

An early form of Chinese drama is the Canjun Opera (參軍戲, or Adjutant Play) which originated from the Later Zhao Dynasty (319–351).BOOK,weblink Historical Dictionary of Chinese Theater, Tan Ye, 3, Scarecrow Press, 2008, 978-0810855144, WEB,weblink 唐代參軍戲, 中國文化研究院, WEB,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink February 24, 2007, Sichuan Opera, In its early form, it was a simple comic drama involving only two performers, where a corrupt officer, Canjun or the adjutant, was ridiculed by a jester named Grey Hawk (蒼鶻). The characters in Canjun Opera are thought to be the forerunners of the fixed role categories of later Chinese opera, particularly of its comic chou (丑) characters.WEB,weblink The Tang Dynasty (618–907), Asian Traditional Theatre and Dance, Various song and dance dramas developed during the Six Dynasties period. During the Northern Qi Dynasty, a masked dance called the Big Face (大面, which can mean "mask", alternatively daimian 代面, and it was also called The King of Lanling, 蘭陵王), was created in honour of Gao Changgong who went into battle wearing a mask.BOOK,weblink Music from the Tang Court: Volume 5, Cambridge University Press, 1985, Laurence Picken, 1–12, 978-0521347761, Another was called Botou (撥頭, also 缽頭), a masked dance drama from the Western Regions that tells the story of a grieving son who sought a tiger that killed his father.BOOK,weblink Historical Dictionary of Chinese Theater, Tan Ye, 336, Scarecrow Press, 2008, In The Dancing Singing Woman (踏謡娘), which relates the story of a wife battered by her drunken husband, the song and dance drama was initially performed by a man dressed as a woman.BOOK,weblink Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present, 28–29, Faye Chunfang Fei, University of Michigan Press, 2002, 978-0472089239, WEB,weblink Theatre, China Culture Information Net, dead,weblink" title="">weblink December 25, 2013, mdy-all, The stories told in of these song-and-dance dramas are simple, but they are thought to be the earliest pieces of musical theatre in China, and the precursors to the more sophisticated later forms of Chinese opera.WEB,weblink The Early History of Chinese Theatre, Asian Traditional Theatre and Dance, March 11, 2014,weblink" title="">weblink October 21, 2017, dead, These forms of early drama were popular in the Tang dynasty where they further developed. For example, by the end of the Tang Dynasty the Canjun Opera had evolved into a performance with more complex plot and dramatic twists, and it involved at least four performers.BOOK,weblink Chinese Theatre, Jin Fu, Cambridge University Press, 3rd, 10, 2012, 978-0521186667, The early form of Chinese theatre became more organized in the Tang dynasty with Emperor Xuanzong (712–755), who founded the "Pear Garden" (梨园/梨園; líyuán), the first academy of music to train musicians, dancers and actors.BOOK,weblink Historical Dictionary of Chinese Theater, Tan Ye, 223, Scarecrow Press, 2008, 978-0810855144, The performers formed what may be considered the first known opera troupe in China, and they performed mostly for the emperors' personal pleasure. To this day operatic professionals are still referred to as "Disciples of the Pear Garden" (梨园弟子 / 梨園弟子, líyuán dìzi).WEB, Chinese Opera,weblink, 2011-07-12, File:Children Playing on a Winter Day.jpg|thumb|left|12th century painting by Su Hanchen; a girl waves a peacock feather banner like the one used in Song dynastySong dynasty

