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Current Location: Homepage » Chinese Culture » Chinese Opera 中国戏曲 » Main Body

Traditional Drama 传统戏剧 Traditional Opera: Shangdang Wooden Clappers 上党梆子

Profile:Traditional Opera: Shangdang Wooden Clappers 上党梆子
Date: 2006
Category: Traditional Opera
Region: Shanxi Province
Project No. IV-21
Name of Applicant (region or institution): Jincheng City, Shanxi Province
Shangdang Bangzi, or Wooden Clappers, is one of the four Bangzi performing arts of Shanxi Province, circulating in the southeast of Shanxi Province. It was called local crude opera during the reign of Emperor Dao Guang, Shangdang Palace Tune during the performance in the provincial capital Taiyuan in 1934, and finally Shangdang Bangzi in 1954. The performance of Shangdang Wooden Clappers features the tune of Bangzi, complemented by Kun Opera, Pihuang, Luoluo Tune, and Scroll Opera, which together are called Wooden Clappers Complex. It became prevalent towards the latter half of the reign of Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. And during the reign of Jiaqing and the reign of Daoguang, performing troupes sprang up, top actors appeared, program lists multiplied, and schools and styles contended, presenting a superb scene of thriving.
According to statistics, the traditional programs of Shangdang Wooden Clappers are about 700, of which Bangzi Opera totals approximately 600, Pihuang Opera 90, Kun Opera 10, and Luoluo Tune and Scroll Opera a dozen. Typical programs are The Peace Negotiation of Sanguan, Tianbo Tower, Yanmen Pass, Youzhou Fight, Dongjialing Village, the Case of Good Luck, Seizure of Qiukui, Palace of Refreshing Spring, Rendezvous of East Gate, and the Case of Master Xu, some of which are really unique of Shangdang Wooden Clappers. From the reign of Xianfeng of Qing Dynasty to the beginning of the Anti-Japanese Aggression War, the Wooden Clappers is in the peak of its boom: there were about 200 opera troupes, falling into two major schools of distinct styles –Zhoufu School and Lufu School while distinguished arts like Zhao Qinghai, Lang Buxiang, and Shen Huilv appeared. The Wooden Clappers is a combination of both Tune Style and Clapper Style with the latter as its main style. The playing of clappers comprises big clappers, middle four and six, four and six, chopping clappers, odd clappers, and rolling tone, with four and six and big clappers mostly used and most typical. During performance, male and female roles sing in the same tune and style while the former is using falsetto. The instruments for accompaniment are basically “three major ones” -Giant Zither, Erba and Huhu Fiddle.
The roles of Shandang Wooden Clappers fall into Sheng (male), Dan (female), Jing (a painted face), and Chou (clown). The basic acting procedure of each role is called “three controls” and the performers stand straight up and appear to be very strong according to this guiding idea. The performing style can be characterized as roughly-presented, straightforward, clear-cut, and quick-done but the style also changes over time due to the influence of Peking Opera. The setting-up of stage is usually accomplished in a “displaying great court” style and the design of painted face is unique, too. For the female roles, there is also one kind of make-up called “identified complexion”, a style somewhat inherited from the Yuan mosaic opera, i.e. adding a horizontal stroke on the right eyelid of the one with misconduct in while powder or painting a little orchid or chrysanthemum on the right cheek of the role player.
Shangdang Wooden Clappers is of various tunes and from this the history of change of traditional opera can be researched. At present, due to impact of modern culture and economic surge, it is losing audience dramatically and the performance is somewhat downgrading, too. A number of troupes have been dismissed in such situations and there is lack of young people to pass it down. All these considered, the opera troupe is facing a miserable future. Urgent measures for support and preservation are being called for.

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