iPhoneOgraphy – 21 Apr 2016 (Day 112/366)
Chinese opera (Chinese: 戲曲; pinyin: xìqǔ) is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back to the early periods in China. It is a composite performance art that is an amalgamation of various art forms that existed in ancient China, and evolved gradually over more than a thousand years, reaching its mature form in the 13th century during the Song Dynasty. Early forms of Chinese drama are simple, but over time they incorporated various art forms, such as music, song and dance, martial arts, acrobatics, as well as literary art forms to become Chinese opera.
There are numerous regional branches of Chinese opera, of which the Beijing opera ( 京劇 ) is one of the most notable.
An early form of Chinese drama is the Canjun Opera(參軍戲, or Adjutant Play) which originated from the Later Zhao Dynasty (319-351). In its early form it was a simple comic drama involving only two performers, where a corrupt officer, Canjun or the adjutant, was ridiculed by a jester named Grey Hawk (蒼鶻). The characters in Canjun Opera are thought to be the forerunners of the fixed role categories of later Chinese opera, particularly of its comic chou (丑) characters.
Various song and dance dramas developed during the Six Dynasties period. During the Northern Qi Dynasty, a masked dance called the Big Face (大面, which can mean “mask”, alternatively daimian 代面, and it was also called The King of Lanling, 蘭陵王), was created in honour of Gao Changgong who went into battle wearing a mask. Another was called Botou (撥頭, also 缽頭), a masked dance drama from the Western Regions that tells the story of a grieving son who sought a tiger that killed his father. In The Dancing Singing Woman (踏謡娘), which relates the story of a wife battered by her drunken husband, the song an dance drama was initially performed by a man dressed as a woman. The stories told in of these song-and-dance dramas are simple, but they are thought to be the earliest pieces of musical theatre in China, and the precursors to the more sophisticated later forms of Chinese opera.
These forms of early drama were popular in the Tang Dynasty where they further developed. For example, by the end of the Tang Dynasty the Canjun Opera Had evolved into a performance with more complex plot and dramatic twists, and it involved at least four performers. The early form of Chinese theatre became more organized in the Tang Dynasty with Emperor Xuanzong (712–755), who founded the “Pear Garden” (梨园/梨園; líyuán), the first academy of music to train musicians, dancers and actors. The performers formed what may be considered the first known opera troupe in China, and mostly performed for the emperors’ personal pleasure. To this day operatic professionals are still referred to as “Disciples of the Pear Garden” (梨园弟子 / 梨園弟子, líyuán dìzi).