Zaju & Southern Opera
Zaju first appeared in the Tang Dynasty.
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The term is similar in meaning to the Baixi of the Han Dynasty, and both refer to all types of performances apart from singing and dancing. "Za" means a variety, and bai means a lot. Xi and ju mean something like vaudeville different from their modern meaning of the theater. During the Song Dynasty, zaju, or just za, gradually became a special term for a new kind of performance. It included singing, dancing, music, comedy routines and acrobatics. Each performance was divided into three parts: The first, a prelude to the main part, was called yanduan and it dealt with hot topics of everyday life; the second, the main part, was probably a story, expressed by means of singing and reciting or dancing; and the third, called sanduan, zaban, zawang or jihe, consisted of comic acts sometimes interspersed with acrobatics. The three parts were completely distinct from each other in content.
Some of the music used in the zaju was taken directly from the Song Daqu, and some originated in popular folk tunes. The Song Daqu tunes, however, were generally selected from the part of Tang Daqu, and were much simpler in structure than the Tang Daqu.
After the fall of Northern Song, zaju moved south with the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), inherited this artistic form, calling it yuanben. There is no difference between yuanben and zaju.
Around the time of the fall of Northern Song and the rise of Southern Song, i.e. in the 12th century, a form of Opera different from the Song zaju arose in south China. It was called Southern Opera, or xiwen, and sometimes Wenzhou or Yongjia zaju, after its birthplace in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. All Southern Opera works told stories, and their structure could be changed to fit the changes in the plots. They were not divided up into three parts, like the Song zaju. Southern Opera music consisted mainly of popular folksongs and ballads. Later probably influenced by Song zaju, it borrowed tunes from changzhuan ci and Daqu. Although Southern Opera did not pay much attention to gong diao, in the course of time, rules for putting tunes together were formulated. The performers on the Southern Opera stage usually had singing parts: solos, duets and choruses and so there was wide scope for the development of the music.
The parallel paths of development of Southern Song's Southern Opera and the yuanben (zaju) of the Jin Dynasty, was eventually replaced by those of the former and the Yuan Dynasty's zaju after the Northern regime was overthrown by the Mongols in 1234. The Yuan zaju arose on the basis of the Northern zaju and the zhugong diao; it differed from both the Song zaju and the Southern Opera. The music used in the Yuan zaju had the set (tao) as the unit (The dramas used the zhe as the unit, with each zhe having a particular set). The set was similar to a group of zhugong diao, with many different tunes combined in the same gong diao. Each libretto had one rhyme scheme throughout, and almost every line had a certain rhythm. In the Yuan zaju, a complete play generally consisted of four zhe and one xiezi (prologue or interlude). The four zhe presented a total of four sets of music, and the xiezi was inserted between the first and second sets or between the third and fourth sets. It could also precede a set. The xiezi did not use a long set tune, but usually a xianl?(belonging to the gong diao) or Shanghuashi (belonging to the qu tunes.Many qu tune names were taken from the first few characters of their songs in order to distinguish them from each other, unlike program music). The xiezi could also have a mopian stanza added. Some people think that the mo in mopian is an abbreviation of hou, meaning after; so mopian would mean "closing verse". But, as far as musical content is concerned, mopian was an innovation. The qu tunes of the Yuan zaju had many sources: Tang and Song ci tunes, zhugong diao and foreign musical influences. In contrast to the music used in Southern Opera, which was called nanqu, the music of the Yuan zaju was called beiqu. As mentioned above, the zhugong diao version of The Western Chamber used as many as 14 gong tunes. The Discussion of Songs, written in the Yuan Dynasty, lists 17 gong tunes, while the Phonology of the Central Plains, also by a Yuan author, lists 12. In fact, only nine were used in the Yuan zaju, and of these only seven were common. Because these nine could be sung at different pitches by different performers, the range of the nine gong tunes which have been handed down to the present day is as follows:
The gong tunes of Yan music must have had distinctions of pitch and tone series, but by the time Yuan zaju came on the scene these distinctions were largely lost. The reason for this is probably connected with changes in the major accompanying instruments from the Tang pipa and the Song bili to the flutes used in the Yuan zaju (which also used flutes, clappers and drums) and the need for the music of the Yuan zaju to adapt to the vocal music of solo singing.
The differences between the Yuan zaju and Southern Opera lay not only in the fact that the former had the pattern "four zhe and one xiezi", while the unit of the latter was the chu, of which one play could contain 20 to 30, and the musical genre of the former was "Northern music", while that of the latter was "Southern music"; in the Yuan zaju, the four zhe were all sung either by the male lead (Zhengmo) or the female lead (Zhengdan). The other characters only spoke; they did not sing, except for short pieces unconnected with the musical sequence. In Southern Opera, on the other hand, all the characters sang, and the music was not restricted to the gong tunes. Clearly, Southern Opera was much more flexible than Yuan zaju, and so it had more potential for development. But after the Southern and Northern halves of the country were united, following the destruction of the Southern Song by the Yuan Dynasty, Yuan zaju followed Yuan governmental and military power into the south, and Southern Opera was temporarily eclipsed. But in the middle part of the Yuan Dynasty, the freer form of Southern Opera enabled it to amalgamate Northern and Southern tunes into a structure called taoshu (that is, sets of tunes), and the resulting "north-south package" combined the strengths of the musical traditions of both regions. Generally speaking, the Northern music was robust and vigorous, while the Southern music was soft and gentle. In fact, the most striking characteristics of the style of Chinese music stem from this north-south dichotomy. This can be Seen in the earliest works, such as the Songs of the South, right up to the Xianghe Songs. However, the extant pieces of ancient music which show this divergence between the stiff Northern style and pliant Southern style only gradually began to take shape after the Southern and Northern Dynasties, and by the time Yuan zaju started to use the north-south package, the zaju had already started its process of decline.
More about Chinese Music
- Daqu of Tang Dynasty
The form of Daqu which developed during the Tang Dynasty was linked to musical exchanges with other nationalities.
- Music Conservatory
In the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (140-87 BC) , the was given a great deal of attention, and its work flourished.
- Primitive Music
Primitive music was inseparably connected with dancing.
- Recital and Singing
The Ming and Qing dynasties saw an increasingly rich crop of dramatic recital and singing, and music, these being the two main forms of theatrical technique.
- Rite Music of Zhou
The Zhou Dynasty was the first dynasty to lay down rules of "rites" (sacrificial ceremonies, court protocol, etc.) and "music" (music and dancing which accompanied ceremony).
- Shang Dynasty Music
This period of history spans the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties, the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods and up until the time the Qin Dynasty united China about 1,300 years.
- Sui and Tang Music
The ones which had a fairly great influence on later generations were the crooked-necked pipa and the bili, and the percussion instruments clappers, gongs and cymbals.
- Zaju and South Opera
Zaju first appeared in the Tang Dynasty.