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Show and Performance

Traditional Chinese Opera

Traditional Chinese opera has a history of more than 800 years. It is an art form which integrates singing, music, dialogue, acting and acrobatics. There are more than 300 different operatic forms in China. Among the local operatic forms staged nationwide are Beijing Opera, Pingju Opera, Shaoxing Opera and Henan Opera. The best-known is Beijing Opera, which has a history of more than 200 years. It originated in Beijing, then capital of Qing Dynasty.

There are different schools, styles and forms of singing in Beijing (Peking) Opera. In acting and acrobatic fighting, different roles follow different patterns, and their movements and gestures are stylized, suggestive and symbolic. For instance, the actions of opening a door, going up the stairs , rowing a boat or climbing a bill, are done purely through the dance-like movements of the actors with the help of props. String and percussion instruments also provide a distinct characteristic of Beijing Opera. (To enjoy Beijing Opera, click here for audio file.)

Modern Chinese drama has developed under the influence of foreign dramatic literature and conventions . In the 1910's, drama troupes were formed in the country. The most popular plays staged in the 1930's and 1940's are Thunderstorm, Sunrise, Qu Yuan and Twin Flowers.

Music and Dance

As early as the first century B.C., more than 80 different kinds of musical instruments were already in use. Among the historical finds of these instruments in Hubei in 1978 was a musical stand of 64 bronze bells. The bells have considerable variation in pitch, and they were made more than 2,400 years ago. They can produce a range of five octaves, and that itself is ample proof of the extraordinary knowledge of music in ancient China.

At present there are a great many song and dance troupes, opera companies, symphony orchestras, choirs and traditional instruments orchestras. The musicians are trained mainly in the eight conservatories of music, which have their own primary and secondary schools, in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Chengdu, Tianjing, Xi'an and Guangzhou. These institutions and their schools provide music education at different levels from the very basic to the advanced. This comprehensive system has been working well. When a graduate from the secondary music school enters a conservatory, he or she may choose courses offered by various departments such as composition, folk music, vocal music, orchestral music and the piano. The Central Conservatory of Music and Shanghai Conservatory of Music also have departments on conducting, musicology, and modern opera. Most of the young musicians who have achieved outstanding results in national and international competitions have been trained by these schools.


Chinese Music, Famous Composers, Players and Singers

Traditional Music
Folk Music
Chinese Music Online

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