Chinese opera – Development path



Kunqu Opera “Peony Pavilion”-Garden Opera music is the musical part of Chinese Han opera, including vocal music, rhyme, and instrumental accompaniment, opening, and cutscene music. Among them, the main form of singing is singing, with solo, duet, unison, and gang singing, which are the main expression methods to develop the plot and portray the character. The accompaniment of singing, the opening, and the string play the role of supporting the tone and setting off the performance. The percussion music used in the opening, cutscene, and martial arts venues is an important factor in the noisy atmosphere, the adjustment of the stage rhythm, and the structure of the opera.


Opera is a unique title of traditional drama in our country. The first to use the term opera in history was Song Liuxun (1240-1319). He put forward “Yongjia opera” in the “Person of Wu Yongzhang”. What he called “Yongjia opera” is what later generations call “ Southern Opera ”, “Xiwen”, ” Yongjia Zazu “. Starting from the modern Wang Guowei, “Xiqu” has been used as a general term for traditional Chinese theater culture. The most significant and unique artistic feature of opera is “Qu”. “Qu” is mainly composed of two parts: music and singing. The distinguishing of a local drama mainly depends on the local language of vocal tone, musical melody, and singing, such as Sichuan Sichuan, Zhejiang Shaoxing opera, Guangdong opera, Henan Henan, Shaanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong Lu opera, Fujian Fujian opera, Hubei Han Ju, Hebei Peking opera, Jiangsu Kunqu opera and so on.

Opera is one of the traditional Chinese arts. There are many and interesting types of opera. The performance forms include singing and dancing, talking and singing, and literary and martial arts. It integrates “singing, doing, reading, and playing”. It is unique in the history of world theater. Its main characteristics are: Take Peking Opera as an example, which is a masterpiece of classical opera. One is the disguise of a man as a girl (female disguised as a man is common in Yue Opera); the second is the division of the four major trades of life, denial, cleanliness, and ugliness; and the third is the exaggerated disguise art– Facial makeup; fourth is that “outfits” (that is, opera costumes and props) have basically fixed styles and specifications; fifth is the use of “programs” for performances. China National Opera, from “Qin’s Comedians,” Han Dynasty ” acrobatic ” Tang Dynasty ” army drama,” Song Dynasty, Song of the South play, the Yuan Dynasty, until the formation of local opera and opera unprecedented prosperity of the Qing Dynasty.
chinese opera development summary

Pre-Qin (budget period)

Xiqu is a traditional form of drama in our country and one of the artistic styles with the most national characteristics and styles in our country. It can be traced back to the primitive song and dance used to entertain the gods in ancient times. “Shang Shu Yao Dian” said: “Yu! Zi hit the stone, Bai Lu led the dance.” “Lü’s Spring and Autumn Ancient Music” also said: “Xige Tian’s music, three people play oxtail, cast enough to sing Eight faults: One is “Carrying the People”, the second is “Xuanniao”, the 3rd is “Successful Grass and Trees”, the 4th is “Feng Wugu”, the 5th is “Respect for Heaven”, the 6th is “Da Di Gong”, and the seventh is “Yidi De” Eight called “total animal to the extreme”. ”  as in many ancient rural areas, but also maintained a song and dance tradition has a long history, such as” Nuo opera “; at the same time, some new songs and dances such as” community fire “,” Younger “, etc. It was born to meet the spiritual needs of the people. It is these singing and dancing performances that have been created batch after batch of skilled folk artists, and they are moving little by little in the direction of opera. The “Ode” in “The Book of Songs ” and the ” Nine Songs ” in ” Chu Ci ” are the lyrics used to sing and dance when offering sacrifices to gods. From the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States to the Han Dynasty, the song and dance of entertaining gods gradually evolved into the song and dance of entertaining people. From the Han and Wei Dynasty to the Mid-Tang Dynasty, there have appeared successively “Jiao Da” (i.e. Bai Xi ), which is based on competition, ” Joining the Army ” performed by question and answer, and ” Ta Yao Niang “, which plays small life stories. It’s all budding drama.
Ancient Greek drama (including tragedy and comedy, formed around 600 BC), ancient Indian Sanskrit drama (formed around the 1st century AD), and Chinese opera (formed in the Northern Song Dynasty in the 12th century AD) are known as the world’s “three ancients” Theatre culture”. Although compared with the other two ancient theater cultures, Chinese opera was produced later, but the first two ancient theater cultures have died out one after another in the long history and no longer exist. However, despite the thousands of years of Chinese opera, several times Rise and fall, but still full of vitality and vitality. It is not only a treasure of the excellent traditional culture of the Chinese nation but also occupies an important position in the world’s cultural and artistic treasure house.

