History of Chinese theater


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A Reporting Requirement on our European Theater Class

History of Chinese theater

  1. 1. cHINESE THEATER (中国剧院) 1
  2. 2. The Early History of Chinese Theatre As elsewhere in the world, it is also in China that the origins of the theatrical arts seem to lie in early religious rituals, in China most probably in shamanistic rites. China has always been an exceptionally history-conscious culture with a long continuity, and the Chinese system of writing was invented very early. Thus it is no wonder that a relatively substantial amount of written evidence of the theatrical tradition exists from the early periods. It gives enlightening, yet fragmentary, information about the development of early performance traditions. 2
  3. 3.  *Shang dynasty (c. 1766–1066 BC) hunting dances as well as dances imitating animals were performed. As has been already discussed on several occasions, the dances imitating animals and employing the so-called “animal movements” have been common in most cultures.  * chorus dances were popular during the Zhou (Chou) dynasty (c. 1066–221 BC). They were divided into two groups: wu dances performed by men and xi (hsi) dances performed by women. 3
  4. 4. Before the beginning of our era it was customary at the court and at public festivities to organise grand-scale spectacles called baixi (pai-shi) or a hundred entertainments or hundred games circus. They were kinds of variety shows featuring mimes, jugglers, magicians, acrobats, song, musi cal recitals, and martial art demonstrations. They also featured dancing girls wearing dresses with long, fluttering silk sleeves. Their dances may have been the predecessors of later opera scenes, in which female characters elegantly operate their extra long white silk sleeves, the so- called “water sleeves”. 4
  5. 5. Early dramas combined mime, stylised movement and a chorus. The chorus described the action which was enacted by dancer-actors. A play called Daimian (tai-mien) or Mask tells about a prince whose features were so soft that he was obliged to wear a terrifying mask in battle in order to scare the enemy. Later, in the Tang (T’ang) (618–907) period the play also found its way to Japan. 5
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  7. 7.  Buddhism, brought from India via Central Asia, became the dominant religion. Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism and later Islam were also practised. During liberal times they lived peacefully side by side with the traditional indigenous belief systems and ideologies, Taoism and Confucianism. In the visual arts the pan-Asian Buddhist style was combined with the refinement of Tang court elegance. Tang China was open to outside influences and the trade routes brought to Changan monks, scholars, artists, musicians and dancers from all over the then known world. 7
  8. 8.  Earlier theatrical forms were further developed during the Tang period. However, the traditional ceremonial chorus dances with their large orchestras were also performed. Their stories included, among others, earlier play scripts, such as Mask and The Dancing, Singing Wife. Perhaps echoes of these kinds of ceremonial performances can still be captured in the Japanese bugaku court dances. Acrobats, jugglers and clowns, on the other hand, entertained the audience in the less serious spectacles, as had been the case in the earlier baixi or hundred entertainments shows. 8
  9. 9.  At court a new form of entertainment gained popularity. It was the so-called canjun xi (ts’an- chün hsi) or the adjutant play, which probably evolved from earlier, more or less loose, clown and jester numbers. It consisted of short comic skits and featured two comic characters, a more or less dumb courtier, canjun (ts’an- chün), and a slightly cleverer character, canggu (ts’ang-ku). The “adjutant play” has been seen as a forerunner of the fixed role categories of later Chinese opera and particularly of its comicchou characters. 9
  10. 10. CHINESE OPERA IS TAKING SHAPE After the Tang dynasty the empire split into several smaller states. A new cultural renaissance took place from c. 1000 onwards when the Song dynasty rose to power. At the beginning of the dynasty the capital was Kaifeng in the middle regions of the country, some 500 kilometres to the east of the earlier Tang capital, Changan. Later, because of enemy attacks, a new capital, Hangzhou (Hang-chou), was founded in the south-eastern coastal area. The period was politically unstable. However, many kinds of art, such as ceramics, painting, calligraphy and poetry, attained their classical forms. 10
  11. 11.  Many of the Tang period theatrical traditions were continued. In both Song period capitals, in northern Kaifeng and in southern Hangzhou, there were large entertainment or “red light” districts (wazi, wa-tzû) offering any kinds of amusements. In the theatre houses and in the teahouses it was possible to see mimes, dance spectacles, acrobatics, circuses with animals, and magic shows. Prostitutes lured customers by singing and dancing, and the alleys were lined with fortune-tellers and street musicians... 11
