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Zhejiang Drama In Its Early Stage
2012-05-27 20:19:36

Zhejiang Drama In Its Early Stage

  Zhejiang Province is well-known for its well-developed civilization, its ample cultural relics and its prosperous musical resources. The "beginning of the South Music" - the tune "Hou Ren Yi" performed by some women in Mt. Tu - can date back to as early as the Xia Dynasty. "The Song of Yue People", which was still popular in the Zhou Dynasty in Zhejiang Province, was one of them. The Han and Tang Dynasty witnessed an unprecedented boom in music and drama in Zhejiang borne in the form of celebrations and sacred activities. Especially, the plays about joining the armies gained their popularity in the east. With all these nourishments, Zhejiang drama finally grew into a kind of comprehensive art comprised of various elements such as literature, music, dancing, fine arts, martial arts and acrobatics.

Kun Opera The West Garden Tale

In Southern Song Dynasty, as the capital moved down to Lin'an, the political, economic and cultural center transferred southwards as well. Wenzhou, which was located along the seaside in southeast Zhejiang, benefited from its peaceful surroundings, prosperous rural conomy, rich culture, busy water-way transportation and growing population, and got a nickname of "Mini Hangzhou". The epochal dawn of Chinese opera beamed from here. The earliest mature form of Chinese opera thus came into being. To differ from Za-Ju, a kind of poetic drama set to music flourishing in the Yuan Dynasty, it was named the "Southern Opera".

Records show that Southern Opera can date back to as early as the reign of Emperor Zhao Ji (1119~1125) and it was not until the end of the 12th century when the capital moved southwards did the opera begin to take its complete form.

The Southern Opera was evolved from the folk songs around Wenzhou, thus quickly won popularity in every neighborhood. It was mainly about light and easy subjects such as love, marriage and family life. Its form, accordingly, was relatively free. It could be either long or short, with either several acts or dozens of acts. The popular folk songs as well as the new ditties could work together into the tunes of the opera as long as they were harmonious. People could perform in solo, antiphonal singing, troll, chorus, and so on.

Beijing Opera The Town Of Red Mulberry

Many influential plays in the known drama history are produced by local born playwrights:

Zhang Xie, the No. 1 Scholar wasthe earliest Southern Opera play known so far. It was written by a gifted scholar in Jiushan Society (Jiushan being the other name of Wenzhou) of the Song Dynasty. The story goes as follows: On his way to the state examination in the capital, the scholar Zhang Xie was robbed and left penniless in Mt. Wuji. Fortunately, he was rescued by a poor girl and the two got married. Later on, when Zhang Xie became the No. 1 Scholar of the country, the prime minister Wang Deyong wanted Zhang Xie to be his son-in-law, but he refused. So the daughter of Wang died of depression. However, for some reasons, Zhang Xie stabbed the poor girl ungratefully with a sword on his way to the post. The girl was saved by Wang and became his adopted daughter. After several twists and turns, the couple reunited in the end. (Note: This play has been re-staged by Wenzhou Yongjia Academy of Kunqu Transmission and Study, and is listed as one among the Wenzhou "New Southern Opera Serial" Project.)

Zhang Xie


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