Recommended sites to shop online for Beijing Opera

(originally published on: Jun 20, 2011)(Updated 2013-09-21 to fix broken video and MP3 links)

Li Haiyan

More from a singer I’m really getting to like a lot, Li Haiyan. We saw her a while back in the “Flowers Fragrant” post. Fern has another nice video of her here.

First, a 5 minute video clip from the opera “Ying Tai Kang Hun” or “Yingtai against marriage” or “Zhu Yingtai Resists Marriage” (英台抗婚).

A DVD of this particular performance can be purchased here. This production has nice close-ups and good sound, but is a typically low-budget production with spectators chatting in the background… Still, I was very happy to receive it on the very day the letter carriers at Canada Post walked out on strike. Whew!

I’m a sucker for drama, and this is as good as it gets. Li Haiyan plays a character who has been delivered news not to her liking at all! No prince charming for her this lifetime.

The story, from the Fern Encyclopedia:

Zhu Yingtai and Liang Shanbo have been classmates in Phoenix Hill for three years and have grown to be very close. At their parting, Yingtai invents the existence of a sister and tells Shanbo to come and propose within a hundred days.

When Yingtai gets home, she is unaware that her father has betrothed her to the son of the Ma family. One day when she sees the betrothal gifts, she mistakes them to be Shanbo’s and is happy and shy. She is shocked and indignant when she knows the truth, and objects to the arranged marriage. Father and daughter fall out.

After seeing Yingtai and having told the irreversible situation, Shanbo dies of a broken heart. A tearful Yingtai mourns Shanbo in front of his grave.

Superb vocal control, solid acting. And what a great voice! There is a lot of feeling here. The audience roars approval, the orchestra sweeps beautifully in the background. Ah!

Download the video here. The file format is mp4, and can be viewed using VLC. File size is 143 MB.

The video ends before curtain call, surely Madame Haiyan received a bouquet for this performance?

Before I leave you with a couple of nice photos of Li Haiyan, here is an MP3 of the first track off her quite hard to find CD, “Peking Opera Stars – Li Haiyan“. I received my CD (not from my favorite online store I hasten to add) with the jewel case crushed into tiny pieces… You’re lucky to hear this!

Download the MP3 here.

Li Haiyan in Cai Wenji

Li Haiyan

Li Haiyan

If you’re like me, you will be left wanting to hear more from Li Haiyan.


(update 2011-06-25) Fern spotted Li Haiyan singing oh-so-briefly at around 3 minutes into a video clip at:

She was looking sharp!

Li Haiyan

(originally published on: Apr 9, 2011)


This is a post I plan to update once in a while. Here are my recommendations for buying Beijing opera online.

It should be noted I live in North America. Fern was just telling me many online stores refuse to ship to Eastern Europe.

Right now, April 2011, my favorite place to shop for Beijing Opera is, for several reasons:

  • they accept Paypal
  • they have a superb selection of what I want, i.e. hard-to-find Zhang Huoding, Li Shengsu and Yu Kuizhi material
  • the packing is absolutely top notch
  • they have very good prices

I’ve ordered twice from them and will do so again this weekend. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the parcel to arrive from China. So no overnight delivery!

I’ve ordered once from in Hong Kong as well. Right now, you can get Zhang Huoding’s traditional arias CD for less than 6 dollars. Very good follow up, packing is all right. Their web site is not very searchable, and at least one item is mis-labeled — that’s Guo Wei singing the role that Zhang Huoding made famous on the DVD, not Zhang Huoding herself! But I would happily order from them again.

I ordered once from, they have a top notch English-language version web site. Unfortunately they have little product originating from Beijing. It’s the best place for Cantonese Opera, however. I ordered Director John Woo’s digitally remastered DVD “Princess Chang Ping” starring Lung Kim Sang and Mui Suet Si there, which was inexpensive, a very good English subtitled copy. I realized a third of the way into the picture the prince is a trouser role (doh!) This movie was a good evening’s entertainment to accompany a Chinese dinner.

I’ve said it before, the book “Beijing Opera Costumes: The Visual Communication of Character and Culture” by Alexandra Bonds is a must. It’s a steal at Amazon. I wish she would write a sequel! Large excerpts from this book can be viewed online here.

(update 2011-04-25)


Today was a sunny Easter Monday here where I live.

It got sunnier when I found a big Fedex package at my door. My Zhang Huoding photo art book arrived!

It comes in a grey polyester tote bag (the publishing company of the book), along with a little cardboard box of 12 high quality glossy postcards I will never ever put in a post box.

A big slipcase box contains the two volumes shrink-wrapped in plastic for freshness. The volumes are square, about 11.5 inches to a side. The cover is a plain pink soft cover cardboard that belie what’s inside — high quality glossy full page color photographs about the same quality as you would get in an issue of the National Geographic.

There are 358 pages total, the numbering of volume 2 resumes where the numbering of volume 1 left off.

I was a bit leery beforehand that one volume would be devoted to photographs of traditional opera and the second volume to photographs of modern operas, but thankfully only about 50 pages of volume 2 are devoted to modern opera. The editors did their duty but clearly they agree with me that traditional Beijing opera is where Zhang Huoding shines brightest.

This book is absolutely a labour of love. I read it took two years and a fortune to shoot, and it shows.

Incredibly, I received my copy absolutely intact in 8 days from Hangzhou, China to Canada’s east coast, defensively packed with love. The book is available right now from who gave me terrific service in response to a special request. Thank you!

My highest recommendations.


(originally published on: Apr 28, 2010)

Click here to download the video.

This is a 4 minute clip from the opera “Dream of the Spring Chamber” featuring Zhang Huoding, proving here why she is perhaps the greatest living opera actress on the planet today.

When I look at this clip, I remember a scene from a silent movie featuring the great Russian actress Alla Nazimova. The movie was Nazimova’s lavish production of “Salomé” and it builds up to the scene where of course Salomé dances seductively to get her way. When the scene finally arrives, Alla Nazimova breaks into a sort of ridiculous Charleston!

Such is not the case with “Dream of the Spring Chamber“. This brief clip begins with Zhang Huoding crouching on the floor, beginning to sing a mournful aria. Then she will rise and dance… Mesmerizing! Hypnotic! Breathtaking! The audience roars twice and there is scattered applause throughout. It makes you wonder how many marriage proposals Zhang Huoding has to field after a performance like this.

This clip is from a DVD that can be purchased in North America here.

(update 2011-07-31) Price currently $13.95 !

I have purchased from CGC Mall before using Paypal, and find they have excellent service. However buyer beware, the DVD is region 5 only, so in addition to paying multiple times the street price in China, you will probably have to rip the DVD on your computer in order to watch it. I recommend Daniusoft’s DVD ripper to do this.  Is it worth it? But of course!!!

The clip is the highest quality I could make it to diminish blurring of quick movements, and the .mp4 file size is 110 MB.

I don’t even have to add that I hope you enjoy this.  I know you will.