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Peking (Beijing) Opera

Performance of Peking OperaBeijing (Peking) opera is a national treasure with a history of over 200 years. Its origin can date back to the 55th year, in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty(1790), when four big Huiban opera Troupes entered the capital and mixed with Kunqu opera, Yiyang opera, Hanju opera and Luantan in Beijing's thearetical field. Combining and mixing with various kinds of operas for more than half a century there came the present Peking opera, the most impressive kind of opera in China. It is rich in repertoire and has a large number of artists and audiences. It has a deep influence in China. To the western ears, the Peking Opera might not easy to get used to. Peking opera is very colourful, bright and may seem extremely noisy so that it bears absolutely no resemblance to western opera.

Peking opera - a combination of stylized actions:
Beijing Opera uses a combination of stylized actions like singing, dancing, dialogue and acrobatic fighting to tell a story or present different characters and their happiness, anger, sorrow, surprise, fear and sadness. In Peking opera there are four main types of role: 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, all of which are vividly presented.

The rich repertoire of Peking Opera:
Beijing Opera is mainly about important historical events, emperors, ministers, generals, geniuses, or great beauties of the 5,000 years' successive dynasties from the earliest Yao, Shun, Yu, the Spring and Autumn Period, the Warring States Period to Qin, Han, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing dynasties.

The music of Peking Opera:
The music is the "plate and cavity style". With harmonious rhythms, the melody is graceful and pleasant 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 are 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. Legend of the White Snake

The costumes in Peking opera:
The costumes are graceful, magnificent, elegant and bright. As the conventional Chinese patterns are used, the costumes are of a high value. Peking Opera costumes show the beauty of the 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 of months 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, 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, different colors on the face depict different characters and personalities. Yellow and white shows cunning, red represents uprightness and loyalty, black depicts valor and wisdom, blue and green stands for vigorous characters of the 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. 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).