  12. 12.  *During the Song period, a new form of theatre was born. It was zaju (tsa-chü), which combined drama, music and dance. It gradually evolved into two forms, the southern and the northern. The northern one, characterised by its string accompaniment, continued to be performed for a longer period. A performance started with a music and dance “prelude”, after which the actual dramatic action followed. It combined acting, speech, declamation and singing. The show ended with a comic number and instrumental music. 12
  13. 13. THE HEYDAY OF CHINESE DRAMA LITERATURE Northern China was under the dominance of the Mongol warlike nomad-civilization from c. 1215 onwards, and the whole country came under Mongol rule in 1279. During this new dynasty, the Yuan (Yüan), the Chinese themselves became despised in their own country. Lowest was the status of the inhabitants of the regions south of the Yangzi River, although the region had been both economically and culturally very important. 13
  14. 14.  The region south of the Yangzi River, Jiangnan (Chieng-nan), maintained its importance as a cultural centre. It was not only a centre of the arts and passive resistance; it was there where a successful rebellion arose. It was led by a Buddhist monk, Zhu Yuanzhang (Chu Yüan- chang), who made the city of Nanjing (Nanking, Nan-ching) and its surroundings his stronghold. With his troops he marched up to the north and deported the last Mongol ruler from the country. 14
  15. 15.  The new form of opera, fashioned by the composer and singer Wei Liangfu, is kunqu (kun-ch’ü). It is the oldest form of Chinese opera still being performed. The music has a strongly plaintive quality. With its flowing melodies and soft and supple note of the bamboo flute, it is a typically southern style of opera. Its singing is characterized by its long notes and elaborated ornamentation. It is said that the general effect of kunqu music is that of “undulating waves”. 15
  16. 16.  *During the Ming dynasty kunqu emerged as the most popular and most patronised of the many theatrical forms and it retained its national dominance until the 19th century. It was patronised particularly by the educated elite, the scholar-officials and the literati. The acting technique is most demanding, since the delicate singing is combined with constant dance-like movements. Because of the complexity of both its language and acting technique, the educated courtesan actresses, trained in several arts, dominated the kunqu stage for a long time. 16
  17. 17.  *The first writer who was able to create dramatic scripts and language matching the fashionable kunqu melodies was Tang Xianzu (T’ang Hsien-tsu) (1550–1617). As he was contemporaneous with Shakespeare he is sometimes called the “Shakespeare of China”. His works are regarded as the epitome of the dramatic literature of the Ming period. His plays are still praised for their harmonious structure, deep emotions and sophisticated style. 17
  18. 18. 18 CLASSICAL CHINESE THEATRE There are references to theatrical entertainments in China as early as the Shang Dynasty; they often involved happiness, mimes, and acrobatic displays. The Tang Dynasty is sometimes known as "The Age of 1000 Entertainments". During this era, Ming Huang formed an acting school known as The Pear Garden to produce a form of drama that was primarily musical. That is why actors are commonly called "Children of the
  19. 19.  generally performed plays depicting great adventure and fantasy, rarely was this very stylized form of theatre used for political propaganda. TWO DISTINCT FORMS OF SHADOW PUPPETRY 1. Cantonese (Southern) 2. Pekingese (Northern) 19
  20. 20. 20 CANTONESE (Southern) - puppets were larger than the Pekingnese’s - built using thick leather which create more substantial shadows PEKINGESE (Northern) - puppets were more delicate and smaller - were create out of thin, translucent leather - were painted with vibrant paints
  21. 21. 21 DO YOU KNOW?
  22. 22. CHINESE OPERA In the Song Dynasty, there were many popular plays involving acrobatics and music. These developed in the Yuan Dynasty into a more sophisticated form known as zaju, with a four or five act structure. Yuan drama spread across China and diversified into numerous regional forms, the best known of which is Beijing Opera, which is still popular today.
  23. 23. 23 A certain traditional Chinese comedic overall performance inside the types of monologue or dialogue.
  24. 24. The greatest variety of roles in Chinese Opera fall into four main types: 24 1.Male (Sheng) 2. Female (Dan) 3. Clown (Chou) 4. “Painted face” (Jing)
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  26. 26. The young man (xiao sheng) is usually a young scholar or prince. Sometimes, the role of xiao sheng is played by a female actress probably because this role requires the performer to possess an excellent voice as he or she needs to handle long singing parts. 26
  27. 27. 27 The role of a scholarly xiao sheng played by a female actress.