Middle and late Tang Dynasty (formation period)

After the Mid-Tang Dynasty, Chinese drama developed rapidly, and drama art gradually formed.
The prosperity of literature and art in the Tang Dynasty was the result of the rapid economic development, which promoted the independence of opera art, and provided rich nutrition to opera art. The rhythm of poetry and the maturity of narrative poetry gave the opera a decisive influence. The prosperity of music and dance provides the strongest foundation for performance and singing for Chinese opera. Jiefang Liyuan’s professional research and regular training have improved the artist’s artistic level, accelerated the dramatization of song and dance, and produced several operas that use song and dance to act out stories.
Middle and late Tang Dynasty opera

Song Jin (development period)

“Drama” Song, Jin Dynasty, ” the hospital this ” and talking and singing in the form of “ZhuGongDiao” from the music, the structure of the content, are the Yuan Dynasty laid the foundation.

Yuan Dynasty (mature period)

In the Yuan Dynasty, “Raju” developed greatly on the original basis and became a new type of drama. It possesses the basic characteristics of drama and marks the stage of maturity of Chinese drama. From the middle of the 12th century to the beginning of the 13th century, professional artistic and commercial performance groups and Yuan Zaju and Jin Yuan editions reflecting the life and views of citizens gradually emerged, such as ” Dou E’s Injustice ” by Guan Hanqing and Ma Zhiyuan ‘s ” Han Gong Qiu ” And works such as “The Great Revenge of Zhao ‘s Orphans”. This period was a prosperous period for the opera stage.
Yuan Zaju is not only a mature high-level drama form but also regarded as the mainstream of a generation of literature because of its most characteristic of the times and the most artistic originality. Yuan Zaju was originally centered on Dadu (now Beijing) and was popular in the north. After the Yuan Dynasty destroyed the Southern Song Dynasty, it developed into a national drama. In the drama circle of the Yuan Dynasty, the stars are brilliant and the masterpieces are like clouds.
Yuan Zaju was able to flourish in a generation, and artistic development and social reality provided opportunities from two aspects. From the perspective of art’s own development, after a long process of gestation and a slow process, drama has accumulated solid accumulation and has reached maturity in both the internal structure and external performance. The traditional poetry at this time, after experiencing the prosperity and glory of the Tang and Song dynasties, declined. In the eyes of talented artists, the opera theater is a new land waiting for them to cultivate. From the perspective of social reality, the abolition of the imperial examination system by the Yuan and Mongolian rulers not only cut off the possibility of intellectuals ascending official careers but also degraded them to a low position: only one rank higher than beggars, living under ordinary people and prostitutes. These highly educated cultural people have been sinking into the bottom of society. Among the helpless alienated by history, poetry cold, they have only to hook bar tile discarded kill time, to seek a way out. As a result, the emerging Yuan Zaju unexpectedly gained batch after batch of professional creators.
The script system of Yuan Zaju is mostly composed of “four-folds and one wedge”. The four-fold is a paragraph of four plots, like a fuss about inheriting and combining. The length of the wedge is short, usually placed before the first fold, which is somewhat similar to the later “prologue”. Yuan Zaju is mainly singing in the art, combined with the form of speaking performance. Each zigzag is composed of several pieces of the same palace tune into a set. The whole set only rhymes with one rhyme and is sung by Zheng Mo who plays the male lead or Zheng Dan who plays the female lead. This kind of “one-person lead singer” can give full play to the specialty of singing art and shape the main characters heartily. Chants in part by the army show the influence of traditional, often gag, full of humor, fun. The unification of the musical structure and the dramatic structure to achieve institutional orderliness shows that the artistic maturity and perfection of Yuan Zazu.
Yuan Dynasty opera

