Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Intangible Cultural Heritages List in 2010, Peking Opera of China is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. As the most influential sort of traditional operas in China, Peking Opera has a long history, following the Kunqu Opera (a class of tunes originating in Kunshan, Jiangsu). From the Jin and Yuan opera to the Ming and Qing legends, from the prosperity of Kun (qu) and Yiyang Tune to the “Four Great Anhui Troupes” entering Peking, in the 200-year history of Peking Opera, there appeared a large number of excellent actors in different periods such as Cheng Changgeng, Tan Xinpei, Yang Xiaolou, Mei Lanfang, and Ma Lianliang. Peking Opera is a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings with the four main types of roles: sheng (male), dan (young female), jing( painted face, male), and chou (clown, male or female). The repertoire of Peking Opera is mainly engaged in fairy tales of preceding dynasties, important historical events, emperors, ministers and generals, geniuses and great beauties.
China Cultural Centre in Sydney jointly launched “Experience China Quintessence—-Peking Opera Online Show” with China National Peking Opera Company and released five classic operas online.“Women Generals of the Yang Family”recounts the unflinching loyalty and the remarkable bravery of the Yangs as they sacrificed themselves to defend their country from foreign military powers.“Farewell My Concubine” is a love story based on the legend of Xiang Yu – the warlord of the ancient Chu Kingdom – and his beloved consort Yu. Xiang lost a battle for the throne, and Yu committed suicide with his sword.“The Legend of the White Snake” tells a love story between a young man and a white snake, which is full of twists and turn and ends up with a happy ending.“Havoc in the Heavenly Kingdom” tells a story from the Journey to the West. Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, made havoc in the Celestial Palace and defeated the troops of the Jade Emperor.“The Rescue in the Wild Boar Forest”presents stories about how Lin Chong is framed at the White Tiger Hall, being saved at Wild Boar Forest, and joining the outlaws at Mount Liangshan.
These five classic selections will show you the charm of Peking Opera and help you understand the broad and profound Chinese culture.
Female Generals of the Yang Family
The opera tells the story of female generals of the Yang Family safeguarding their homeland. Yang Zongbao, the marshal of Song, was killed in a battle. Almost all men of the Yang Family lay down their lives for the country. Yang Zongbao’s grandmother, Lady She, suppressing her grief, led the female generals of the family to the battlefield. Mu Guiying, Yang Zongbao’s wife, was appointed the vanguard. With their concerted efforts, the enemy was defeated.
Farewell, My Concubine
The opera tells a tragic story of Xiang Yu, the King of the Western Chu, who committed suicide after losing the war. Xiang Yu’s army was besieged by Liu Bang’s forces. Avoiding to be Xiang Yu’s burden while he tried to break through the enemy’s encirclement, his concubine Yuji committed suicide after her last dance to Xiang Yu. With great sorrow, Xiang Yu broke through the encirclement and escaped, but finally he committed suicide at the bank of the Wu River.
The Legend of the White Snake
The opera tells the love story between White Lady and Xu Xian. White Lady, a white snake spirit, encountered Xu Xian at the West Lake. They fell in love and got married. Fahai, a monk, believed that a human being should not marry a spirit. Therefore, he sowed discord between the couple and brought obstacles and misunderstandings to them. At the end, White Lady told the truth to Xu Xian and both expressed their love and made up with each other.
Havoc in the Heavenly Kingdom
The opera tells a story from the Journey to the West. Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, went to the Dragon Palace to borrow weapons. The Dragon King despised him and tricked him to move the Dinghai Shenzhen. Unexpectedly, Sun Wukong’s magical powers are so great that he turned the Dinghai Shenzhen into a weapon-the golden cudgel. The Dragon King regrets and goes to the heaven to beg the Jade Emperor to capture Monkey King. But the Monkey King made havoc in the Celestial Palace and defeated the troops of the Jade Emperor.
The Rescue in the Wild Boar Forest
The opera tells the story of Lin Chong, an instructor of martial arts of the imperial guards, who, framed by Gao Yanei, the son of a treacherous senior official, was forced to join the rebels of Mount Liang. Lin Chong was framed up by Gao Yanei because of the former’s lust for Lin’s wife and Lin was exiled to Cangzhou. On his way to and even in the penal colony, he was almost murdered by the heelers of Gao Yanei on many occasions. Driven beyond endurance, Lin Chong killed the perpetrators and went to join the rebellious army on Mount Liang.
China Cultural Centre in Sydney
China National Peking Opera Company