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Asian Variant Of Theatre
Asian theatre is comprised of more than one geographic area. It consists of
India, China and Japan. Each brought their own uniqueness to Asian theatre.
Asian theatre as it pertains to China will be discussed in this chapter. Ancient
Chinese chronicles mention other theatrical activities such as skits,
pantomimes, juggling, singing and dancing. This serves as an indication that
there were early Chinese versions of popular entertainment. During the Yuan
Dynasty, China was ruled not by a Chinese emperor but rather by a Mongol. There
was an outbreak of drama in the Yuan Dynasty. Yuan drama was usually written in
four acts. Usually the leading character sang all of the music in any given act.
The poetic content in these plays was considered the central factor in their
success. One of the most famous plays that have survived from this period is The
Romance of the Western Chamber, by Wang Shifu. Also, by this point both males
and females alike were performing on stage. Chinese theatre in the Ming Dynasty,
which came when the Mongols were overthrown after the Yuan Dynasty, brought back
traditional social behavior. A Chinese emperor was restored to the throne during
this time. Dramatists reverted to writing only for the elite, and theaters lost
contact with the broad public. Lute Song by Gao Ming was a best known play of
this time. It dealt with questions of family loyalty. In particular it dealt
with a husband leaving his wife abandoned. Beijing Opera was formed from
elements of folk theater and other genres popular among ordinary people. It was
originally called Peking Opera because for many years it was known westerners as
Peking. It is not like the grand opera of the west. It combines music and
theater, but is also based on dance and even acrobatics. The theater arrangement
for these operas are like a modern dinner theater. The audience has dinner and
drinks as the performance goes on. The costumes and makeup are also very
symbolic. Chinese theatre has its own uniqueness. Although other areas of
theatre have used makeup and costume symbolically, Chinese theatre symbolism is
exaggerated more. The bright costumes and lavish makeup tell you a story about
these characters, not only their emotion. The colors and patterns of makeup
signal to he audience what kind of character the performer is playing.
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Chinese opera, Zaju, Peking opera, Theatre of China, Yuan dynasty, Gao Ming, Chinese culture, Monarchy, Entertainment, Yuan poetry
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