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Peking Opera Painted Faces: Facial Colors

A Brief Introduction to the Peking Opera

Peking Opera Painted Faces: Facial Colors

Among all traditional Chinese operas, Peking Opera is a relatively newcomer. However, it has become the important and influential opera form for Chinese audiences and is now regarded as a nationally accepted form.

Like any other traditional opera, Peking Opera tells stories through movement, singing and elaborate dancing. Thus it is a graceful and consummate art which combines the best elements of literature, music and dance. First conceived and developed in Beijing (Peking), Peking Opera has only been performed for 200 years or so. But, by maintaining the heritage of traditional opera and absorbing so much from other local arts, it came to dominate the theaters of the imperial capital and enjoyed rapid growth. As it developed, Peking Opera has experienced periods of full bloom, diminishing popularity and near extinction. But in the end, it has still been passed down from generation to generation and maintained a loyal following because of its immense vitality.

The Formation and Development of the Peking Opera

The genesis of Peking Opera began when Hui Opera troupes first arrived in Beijing.

During the Qing Dynasty, opera became very popular with Beijing audiences. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, "Huabu" arose (encompassing all local operas except kunqu). Jingqiang (the tunes of Beijig), qinqiang (tunes from Shaanxi), bangziqiang (songs using the bangzi), yiyangqiang (the runes from Jiangxi), luoluoqiang (songs from Hubei) and erhuang were all in vogue. In 1779, Wei Changsheng, an actor from Sichuan, went to Beijing to perform qinqiang and took the capital by storm with his interpretation of the play Gunlou. After that many quyi entertainers wanted to follow in wei's footsteps and join qin troupes. For a short while, qinqiang dominated the performing arts in Beijing. In the 55th year of Qianlong's reign (1790), the Sanqing Hui Opera troupe was summoned to Beijing to celebrate the emperor's 80th birthday. After the celebration ended the troupe stayed on in Beijing and gave performances for the public. As Qianlong entered his 56th year on the dragon throne (1791) various Siqing and Wuqing Hui Opera Troupes filtered into Beijing, and by the reign of the Emperor Jiaqing many other Hui opera troupes had come to and performed in Beijing, including the Sanqing Sixi, Hechun and Chuntai, known as the "big four." At that time, Hui opera troupes mainly performed Hui Erhuang, Qin Xipi and other local folk tunes. They attracted a diverse audience and occupied an obviously dominant position among all the troupes performing in Beijing.

During the reigns of Jiaqing and Daoguang, a group of Handiao actors came to Beijing to perform together with the Hui troupes. Because Handiao actors concentrated on both xipi and erhuang tunes, this encouraged the merging of Hui, Han and Qin and enabled Hui troupes to perform plays using pi huang tunes, laying the foundation for Peking Opera.

After another half century of development and experimentation, Peking Opera began to use the Beijing dialect for its songs and dialogue. Singing pi huang tunes in Beijing dialect became the dominant feature of Peking Opera, which also marked its birth in the mid-19th century.

The years 1917 to 1937 was a period of full bloom for the newborn opera form. The next decade saw a marked decline because of the People's Republic of China.

After another half centuryof development and experimentation,Peking began to use the Beijing dialect for its songs and dialogue. Singing pi huang tunes in Beijing dialect became the dominant feature of Peking Opera, which also marked its birth in the mid-19th century.

The years 1917 to 1937 was a period of full bloom for the newborn opera form.The next decade saw a marked decline because of the Japanese invasion.In1949, with the founding of the People's Republic of China, Peking Opera was reborn. Form 1964 to 1976, Peking Opera performers were directed to explore the possibilties of reflecting revolutionary themes using traditional artistic forms, but due to the upheaval of the "cultural revolution," any further growth and development was seriously disrupted.In the 1980's, Peking Opera managed to resurrect itself once again and become even more vigorous.

[ Editor: zyq ]

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