  28. 28.  The old man's role (laosheng) is characterized by his flowing white beard and plain costume with dull colours and simple designs. He also applies little make-up on his face. 28 The wen lao sheng is a scholar or statesman of great dignity and refined manners. This wen lao sheng is an emperor, dressed in royal yellow and wearing the jade girdle. Yellow is normally worn by the emperor or those of royal blood and traditionally the five-clawed dragon is reserved exclusively for the Son of Heaven
  29. 29. 29 The warrior (wu sheng) is a fierce fighter, capable with a wide range of weaponry. It is most interesting to watch the wu sheng as he is the "action man" in the opera performance.
  30. 30. 30 • Jing is another interesting character. Larger than life, wearing imposing costumes of large padded shoulders and high, heavy shoes. He draws attention to himself as soon as he steps on the stage.
  31. 31. 31 • Ching Yi is a virtuous young woman and often plays the heroine with a tragic end. • Hua Dan is a lady who is often admired for her beauty and feminine charm. She could play the role of an empress, a court lady or even a flirtatious courtesan. She captivates the audience with her changing facial expressions and flaunts her charms with grace. Most unforgetable female role.
  32. 32. 32 • Da Ma Dan means horse and swords female. Being a female warrior and skilled in fighting, horse riding and more masculine accomplishments. DAO MA DAN • Being strong and vigorous, the role of da ma dan calls for performers to be skilled in gymnastics, wielding swords and lances.
  33. 33. 33 • is an elderly woman whose costume and hairstyle are always simple. She wears a head band and carries a walking staff. • They can also be powerful matriarchs and advisors to the ching yi. LAO DAN
  34. 34. 34 • Chou can be quite serious and malevolent. A military chou is a lowly soldier who performs acrobatic stunts. A civilian chou includes the jailer, servant or merchant whom the leading actor has dealings with. • Chou is always the clown of the show. Male Chou
  35. 35. 35 Female Chou • the female chou does not have the white patch of make-up around the nose. Instead simple make-up exaggerates her features.
  36. 36. 36 Besides facial make-up, each character in Chinese Opera wears a distinctive costume which tells the audience about the rank, status and personality traits of the wearer.
  37. 37. 37 The armour or K'ao is a stiff costume with brilliant colours and often has the design of a tiger's head or dragon across the front. It is worn by actors and actresses playing high military officials in the jing (painted face), Wu Sheng (male acrobat) and Dao Ma Dan (female warrior) roles. If the official wears four triangular pennants on his back, it shows that he has received his authority from the emperor himself. Military characters also wear headgears with two great pheasant plumes that are sometimes nearly six or seven feet in length and sprouting from the actor's head.
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  39. 39. 39 Elaborate headresses decorated with sequins and pearls are only worn by people of high status such as emperors and empresses, generals, princes and chief concubines. More important characters will wear more ornate and striking headresses.
  40. 40. 40Dan characters usually wear elaborate headdresses. Empress EmperorA backstage display of headresses.
  41. 41. 41 There are many different kinds of hats worn in Chinese Opera. Scholars and officials often wear simple black hats with two fins coming out from the sides.
  42. 42. 42 Hats with rectangular fins are worn by high officials while round fins are worn by treacherous characters. Hats with long, thin fins are only worn by Prime Ministers.
  43. 43. 43 A young scholar from a well-to-do family will wear a richly embroidered hat and fins in the shape of two curled butterfly wings.
  44. 44. 44 They are sleeves which have an extra length of cloth that consist of long strips of white silk. Water sleeves are flickered to emphasize a point, shaken when angry or stretched out when in dance. Some hua dans and high officials have water sleeves.
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  46. 46. 46 Men's costumes tend to be long robes that are either tied at the waist or left straight down. The robes also come in different cuttings. Some are double breasted and tied on the side, while others are single breasted and button-down. Some have round collars and are buttoned around the shoulder while others have water sleeves.
  47. 47. 47 A robe tied at the waist with tassels, is worn by scholars. It can also serve as leisure wear too.
  48. 48. 48 Mong is worn by officials in court. A Gok Dai or hoop is held around the waist. It is a symbol of rank.
  49. 49. 49 It has the same cutting as a Mong but it is worn by lower ranked officials. It has less embroidery with just a round or square pattern on the chest.
  50. 50. 50 Go Hur are shoes made to look like boots. They are usually made of cloth and worn by male characters.
  51. 51. 51 This costume is worn by a general. It consists of a lot of different pieces and layers and is tied at the waist. Generals going to war may wear many different accessories such as baan dai (a waistband that hangs down to the ankles) and the kwun Sok (a thin rope with very long tassels that is tied across the chest in different ways to form different patterns on the performer's chest).
