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The Development and Evolution of Chinese Traditional Opera

Chinese operaChinese traditional opera form sprouted from god-worshiping dance and song in the ancient times. By the Spring and Autumn & Warring States period, there were the so-called “You Ren” actors. Since then it underwent a long term of evolution, through Baixi of the Han dynasty, Canjunxi of the Tang dynasty, Zaju of the Song and Jin dynasties, Nanxi of the Song and Yuan dynasties, Zaju of the Yuan dynasties, tune systems of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and finally has become an art treasure of the Chinese nation.
In the development of over thousand years, many works of traditional operahave been passed down as the literary masterpiece and classics that are known to us today. However, more of them are short only by folk troupes. Based on the themes and contents, the plays fall into the following three types: romance between talented scholars and beautiful ladies, stories of emperors and high-ranking officials, and fables about immortals and ghosts.
Thanks to a long history of evolvement, traditional opera has fostered a complete artistic form consisting of unique elements. AChinese proverb says,“While a layman stays and watches for fun, a connoisseur understands and appreciates the essence.”A full knowledge of the essence of traditional opera, including the “four skills” (sing, reciting, dance-acting and combating), accompaniment, different roles, facial make-up, costumes as well as invented performance, is a gateway to understanding of the unique art.
The twentieth century, particularly the period after 1949, witnessed tremendous changes in the format of traditional opera with various new plays coming to the fore. Dedicated to life in modern times, these new plays, of which the most typical are the eight model plays compiled during 1960s and 1970s, brought a new look to the traditional art, adding costumes of new style and bringing changes to theatrical language. For instance, in Taking the Tiger Mountain by Strategy, a Peking Opera play of a revolutionary theme, all performers wear modern instead of traditional costumes and sing in vernacular instead of classical Chinese. In addition, old theatrical troupes in modern China have developed into Peking opera house or various local opera houses, which are now respectable artistic organizations. And performers today perform on the stage of modern theatres with all types of advances equipment.
The Model Play Taking the Tiger Mountain by Strategy

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