Ming and Qing (prosperous period)

When opera came to the Ming Dynasty, the legend developed. The predecessor of the legend of the Ming Dynasty was the Southern Opera in the Song and Yuan Dynasties (Southern Opera is the abbreviation of Nanqu Opera . It is an emerging form of drama developed based on Song Dynasty Zaju and combined with southern tunes . Wenzhou is its birthplace). The Southern Opera is different from the Northern Zaju in terms of its system: it is not restricted by four-folding, and through the processing and improvement of the literati, this kind of short opera, which was originally not rigorous enough, has finally become a fairly complete drama. For example, Gao Ming’s ” Pipa Ji ” is a work that transitions from Southern Opera to legend. The subject matter of this work is derived from folklore, which presents a story relatively completely and has a certain drama. It was once known as “the ancestor of the prosperous Southern Opera”.
In the middle of the Ming Dynasty, a large number of legendary writers and scripts appeared, among which Tang Xianzu was the most successful. He wrote many legendary scripts throughout his life, and “The Peony Pavilion ” is his masterpiece. Through the life and death stories of Du Lining and Liu Mengmei, the work eulogizes the spirit of resistance against feudal ethics, pursuit of happy love, and individual liberation. The author gave love the power to bring back the dead, it overcame the shackles of feudal ethics and achieved the final victory. This point had far-reaching social significance in a society firmly ruled by feudal ethics at that time. This play has been loved by readers and audiences for 300 years since its publication. To this day, “Boudoir” and “Jingmeng” are still active on the stage of opera performances. In the middle of the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century, the Kunming style emerged in Jiangnan, and opera repertoires such as ” Fifteen Guans ” and ” Accounting for the Oiran ” emerged. The opera that was popular with farmers during this period was produced in Yiyangqiang in Anhui and Jiangxi, and Kunqiang was popular with the feudal upper class.
On the stage of the late Ming Dynasty, the trend of mainly acting in excerpts became popular. The so-called eclectic opera refers to an excerpt from a whole legendary play with beginning and end. It is just a few relatively independent pieces in the whole play, but in these pieces, the scenes are wonderful and the singing and doing are excellent. The emergence of eclectic opera is the result of the strong development of theatrical performing arts, and it is also the inevitable washing of time and stage. After the audience is familiar with the plot, they can fully appreciate the performing skills of the excerpt. ” Traveling in the Garden” and “Thrilling Dream” in “The Peony Pavilion “, “Taking Umbrella” and “Worshiping the Moon” in “The Story of Moon Worship Pavilion “, “Piano Picking” and “Chasing the Boat” in “The Story of the Jade Hairpin “, etc. Excerpts have become a favorite and endearing boutique for audiences.
The works of the late Ming and early Qing dynasties are mostly about heroes in the hearts of the people, such as Mu Guiying, Tao Sanchin, Zhao Kuangyin, and so on. At this time, the local operas mainly consisted of the northern clapper and the southern yellow skin. Peking opera was produced based on the high prosperity of local opera in the Qing Dynasty. During the reigns of Tongzhi and Guangxu, the first generation of Peking opera performers and masters of different genres that were listed as the ” Thirteen Uniques of Tongguang ” appeared, marking the maturity and prosperity of Peking opera art. Soon Peking opera developed to the whole country, especially in Shanghai and Tianjin. Peking opera became a widely influential drama genre, pushing Chinese opera art to a new level.
Because the drama style of the Ming Dynasty legend continued into the Qing Dynasty, it is habitually called Ming and Qing Legend. Legend of the Ming and Qing in the form of inheritance Southern Opera system, and more complete. A script is mostly only about 30, often divided into upper and lower parts; the writer also pays special attention to the compact structure and the interspersion of Cohen. Legendary music is also in the form of tunes and cards, but Binan Opera has developed, and the tune is no longer limited to one palace tune; the number of tunes also depends on the needs of the plot; all the characters on the stage can sing.
Legends of the Ming and Qing dynasties include numerous local voices. Among them, Kunshan Opera and Yiyang Opera are the most widely spread and most influential. After the reform of Wei Liangfu (years of birth and death unknown) in the Jiajing period, the Kunshan accent created the euphemistic, delicate, fluent, and long-term “water milling”, which emphasizes Yuqing, uprightness, and purity. Combining the three types of musical instruments, Xiansuo, Xiaoguan, and Guban, creates a complete band accompaniment. And a performance of ” Wan Sha Ji ” made the Kunshan accent become a national drama through the spread of the stage. Yiyang tune, which was produced in Jiangxi, is mainly popular among the folks. It is performed by Jianghu opera troupes, and every time it spreads to one place, it combines local language and folk music to develop into a localized tune. Yiyang tune does not require orchestral accompaniment, but only uses gongs and drums as the rhythm. It sings in harmony and adopts the form of chanting and gang tunes. Its characteristics are popular, folk, and performance effects. It and the elegant and delicate style of Kunshan accent form two different trends within Chinese opera. After a long period of stage practice in the Ming Dynasty opera, the role division was more detailed. For example, the Kunshan accent has 12 characters, and the protagonist is not limited to Zhengsheng and Zhengdan. Jing and ugliness are more than just teasing.

