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Theater
2004/06/09

      Chinese theater is a comprehensive performing art, with singing, speech, dancing, acrobatics and martial arts as basic performance techniques. It synthesizes songs, music, visual arts and performance, combining all within a unified rhythm. China boasts more than 300 forms of traditional opera, most of which are local operas. National operas include Peking opera, Pingju (found mainly in north China), Yueju (Shaoxing opera in Zhejiang), Yuju (Henan spera) Yueju (Guangdong opera) and Chuanju (Sichuan opera). Peking opera is the best-known of these. It assumed its present form about two hundred years ago in Beijing, then the capital of the Qing Dynasty, hence its name. It is a unique art combining drama, singing, music, dancing and martial arts into one. The roles in Peking opera are strictly differentiated into fixed character types: sheng (male characters), dan (female characters), jing (painted faces), and chou male clowns). Different singing and acting techniques gave birth to various schools. Each type of character has its own set of performance conventions, drawn from life. Exaggeration and symbolism based on illusion are adopted to express actions such as opening a door, going upstairs, rowing a boat and climbing a hill, all created in the audience's imagination without the use of stage properties. The performers'' body movements are aesthetically pleasing. The main instruments of accompaniment are huqin (two-stringed bow instrument), gongs and drums, giving the musical performance an Oriental flavour. Resonant singing, occasionally humorous dialogue and energetic acrobtics produce a lively and engaging show. Well-known modern actors include Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Xun Huisheng, Shang Xiaoyun, Zhou Xinfang, Ma Lianliang, Tan Fuying, Gai Jiaotian, Xiao Changhua, Zhang Junqiu, Qiu Shengrong, Yuan Shihai, Li Shaochun, Li Duogui and Jiang Miaoxiang. At the Crossroads, The Autumn River, Uproar in Heaven, etc. are the Peking opera selections ,best loved by foreign audience.
      Modern spoken drama is a relatively new theatrical form in China. The earliest drama troupe was founded in the early l900s. Between the l930s and l940s such dramas as Thunderstorm, Sunrise, Qu Yuan and Twin Flowers had a great impact on the society. Beginning in the l950s, drama developed very quickly. Many excellent plays were produced including Dragon Beard Ditch, Cai Wenji, and Guan Hanging, Lao She's Teahouse has been well received both in China and abroad. Spoken drama is also flourishing in the new era. The first big hit was Loyal Hearts describing the people's yearning for he late Premier Zhou Enlai and their struggle against the Gang of Four. Dramas with similar themes include When All Sounds Are Hushed, There is A Yard Like This One and Neighbors. At the same time, many excellent foreign works were performed on the stage, for example, The Death of a Salesman and Galileo. In the middle and late l980s spoken drama further developed in new studies and reform of content and form; Absolute Sign, The Nirvana of Uncle Gou 'er, Red Skirts Are Popular in the Street and A Living Man Interviews the Dead succeeded in these aspects. In addition, descriptions of important historical events in The Xi'an Incident, the strong local color in The Number One Restaurant Under Heaven and Birdmen, and Gala Hutong and Baising Tomorrow's Sun performed in recent years all showed the profound understanding of art of China's dramatists and the bright prospects for China's drama.



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