Song to Qing

By the Song Dynasty, Canjun Opera had become a performance that involved singing and dancing, and led to the development of Zaju (雜劇). Forms such as the Zaju and Nanxi (南戏) further matured in the Song dynasty (960–1279). In the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), acts based on rhyming schemes and innovations such as specialized roles like Dan (旦, dàn, female), Sheng (生, shēng, male), Hua (花, huā, painted-face) and Chou (丑, chŏu, clown) were introduced into the opera. Although actors in theatrical performances of the Song Dynasty strictly adhered to speaking in Classical Chinese onstage, during the Yuan Dynasty actors speaking or performing lyrics in the vernacular tongue became popular on stage.Rossabi, 162.In the Yuan poetic drama, only one person sang for the all four acts, but in the poetic dramas that developed from Nanxi during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), all the characters were able to sing and perform. A playwright Gao Ming late in the Yuan dynasty wrote an opera called Tale of the Pipa which became highly popular, and became a model for Ming dynasty drama as it was the favorite opera of the first Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang.BOOK,weblink Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present, 41, Faye Chunfang Fei, University of Michigan Press, 2002, 978-0472089239, BOOK,weblink Chinese Theatre, Jin Fu, 447, Cambridge University Press, 3rd, 2012, 978-0521186667, The presentation by now resemble the Chinese opera of today, except that the librettos were then very long. The operatic artists were required to be skilled in many fields; according to Recollections of Tao An (陶庵夢憶) by Zhang Dai, performers had to learn how to play various musical instruments, singing and dancing before they were taught acting.WEB,weblink 陶庵夢憶/卷02 《朱雲崍女戲》, The dominant form of the Ming and early Qing dynasties was Kunqu, which originated in the Wu cultural area. A famous work in Kunqu is The Peony Pavilion by Tang Xianzu. Kunqu later evolved into a longer form of play called chuanqi, which became one of the five melodies that made up Sichuan opera.WEB,weblink 中国剧种大观 CCNT, 川 剧styles,weblink" title="">weblink 30 April 2001, Currently Chinese operas continue to exist in 368 different forms, the best known being Beijing opera, which assumed its present form in the mid-19th century and was extremely popular in the latter part of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911).
File:Xu Yang - Theatre play.jpg|thumb|Theatre play, Prosperous Suzhou by Xu Yang, 1759]]In Beijing opera, traditional Chinese string and percussion instruments provide a strong rhythmic accompaniment to the acting. The acting is based on allusion: gestures, footwork, and other body movements express such actions as riding a horse, rowing a boat, or opening a door. Spoken dialogue is divided into recitative and Beijing colloquial speech, the former employed by serious characters and the latter by young females and clowns. Character roles are strictly defined, and each character have their own elaborate make-up design. The traditional repertoire of Beijing opera includes more than 1,000 works, mostly taken from historical novels about political and military struggles.


At the turn of the 20th century, Chinese students returning from abroad began to experiment with Western plays. Following the May Fourth Movement of 1919, a number of Western plays were staged in China, and Chinese playwrights began to imitate this form. The most notable of the new-style playwrights was Cao Yu (b. 1910). His major works—Thunderstorm, Sunrise, Wilderness, and Peking Man—written between 1934 and 1940, have been widely read in China.In the 1930s, theatrical productions performed by traveling Red Army cultural troupes in Communist-controlled areas were consciously used to promote party goals and political philosophy. By the 1940s, theater was well established in the Communist-controlled areas.


File:Sichuan Opera in Chengdu.jpg|thumb|Sichuan opera in ChengduChengduIn the early years of the People's Republic of China, development of Peking opera was encouraged; many new operas on historical and modern themes were written, and earlier operas continued to be performed. As a popular art form, opera has usually been the first of the arts to reflect changes in Chinese policy. In the mid-1950s, for example, it was the first to benefit under the Hundred Flowers Campaign, such as the birth of Jilin opera. Opera may be used as commentaries on political affairs, and in November 1965, the attack on Beijing deputy mayor Wu Han and his historical play Hai Rui Dismissed from Office as anti-Mao, signaled the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution, most opera troupes were disbanded, performers and scriptwriters were persecuted, and all operas were banned except the eight "model operas" that had been sanctioned by Jiang Qing and her associates. Western-style plays were condemned as "dead drama" and "poisonous weeds", and were not performed. After the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976, Beijing Opera enjoyed a revival and continued to be a very popular form of entertainment, both on stage and television.