ming dynasty Opera


Modern times (reform period)

Before and after the revolution of 1911, a group of accomplished opera artists engaged in opera art improvement activities, including Wang Xiaonong, pan Yueqiao, Xia Yueshan, etc. they accumulated valuable experience for the later opera improvement. During the period from the May 4th Movement in 1919 to the founding of the people’s Republic of China, some people with lofty ideals reformed traditional Chinese opera.


On the eve of the May 4th movement, Mei Lanfang performed Deng cuogu, yiwisp of hemp and other new fashion dramas to promote democratic ideals. Zhou Xinfang and Cheng Yanqiu also created many works Yuan Xuefen, on the other hand, held high the banner of the reform of Yue Opera and starred in Lu Xun’s famous work “Xianglinsao”, taking the lead in forming a comprehensive artistic mechanism integrating editing, directing, dancing, sound and beauty in Chinese opera“ It took the lead in the mechanism of combining freehand brushwork with capital reality in Chinese opera.

Modern times opera


Contemporary times (competition period)

After the founding of New China, the emergence of a group of excellent programs, such as Peking Opera ” phase and will “, ” White Snake “, Peking Opera, ” Qin Xiang Lian “, Shaoxing opera ” The Butterfly Lovers “, Kunqu Opera ” Fifteen Strings of Coppers ” and other well-known Historian Wu Han also wrote the historical Peking opera ” Hai Rui Dismissed from Office “. Later, a series of outstanding works were successively released, such as Peking Opera ” White-haired Girl “, ” Red Lantern “, ” Surprise Attack on the White Tiger Group “, Yue Opera ” West Chamber “, Ping Opera ” Liu Qiaoer “, Shanghai Opera ” Ludang Tinder “, Henan Opera ” Chaoyanggou ” “Wait. After smashing the “Gang of Four”, Miku created a large number of traditional operas that were loved by the masses but were suspended or criticized, such as the Peking opera ” Xie Yaohuan “,” Puxian opera ” Spring Grass Crashing the Hall “, and Lu opera ” Sister Yi Marry “And so on can be staged again. The art of opera has developed to today. After different times, it has continuously adapted to the needs of new times and new audiences, maintained and carried forward the traditional artistic characteristics of the nation. The problems of “modernization” and “dramatization” raised by the opera circle have become a new history. Actively explore and practice issues during the period.
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