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Beijing ( Peking ) opera is a national treasure with a history of over 200 years. It can date back to the 55th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty(1790) when the four big Huiban opera Troupes entered the capital and mixed with Kunqu opera, Yiyang opera, Hanju opera and Luantan in Beijing's thearetical field at the time. With over half a century of mixture and combination of various kinds of opera there came the present Peking ( Beijing ) opera, the most impressive kind of opera in China. It is rich in repertoire with large number of artists of performance and of audiences. It has a profound influence in China. For western ears, the Peking Opera might need getting used to. The story is sometimes difficult to follow. It is very colourful bright and extremely noisy and bears absolutely no resemblance to western opera.
Peking opera - a number of combined stylized actions:
Beijing Opera is a number of stylized action, including singing, dancing, dialogue and acrobatic fighting to tell a story or present different characters and their feelings of happiness, anger, sorrow, surprise, fear and sadness. In Peking opera there are four main types of roles: sheng (male) dan (young female), jing( painted face,male), and chou (clown, male or female). The characters may be loyal or treacherous, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, their images being vividly presented.
The rich repertoire of Peking Opera:
Beijing Opera is mainly about the tales of successive dynasties regarding important historical events, emperors, ministers and generals, geniuses and great beauties, from the ancient times to Yao, Shun, Yu, the Spring and Autumn Period, the Warring States Period and the dynasties of Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing for 5000 years.
The music of Peking Opera:
The music is that of the "plate and cavity style". With harmonious rhythms, its melody is graceful and pleasing to the ears. The melody may be divided into two parts: "Xipi" and "erhong". The chief patterns are guiding pattern, original pattern, slow pattern, quick pattern. The performance is coupled by a tune played on wind instruments, stringed instruments and percussion instruments. The chief musical instruments is jinghu which is a two-stringed bowed instrument with a high register, yueqin which is a four-stringed plucked instrument with a full-moon-shaped sound box, Sanxian which is a three-stringed plucked instrument, suona horn, flute drum, large-gong, cymbals, tiny-gong, etc.
The costumes in Peking opera:
The costumes are graceful, magnificent, elegant and bright. As the conventional Chinese pattern are used, the costumes are of a high value. Peking Opera costumes show the beauty of traditional Chinese embroidery: surface embroidery with gold or silver threads; woollen embroidery with silk or gold threads, among many others. Every costume is a masterpiece of art and craft. One costume with elaborate designs and patterns may take a handicraftsman months or even years to finish, and the best are indeed priceless.
The types of facial make-ups in Peking opera:
The types of facial make-ups are rich and various, showing various characters and remarkable images, therefore they are highly appreciated. Moreover there are numerous fixed editions of facial make-up. For the painted role, the different colors of the faces depict different characters and personality. Yellow and white shows cunning, red represents uprightness and loyalty, black depicts valor and wisdom, blue and green stands for the vigorous character of rebellious heroes and gold and silver represent mystic or super-natural things.
The most famous actor - Mei Lanfang:
He is the most popular Beijing Opera singer and he even had some performances in Japan,Europe, and USA. With his voice, movements, style, he played female roles perfectly. It is a good idea to visit the Residence of Mr. Mei Lanfang (1894 - 1961). Open: daily 9:00 -12: 00 a.m. and 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. (except Monday).
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