In the 21st century, Chinese opera is seldom publicly staged except in formal Chinese opera houses. It may also be presented during the lunar seventh month Chinese Ghost Festival in Asia as a form of entertainment to the spirits and audience. More than thirty famous pieces of Kunqu opera continue to be performed today, including The Peony Pavilion, The Peach Blossom Fan, and adaptions of Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms.In 2001, Kunqu was recognized as Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO)

Costumes and make-ups

(File:Прощай, моя наложница.jpg|thumb|Costume and makeup in the opera Farewell My Concubine)(File:Yang wenguang in Beijing opera.JPG|thumb|upright|Costume and makeup of a sheng character)Exaggerated paints on opera performer's face which ancient warriors decorated themselves to scare the enemy are used in the opera; each color has a different meaning. They are used to symbolize a character's role, fate, and illustrate the character's emotional state and general character.White symbolizes sinister, evil, crafty, treacherous, and suspicious. Any performer with white painted face usually takes the part of a villain of the show. The larger the white painted area, the crueler the role.Green denotes impulsive behavior, violence, no self-restraint or self-control.Red stands for bravery or loyalty.Black denotes boldness, fierceness, impartiality, rough.Yellow symbolizes ambition, fierceness, or intelligence.Blue stands for steadfastness ( someone who is loyal and sticks to one side no matter what ).Pink symbolizes sophistication, and cool-headedness.Moreover, paint figures have different types. For instance, overall painted face, and only painted in the center of the face, connecting eyes and nose.

Regional genres{| class"wikitable"

