Chinese opera is a traditional dramatic form which sizes literature, music, dance, fine arts, martial arts and acrobatics.
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Its origin can be traced back as far as to primitive society and the prototype of Chinese Opera already appeared in the Song Dynasty 800 years ago. In the long course of evolution, it was enriched and improved and gradually formed a complete artistic system of its own. There are many tune systems in Chinese Opera which are typical features to distinguish one Opera from another. The operas derived from different dialects, folk songs and folk music and at the same time interacted on each other. Roles or characters are divided into four categories: Sheng (males), Dan (females), Jing (males with painted face) and Chou (clowns). Its acting is featured by highly stylized movements from daily life and by a very imaginative usage of the stage to deal with the problem of space, emphasizing singing , acting , reciting and skilful acrobatic fighting.
Chinese Opera has more than 360 local types, totalling more than ten thousand plays. After the founding of the people's Republic of China, many revised traditional plays, newly arranged historical plays and plays reflecting contemporary life have appeared on stage and were warmly received by vast audiences. More than fifty Chinese operas enjoy great popularity, such as Beijing Opera, Kun Opera, Shaoxing Opera, Yu Opera. Yue Opera, Qin Opera, Chuan Opera, Ping Opera, jin Opera, Han Opera, Chao Opera, Min Opera, Hebei Clapper Opera, Xiang Opera, Huangmei Opera and Hunan Huagu Opera. Beijing Opera enjoys special reputation all over China.
Beijing Opera, once called 'Peking Opera', is the most influential and representative of all operas in China and has a history of about 200 years. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a local Opera troupe from Anhui Province came to Beijing and brought its 'Hui Tune' (which originated in Anhui Pronince and was called 'Pihuang' opera) to the capital. It soon became prevalent. In the course of evolution, it partly drew and adopted repertoire, tune and manner of perfromance from Kun Opera (a local Opera from Jiangsu area) and Qin Opera (a local Opera from Shaanxi Province) as well as folk tunes, gradually developing into what we now call Beijing Opera. Placing emphasis on dancing as well as on singing, it adopted the skills of Chinese martial arts and created its own uniquely stylized, fictitious and strongly rhythmical movements.Singing and reciting show elaborate articulation and phrasing . Systemized in its four categories of singing, acting reciting and acrobatic fighting, Beijing Opera has exerted a strong influence on other local operas.
Roles in Beijing Opera are divided into the four Hangdangs (categories) of Sheng, Dan, Jing and Chou, representing male, female, old, young, beautiful, honest and dishonest. Beijing Opera mainly presents historical stories. Out of its more than 1300 plays, about 400 are often on show.
A typical artistic feature of Beijing Opera is highly exaggerated and decorated facial makeups whose symbolic identification-like its splendid hairdresses and costumes-dramatically displays the characters of the good, evil, honest and dishonest.
The orchestra in Beijing Opera consists of wind and string instruments as well as percussion instruments. Jinghu, a small two-stringed bowed instrument, plays a main part. In the more than one hundred years that have passed, many famous singing actors, drum masters and Jinghu masters contributed a lot to the development of Beijing Opera. Famous male actors were Tan Xinpei, Yu Shuyan, Yan Jupeng, Ma Lianliang and Zhou Xinfang. The most famous actors who played female Roles were Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Shang Xiaoyun and Xun Huisheng.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Beijing Opera troupes have performed abroad many times. They caused a sensation in the world and were warmly welcomed by the audiences.
More about Chinese Music
- Beijing Opera
Beijing Opera Beijing Opera, once called 'Peking Opera', is the most influential and representative of all operas in China and has a history of about 200 years.
- Hebei Clapper Opera
Hebei Clapper Opera Hebei Clapper Opera is one of the major forms of local opera in Hebei Province.
- Huangmei Opera
Huangmei Opera Huangmei Opera, once called 'Huangmei Tune' or 'Caicha Opera', is a local opera genre in Anhui Province.
- Hunan Huagu Opera
Hunan Huagu Opera Hunan Huagu Opera is the general name for minor local opera genres in Hunan Province.
- Kun Opera
Kun Opera Kun Opera, also called 'Kunshan Qiang' (the style of Kunshan) or 'Kunqu', originated in the Kunshan region of Jiangsu Province.
- Ping Opera
Ping Opera Ping Opera is very popular in Beijing , Tianjin , North and Northeast China.
- Shaoxing Opera
Shaoxing Opera Shaoxing Opera is a local Chinese opera popular in the southern regions of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River.
- Yu Opera
Yu Opera Yu Opera, also called, 'Henan Clapper Opera' or 'Henan High Tune', is a major local opera in Henan Province and enjoys nationwide popularity.
- Yue Opera
Yue Opera Yue Opera is a major genre of opera in the south of China.