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Culture Notes:Beijing Opera

Beijing opera is the most influential and representative of all operas in China. It’s very popular.

Taking shape in Beijing, it has a history of about 200 years. During the reign of the Qianlong emperor in the Qing dynasty, Qianlong had an interest in the local opera. In 1790, to celebrate his 80th birthday, he summoned opera troupes from different places to perform for him in Beijing. Then different operas communicated and Beijing opera was thus formed.

Beijing Opera is a comprehensive performing art. It is a harmonious combination of many art forms, synthesizing recitation, instrumental music, singing, dancing, acrobatics, and martial arts. There are four kinds of Kungfu in Peking Opera, that is, the performing form of Peking Opera– singing, speaking, acting and acrobatic fighting. It features symbolic motion and stage design. Since there are no real props on stage, the actors have to use their gestures and actions to show the audience what they are doing. For example, the action of holding reins means the actor is riding a horse and walking around the stage means taking a long journey. These of highly formulaic and suggestive movements of the actors are accompanied by the rhythmic beats of gongs and drums, or the haunting melodies of traditional instruments. Beijing opera is also famous for its exquisite costumes and beautiful printed faces. It has different types of facial makeup. Different colors represent different personalities. For instance, red means a warrior, black means a man of integrity and yellow means brutal. The roles in the Opera can be divided into four categories: Sheng, Dan, Jing and Chou, all of which have their own natural features of age, sex and social status.

Beijing Opera 京剧 jīng jù

Sheng, Dan, Jing, Chou, 生 旦 净 丑 shēng dàn jìng chǒu

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