!English name !! Chinese name(s) !! Major geographical areas Peking opera>| Cities nationwide, TaiwanKunqu>| Cities nationwide, TaiwanNuo opera>|Certain rural areas in Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Anhui, Shanxi, Hebei!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Northeast ChinaLongjiang opera>|HeilongjiangJilin opera>|JilinHaicheng, Liaoning>Haicheng (central Liaoning)!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|North ChinaPing opera>|Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Heilongjiang, Jilin, LiaoningHebei bangzi>|Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, northwestern ShandongLaodiao>|Central Hebei, Beijing, TianjinHahaqiang>|Central Hebei, northwestern ShandongSixian>|Hebei, Shanxi|Southern Hebei, northern ShanxiSiguxian>|Southern HebeiXidiao>|Handan (southern Hebei)Pingdiao>|Wu'an (southern Hebei)|Haixing County (southeastern Hebei)Shanxi opera>|Shanxi, western Hebei, central Inner Mongolia, northern ShaanxiYangge opera>|Shanxi, Hebei, Shaanxi, Daoqing opera>|Errentai>|Northern Shaanxi, northwestern Shanxi, northwestern Hebei, central Inner MongoliaXianqiang>|Southernmost Shanxi, westernmost Henan, eastern Shaanxi!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Northwest China Qinqiang>|Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Xinjiang|Heyang County (central Shaanxi)|Hanzhong (southwestern Shaanxi)|Gansu|Northern Gansu, Xinjiang|Longnan (southern Gansu)!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Henan and ShandongHenan opera>|Henan, southern Hebei, TaiwanQu opera>|HenanYuediao>|Henan, northern Hubei|Central ShandongLü opera>|Maoqiang>|Jiaozhou Bay (eastern Shandong)!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Anhui and JiangsuHuangmei opera>|Anhui, eastern Hubei, Taiwan|Northeastern Anhui, northwestern JiangsuLu opera>|Central AnhuiHui opera>| Southern Anhui, northeastern JiangxiHuaihai opera>|Northern JiangsuYangzhou opera>|Yangzhou (central Jiangsu)Huai opera>|Central JiangsuWuxi opera>|Wuxi and Changzhou (southern Jiangsu)Suzhou opera>|Suzhou (southern Jiangsu)Tongzi opera>|Nantong (southeastern Jiangsu)!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Zhejiang and ShanghaiYue opera>|Zhejiang, Shanghai, southern Jiangsu, northern FujianShanghai opera>|ShanghaiHuzhou opera>|Huzhou (northern Zhejiang)Shao opera>|Shaoxing (northern Zhejiang)Yao opera>|Yuyao (northern Zhejiang)Ningbo opera>|Ningbo (northern Zhejiang)Wu opera>|Western ZhejiangYongkang, Zhejiang>Yongkang (central Zhejiang)Ou opera>|Wenzhou (southern Zhejiang)!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Fujian and TaiwanMin opera>|Fujian, Taiwan (particularly Matsu Islands), Southeast Asia|Shouning County (northeastern Fujian)|Ningde (northeastern Fujian)Sanjiao opera>|Northern Fujian, western Zhejiang, northeastern Jiangxi|Northwestern FujianPuxian opera>|Putian (coastal central Fujian)Liyuan opera>|Quanzhou (southern Fujian), Taiwan, Southeast AsiaGaojia opera>|Quanzhou (southern Fujian), Taiwan, Southeast Asia|Quanzhou (southern Fujian)Taiwanese opera>|Taiwan, southern Fujian, Southeast Asia!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Hubei, Hunan, and JiangxiFlower-drum opera>| Hubei, Hunan, Anhui, southeastern HenanHan opera>| Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi Chu opera>| Eastern Hubei|Southern Hubei, northern Hunan|Yueyang (northeastern Hunan)Jiangxi opera>|Jiangxi|Yongxiu County (northern Jiangxi)|Guangchang County (eastern central Jiangxi)|Ganzhou (southern Jiangxi)Tea-picking opera>|Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi, Hubei, Guangdong!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|Southwest China Sichuan opera>|Sichuan, ChongqingYang opera>|Northwestern Hunan, eastern Sichuan, Chongqing, GuizhouDeng opera>|Northeastern Sichuan, Chongqing, southwestern HubeiHuadeng opera>|Guizhou, YunnanGuizhou opera>|GuizhouYunnan opera>|Yunnan|Chengjiang County (central Yunnan)!colspan=3 style="background:#B0C4DE;"|South China Cantonese opera>|Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macau, southern Guangxi, North America, Southeast AsiaTeochew opera>|Eastern Guangdong, southernmost Fujian, Hong Kong, Southeast AsiaLufeng, Guangdong>Lufeng (eastern Guangdong)Leizhou opera>|Leizhou Peninsula (southwestern Guangdong)Hainan opera>|Hainan, Singapore|Haikou (northern Hainan)Caidiao>|GuangxiGuangxi opera>|Northern GuangxiNanning opera>|Nanning (southern Guangxi) {{listen
| filename = Canto Opera Hong Kong - Yam Kim Fai and Bak Sheut Sin.ogg
| title = Recognize mutually (相認)
| description = A Cantonese opera song by two female singers Yam Kim Fai and Bak sheut sin. Yam Kim Fai is actually using her trademark indistinguishable male voice behind the opera disguise. Only traditional Chinese instruments are used.
| format = Ogg
| filename2 = Ivy Ling Po and Jenny Tseng - Huangmeitone.ogg
| title2 = Eighteen miles away (十八相送)
| description2 = A Huangmei opera song by Ivy Ling Po partnering with Jenny Tseng.
| format2 = Ogg


File:Print illustration of zaju plays by Yuan writers; Wanli reign.jpg|Print illustration of zaju plays by Yuan playwrights, a book of the Wanli period (1572–1620).File:Chengdu-opera-sichuan-marionetas-d05.jpg|Fire spitting from Sichuan operaFile:HuangmeiOperaInformal.jpg|The informal costume of Huangmei operaFile:Taipei Eye p1090619.jpg|A performerFile:Kinesisk figur i lergods - Hallwylska museet - 95990.tif|Chinese opera performer, Qing dynasty, 19th-20th century.File:Costume of a female play.jpg|A female opera performer

See also




  • Rossabi, Morris (1988). Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times. Berkeley: University of California Press. {{ISBN|0-520-05913-1}}.

Further reading

{{Commons|Chinese opera}}

External links

{{Theatre}}{{Chinese opera}}

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