Learn About The Arts
Traditionally in China, the term “theatre” does not refer only to spoken drama, but has always included other arts such as song, dance, pantomime, and martial arts.
Jingju, or Peking opera, is recognized as one of the art forms most representative of traditional Chinese culture. Its chief characteristic is often expressed as total theatre because Peking opera is created through the complete synthesis and harmonization of dance, song, theatre, mime, martial arts and poetry.
Peking opera is a unique art form composed of stylized, strongly rhythmical movements, concise and precise musical scores, fictitious plots, and interesting and engaging characters. Vocal techniques, rhythms and melodies vary according to the thoughts and feelings of the characters.
In performance, the artist adheres to basic, strict conventions, while flexibly adapting the technique to suit the plot. These conventions are based on real life experiences, but presented in an artistic and symbolic manner.
This unique combination of realism and abstraction creates a set of sophisticated formulae embodying rich theatrical meaning.
…more about Peking opera
It is very difficult to trace back to the time when dance began in China. One of the authorities in Chinese dance studies, YOU Hui Hai gives an interpretation of how dance evolved in Chinese civilization: “Dance has been very important in the life of people of China, including her Han majority, since time immemorial.” As with other early peoples, in China, dance began as part of magic rites with primitive hunters mimicking totemic or other animals. This is shown by decorative designs on pottery from the Neolithic age. Dance is referred to in inscriptions on the shoulder blade and tortoise shell “Oracle bones”, China’s first written records, which date from the Shang (商) dynasty (16th-11th centuries B.C.). Chinese dance can be divided into two major styles: first, Min Jian Wu Dao (民間舞蹈) which means Folk Dance and second, Gu Dian Wu Dao (古典舞蹈) which means Classical Dance. Since China has about fifty-six different nationality groups including the Han, one can imagine the rich cultural mosaic and the diversity of dance styles that exists in this country.