Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hokkien Dacheng Opera

Fujian province is one of the major Chinese opera districts in China as there're more than 30 different Chinese opera genres, both major (Liyuan opera, Puxian opera, Gaojia opera, Xiangju opera, Teochew opera) as well as minor (Zhuma opera, Dacheng opera, Siping opera, etc.)

Dacheng opera (打城戏), also known as the "Priests' opera" or "Monks' opera" (师公戏, 和尚戏), was originally a form of religious ritual performed during funerals or Hungry Gohst Festivals. The priests and monks would perform in front of a paper tower built in the form of a city tower, and hence got it's name. According to historical data, this form of opera was formed at the start of the last century, but it's origin dates back to as far as the Ming dynasty. It has the essence of Nanyin music as well as southern Shaolin martial stunts, truely one of the rarest form of opera still present.

Sad to say, due to various reasons, Dacheng opera now has got no professional nor government sponsored troupes, and it seemed that there was only one surviving amateur troupe left in the whole of China. However, all is not lost; earlier this year, the Dacheng opera performed "Mu Lian Saves His Mother" in a performing arts festival in India and clinched the highest award. This show, which had roots in India, was the hot topic during the festival, and news of the opera troupe were constantly being reported in the local papers and television. Well, it seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel of this opera genre!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Teochew Wire Puppetry

Teochew wire puppetry is one of the most unique form of puppetry in China, and it exists only in Chao'an county in Guangdong province. In this form of puppetry, the puppets are controlled by hard wires which are attached to the back of the body and arms. The way the puppets are operated is similar to shadow puppetry, and it is said that the shadow puppetry was the ancestor of this form of puppetry.

Here are two documentaries featuring Teochew wire puppetry, which includes some fair bit of the puppets in action.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Quanzhou Marionette Show: Excerpt from "The Fiery Mountain"

Quanzhou's string marionette show has been regarded as one of the best forms of puppetry in China. No only are the puppeteers able to make the marionettes mimic human actions, they're good at doing innovative stunts like "face changing" and martial stunts.

The video clips are taken from marionette show "The Fiery Mountain". This is a famous excerpt from "Journey to the West", telling the tale of how Monkey God Sun Wukong tried to borrow a banana leaf fan from Princess Iron Fan to fan out the flames from the Fiery Mountain, but was rejected as the latter was still sore at Sun Wukong caused her son, the Little Red Boy, to be captured away by the Goddess of Mercy. Note that although all the classic elements of Quanzhou puppetry, from puppet movements to music, are present in the show, the songs and dialogues are actually in Mandarin.