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Roles in Peking Opera

Peking Opera is a comprehensive art form which combines music, singing, speaking, pantomime, acrobatics and martial arts. Regarded as the quintessence of China, it has been one of the cultural treasures in China since ancient times. According to the sex, age, social status, and profession, the roles in the opera are classified into four main types: Sheng, Dan, Jing, and Chou.

Sheng is the main male role in Peking Opera and is composed of Lao Sheng, Xiao Sheng and Wu Sheng. Among them, Lao Sheng, refers to the bearded middle-aged man with a mature character. Xiao Sheng represents a young man without a beard, usually a young scholar or lover role. Wu Sheng is a martial character that appears in battle scenes.

Dan is the female role in Peking Opera and consists of Zheng Dan, Hua Dan, Lao Dan, and Wu Dan. Zheng Dan, also called ‘Qingyi’, refers to the young lady of good quality and character, usually noblewoman. Hua Dan refers to the little girls. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sheng has been one of the Chinese traditional musical instruments and earliest free reed instrument in China. Sheng is the only instrument which can blow harmony in Chinese traditional wind instruments. It is one of the wind instruments with crisp pronunciation, soft sound, etc.

Sheng contains three parts: reed, Sheng Miao (different lengths bamboo on Sheng’s body) and Sheng Dou (connect the mouthpiece on the bottom). Sheng was made of bamboo in ancient times, while it is mostly made of copper nowadays.

The history of Sheng can date back to 3000 years ago. It was quite popular during the period of Spring and Autumn Warring States (770BC~221BC). Later, Sheng reached the Persian through the Silk Road, and then it was introduced to the Europe.

There are lots of moving legends about the origin of Sheng, the most famous one goes that, in Miao (one of the ethnic minorities in China) cottage, there was a very beautiful girl named Bang Que. One day, she met a monster when she was out, when she felt hopeless a hunter appeared and saved her. However, after that, he ran after the monster and then disappeared. Bang was very upset. In order to help her, Bang’s father invented the Sheng. He then taught the young people to play it and before long, most young people could play the Sheng. When the Sheng competition was held, most young men came to attend it, including the young hunter. Bang recognized him at a glance, and then they fell in love with each other and soon got married.


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