  52. 52. 52 Flat soled shoes worn by war generals.
  53. 53. 53 The ladies' costumes are usually made up of a shirt, either buttoned down the front or back and a long, flowing skirt. Some ladies' robes also include water sleeves. Pay Fung
  54. 54. 54 Do you know why? This is because a lady's costume and hair will tell a lot about her status.A lady from a rich family who is high in social status will have more embroidery on her outfit and a more elaborate hair design. Maid and girls from poor families usually wear a shirt and pants set.
  55. 55. 55 Siu Gu Gong worn by unmarried girls and maids is a shirt and blouse set that is tied at the waist. While the Pay Fung, a blouse and skirt outfit that is not tied at the waist, is usually worn by married women.
  56. 56. 56 Mong and formal costumes are worn by royalty at formal gatherings. Sometimes a belt called gok dai is also included to symbolise status.
  57. 57. 57 Female shoes are flat soled and mostly made of cloth with some tassels or embroidery to decorate the shoes.
  58. 58. 58 Just like the male warrior, female warrior's costumes also consist of a lot of different pieces and layers, and are tied at the waist. There are skirts with three knee length flaps that hang from the actor's waist or skirts with many thin flaps that look almost like long leaves hanging down to the floor. Different skirts serve different purposes. Thus, skirts with thin flaps that hang to the floor are usually worn by females who are pushing a carriage.
  59. 59. 59 A female general going to war may wear an extravagant costume which may include a large plate of armor that covers the chest and four pennants worn on her back.
  60. 60. 60 Shoes worn by female warrior is structured like that of the male general, but are more colourful and include embroideries on them.
  61. 61. 61 The generals and warriors in Chinese Opera would often carry a range of weapons for the interesting fighting scenes. Actors and actresses engaged in swordplay would also combine the action with various body movements and footsteps such as jumping, leaping and wrestling.
  62. 62. 62 The sword is called the "gentleman of all weapons."
  63. 63. 63 a spear is also used as a military weapon by the warriors. In spear play, actors and actresses combine the poking, circling and blocking with acrobatic acts such as jumping and leaping.
  64. 64. 64 The ring which is like a bracelet with saw-like teeth around the outside rim is sometimes used by warriors engaged in a fighting scene.
  65. 65. 65 Painted Faces
  66. 66. 66 Red indicates devotion, courage, bra very, uprightness and loyalty. A typical "red face" is Guan Yu, general of the period of the Three Kingdoms (220- 280), famed for his faithfulness to his Emperor, Liu Bei
  67. 67. 67 Yellow signifies fierceness, ambiti on and cool- headedness.
  68. 68. 68 A green face tells the audience that the character is not only impulsive and violent, he also lacks self- restraint.
  69. 69. 69 Black symbolizes roughness and fierceness. The black face indicates either a rough and bold character or an impartial and selfless personality.
  70. 70. 70 Purple stands for uprightness, an d cool- headedness. While a reddish purple face indicates a just and noble character.
  71. 71. 71 White suggests sinisterness, treacher ous, suspicious and craftiness. It is common to see the white face of the powerful villain on stage.
  72. 72. 72 The clown or chou in Chinese Opera has special makeup patterns called xiaohualian (the petty painted face).
  73. 73. 73 Music is the essential ingredient in any Chinese opera performance. The performer’s every movement, word and gesture must be matched with the rhythm of woodwind, string, and percussion instruments. Different music accompanies a tragic moment or a joyous situation.
  74. 74. • The Xiao • Dizi • Suona • Sheng 74
  75. 75. 75 The vertical flute is a five-holed instrument held in much the same way as a clarinet. It produces a deep, airy sound.
  76. 76. 76 The vertical flute has eight or ten holes rather than keys. It produces a bright and lively sound in a higher register than the xiao.
  77. 77. 77 The suona is a double- reeded wind instrument with a large, flared opening like a horn. It is often used to imitate high-spirited horses, to announce important arrivals or events and to signal transitions between scenes. The player holds it like a trumpet.
  78. 78. 78 The sheng is a collection of bamboo tubes in varying lengths, fixed in a base. The player blows into a mouthpiece at the side of the base, which carries air into the tubes to produce a sound similar to a harmonica.
