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Beijing Opera

This is the most famous opera out of the 300 or more types of operas in China. There are performances of traditional opera in virtually every town. A visit to the Chinese opera is a relaxed affair and occasionally quite noisy; just exchange your evening dress and tie for some normal day clothes.

This form of opera dates back to 1790 when four local opera troupes of the Anhui province came to perform in Beijing in order of the imperial court. The tour was a hit and the troupes stayed. The artistes learned techniques from other local operas and Beijing Opera therefore took shape. Incorporating the merits of many other local dramas, Beijing Opera appeals to both Chinese and foreign audiences.

The performers' acting are mostly pantomime. Footwork, gestures and various body movements can portray or symbolize the actions of opening a door, climbing a hill, going upstairs or rowing a boat. When riding in a carriage, the performer has to walk while being flanked by a flag with colored tassels on both sides to represent a horse. Four generals and four soldiers represent an army of thousands. In a nutshell, each action of a performer is highly symbolic.

The character roles in Beijing Opera are divided into four main types according to the sex, age, social status, and profession. Sheng refer to male roles, Dan refers to female roles but is subdivided into various types - Qingyi is a woman with a strict moral code, Hua is a vivacious young maiden, Wu Dan is a woman with martial arts skills, and Lao is an elderly lady. Jing are the roles with painted faces and are usually warriors, heroes, statesmen, and even demons. Chou, or a clown, is a comic character and is easily recognizable by his distinctive make-up - a white patch on his nose. The different colors of the faces represent various characters and personalities. Yellow and white represent cunning traits, red stands for uprightness and loyalty, black means valor and wisdom, blue and green indicate the vigorous and enterprising character of rebellious heroes, and gold and silver represent mystic or supernatural powers.

The costumes in the Beijing Opera will impress you with their bright colors and amazing embroidery. The use of colors indicate different social status - yellow for the imperial family, red for high nobility, red or blue for upright men, white for old officials, and black for all the other roles. Apart from gorgeous clothes and headdresses, jewelry and hair ornaments are extensively used.

Efforts have currently been made to eliminate feudal aspects, to improve stagecraft, and to widen the subject matter. A new generation of young actors and actresses has emerged and are making new achievements on the basis of the traditional schools.

Acrobatic Arts

The Chinese acrobatics have come a long way. They remain as one of the most popular art forms in China and have gone through extensive evolution and development to reach their current level and fame. The art has actually existed for more than two thousand years but was never performed before liberation as it was looked down on by the feudal class. Only after 1949 did the people's government make intense efforts to foster and develop national arts and only then did the Chinese acrobatics gain a new life. The art has not only made great improvement in its contents and skills but also achieved in setting up a designing and directing system. This movement aimed to create graceful images, harmonious musical accompaniment, and good supporting effects of costumes, props and lighting.

During the arduous course of development, the Chinese acrobatics art managed to form its own style. The ancient acrobatics originated from the people's lives and were closely linked to their daily living and productive labor. Instruments of labor and everyday articles such as tridents, wicker rings, tables, chairs, jars, plates and bowls were used in the performances. Challenging acts were developed - 'Flying Trident', 'Balancing Chairs', 'Trick with Jars', 'Hoop-Diving' and 'Traditional Conjuring' are all equally intriguing performances not to be missed. In addition, there are Wushu, Diabolo Skills and the famous Lion Dance, all conceived from folk sports and games.




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