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Chinese Opera

The Introduction of Chinese Opera
Chinese opera (Chinese: 戏曲/戲曲; Pinyin: xìqǔ) is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century CE. Chinese opera is an essential portion of Chinese intangible heritage, and also one gem of Chinese traditional culture. They reflect the real folk life of China, and release the likes and dislikes of Chinese grassroots. This is an important reason why Chinese operas can be rooted in Chinese culture and society for such a long time.

The History of Chinese Opera
Chinese traditional opera is a comprehensive performing art which combines singing, music, dialogue, acrobatics, martial arts, and pantomime. It represents the culmination and distillation of two thousand years of Chinese civilization.

1. Chinese traditional opera has a long history. As far back as the third century, simple plays were performed as part of court entertainment.
2. In the twelfth century, during the Southern Song Dynasty (1271-1368). The Yuan zaju is a landmark in the development of traditional drama. It took social life as its main subject matter and was very popular at that time. Guan Hanqing is considered the greatest Yuan dramatist.
3. In the later years of the Yuan Dynasty, Yuan zaju was gradually replaced by nanxi, a kind of southern opera.
4. By the middle Ming Dynasty, a combination of Yuan zaju and nanxi, known as poetic drama apperaed. The Romance of drama, was written by Tang Xianzu who is considered the "Chinese Shakespeare".
5. During the late Qing Dynasty, a new type of traditional drama-Beijing Opera-came into being. In 1790, some troupes of Auhui Opera went to the Imperial Palace in Beijing to offer birthday congratulations to the emperor and other members of the royal family. They remained in Beijing and performed for the ordinary citizens.

The Costuming of Chinese Opera
Masks are used in the opera; each color has a different meaning. They are used to portray a character's role and illustrate their emotional state and general character.
White: sinister, evil, crafty, treacherous, and suspicious. Anyone wearing a white mask is usually the villain.
1. Green: impulsive, violent, no self restraint or self control.
2. Red: brave, loyal.
3. Black: rough, fierce, or impartial.
4. Yellow: ambitious, fierce, cool-headed.
5. Blue: steadfast, someone who is loyal and sticks to one side no matter what.

What are the Performances of Chinese Opera?
It evolved from folk songs, dances, talking, antimasque, and especially distinctive dialectical music. Gradually it combined music, art and literature into one performance on the stage. The rural citizens prefer to watch the opera performances as to show their expectations and pursuits of ideal life, which are totally different from the reality. Accompanied by traditional musical instruments like the Erhu, the gong, and the lute, actors present unique melodies - which may sound strange to foreigners - as well as dialogues which are beautifully written and of high literary value. It different from western operas, both of the forms and the stories are unique and distinctive. The form of operas shows the difference of costumes and performance styles as well as the skills or talents that the performers need, as for the stories, it is more vivid, besides there are no exact tragic stories performed on stages, just because Chinese people are traditionally eager to have a good end or have a hopeful end in the operas.

The Regional Branches of Chinese Opera
There are a lot of regional branches of Chinese opera, of which the Beijing opera is one of the most notable. Chinese opera has more than 360 local types, more than ten thousand plays. After the founding of the 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.

The Present Chinese Opera
Modern Chinese Opera, however, is now set in a box-type stage, and a director system, stage design, and professional lighting are gradually being introduced. These new features serve to enrich the performance and viewing experience without violating the traditional core of the opera. Many contemporary opera groups attract audiences through writing of new librettos, flexible incorporation of Western theatrical concepts and functions, and experimentation with new performance techniques. Opera groups are trying to attract more young intellectuals to Peking Opera performances. An impressive new experiment has combined Western drama with traditional Chinese Peking Opera.