  79. 79. Bowed-Strings • Jinghu • Erhu • Banhu Plucked-Strings • Sanxian • Pipa • Yueqin • Guzheng 79
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  81. 81. 81 The jinghu ("Beijing huqin") or the Chinese fiddle has two strings and a bow made of horsehair which is passed between the strings of the instrument. The bow comes in contact with the inside of one string and the outside of the other, alternating from one to the other as it is bowed back and forth. The fiddle has a shrill, piercing sound that is amplified through a snakeskin- covered sound box open at the back. It is held upright on the musician's knee.
  82. 82. 82 The erhu ("two-stringed huqin") is a two- stringed fiddle. It has two steel strings (originally silk, and generally tuned a fifth apart) between which a bow of bamboo and horsehair is permanently fixed, a hexagonal wooden sound box covered in front with python skin, and a long thin neck with two tuning pegs and a curved scroll at the end. It is held upright on the musician's knee. Its mellow but plaintive tone makes it ideal for tragic or poignant melodies. The erhu's emotional depth now also extends to lively and playful pieces, and it can even be used to imitate the neighing of a horse.
  83. 83. 83 The banhu has a short, round sound box that opens at the back, and a wooden soundboard rather than a python-skin cover. This gives it an especially shrill and strident tone quality. The instrument is held upright on the player's knee.
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  85. 85. 85 The sanxian ("3 strings") is said to have originated in the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC), but was known as the xian until the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368). It is a long- necked, three-stringed instrument with a python skin membrane stretched over its resonator. The musician holds the instrument as he plucks its strings, usually with a plectrum. It produces a shallow and twangy sound. Having a rich and strong tone and a wide range, the sanxian is now used mostly for accompaniment and ensemble.
  86. 86. 86 The pipa is a four-stringed plucked instrument that was introduced by the nomadic races of Central Asia in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317 - 420 AD). Its name came from the two techniques for right-handed strumming: "pi" (leftward, outward) and "pa"(rightward, inward). There are 19 to 26 bamboo frets glued on its soundboard, which together with the 6 upper ledges are arranged as stops. Originally played with a plectrum on silk strings, most pipa now use steel strings and are played with the fingernails. Pipa is probably the best known among China's many plucked instruments.
  87. 87. 87 It gets its name from a large round wooden sound box. Like the banjo, it is plucked with a plectrum rather than bowed and is held vertically on the performer's knee. Unlike the banjo, the moon guitar has four strings and frets on a short neck.
  88. 88. 88 The Guzhengs sound box is constructed of wood, red sandal for its sides and bottom and wutong wood (firmiana platanifolia) for the arched soundboard. Each string is suspended over the upper soundboard by a single adjustable bridge as a device for fine tuning. The strings are traditionally silk, or steel wire with or without nylon coiling round. It has a loud and bright tone. If its strings are struck consecutively, it produces a sound like flowing water.
  89. 89. • Danpigu • Dagu • Dalo • Xiaolo • Bo • Ban • Yunlo 89
  90. 90. 90 The drum has a tight leather skin drawn over a wooden frame about twenty-five centimeters across. The drummer sits behind the three- legged stand that holds the drum. It produces a high, crisp, wooden sound when hit. The leader of the orchestra plays the small drum. The other musicians listen to his cues.
  91. 91. 91 Military or festive scenes will sometimes use the large drum. This drum stands upright and gives a deep, resonant sound. The musician is seated while playing the instrument.
  92. 92. 92 The musician holds the brass gong with one hand from a handle at the top and strikes it with the other hand. It produces deep reverberations and is often used at exciting moments such as fighting scenes.
  93. 93. 93 This is a smaller version of the gong. It can produce a distinctively high- pitched sound. The small gong is often played when a female lead character enters the stage.
  94. 94. 94 The cymbals are two hollow, bell-shaped metal instruments that usually have a long, decorative scarf- like piece of cloth attached to the back of each. The musician holds one in each hand by grasping the cloth and clangs them together for a sharp, strong sound.
  95. 95. 95 The orchestra leader also plays hand clappers. This instrument is made up of three pieces of wood, each about thirty centimeters long. Two of the pieces are fitted against one another to form one side of the instrument.The two sides are loosely joined by a cord at one end and supported by the musicians' left thumb. The paired pieces hang down in the palm on either side of the thumb. The leader swings one piece across the other for a sharp sound that keeps rhythm and punctuates the performance
  96. 96. 96 Ten little gongs, each half the size of the small gong, hang in a wooden frame. Each gong is tuned to a different note of the scale. The musician can thus play clear, ringing melodic lines, holding the frame by a handle at the base.
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