Jingju / Beijing Opera / Peking Opera 京剧

Zhang Huoding performing the White Snake


Zhang Huoding will be performing the plays she is most famous for, “The White Snake” and “The Unicorn Purse”, at the Lincoln Center in New York in September. Tickets are inexpensive.

David H. Koch Theater info here.

Details from China in English here.

I found an interesting talk show on Shandong TV, 《金声玉振》 Jin Sheng Yu Zhen. Famous artists are interviewed, including many Beijing Opera performers, like Hu Wenge, Xue Yaping and so on.
Here you can find the video set of the program: http://tv.cntv.cn/videoset/C39742/ 

I would like to share one episode here in which Liu Guijuan was invited as guest.  I guess Géza will like it.

Click here to download the video.


Fern is fine! Here she is backstage with famous actress Dou Xiaoxuan, winner of the nationally televised 2012 Jingju contest qingyi category. Only one of the many celebrities relentlessly selfied by our favorite correspondent.

Thank you for the photos, Fern!

Mou Yuandi

The Shanghai opera troupes have a lot of talent. Among them all, Fern and I both acknowledge cross-dressing actor Mou Yuandi is a unique, stand-out artist. His singing is terrific, his moves amazing, and his energy electrifying. He is a bit bigger than life too.

I don’t relax when I watch this Beijing Opera《翠屏山》called Cuipingshan originally performed on 2014-02-28 at the Tianchan Yifu Stage in Shanghai. I don’t think I’m meant to!

Sword struggle

The cast: Wang Lijun 王立军, Mou Yuandi 牟元笛; special guest stars: Cao Jianwen 曹剑文、Xiao Runnian 萧润年、Jin Xihua 金锡华

Thanks to Fern who sent me this via the regular mail. (Do you have a storyline for this opera? I’m curious about some of the pantomimes.)

Anyhow, Mou might not be your kind of girl but this is a fabulous two hour opera, don’t miss it.

The original file title was:

20140702 京剧《翠屏山》

Click here to download video (780 MB mp4 file)


2014 comeback Butterfly Lovers with Zhang Huoding


The 2014 Butterfly Lovers opera can be viewed (and downloaded) in high quality video and sound from Youtube here.

Grateful thanks to zijunzhang!

Family Fuse Weekend in Vancouver

Zhang Huoding in the Unicorn Purse 2014

Here is my favorite opera singer singing her signature role after too many years absence from the stage. Her fans were waiting! This is the show that provoked pandemonium and 5 encores last spring, of which you get the briefest taste here at the end of the two hour performance.

It’s a bit of a bummer that Vidown can only download a corrupted version of the video for this, certainly the Beijing Opera comeback of the year.

However, thanks to zijunzhang, the video can be viewed (and downloaded using the Firefox addon “Video DownloadHelper”) from here.

If and when I find a higher resolution video, I will surely post it . I know it’s out there, somewhere…

Meanwhile, paradise.


I would like to introduce a fantastic person here, Nikhi Chau, who provided excellent English translations to many Beijing Opera classics. We all know that an English subtitled Chinese Opera video is a rare treasure, so I sincerely hope we will see many more in the future!

[Nikhi’s YouTube channel]

So far, you can watch the subtitled versions of Silang Visits His Mother, Tale of the White Snake, Qin Xianglian and The Unicorn Purse here, a perfect weekend program!

Thank You Nikhi!

Evil Minister Tu


I’m not quite healed yet from the hernia surgery, no major issues so far but absolutely no break dancing allowed yet. Anyhow, on to important things, i.e. a complete Beijing Opera from this year featuring two well-known performers!

《赵氏孤儿》Zhaoshi Guer (The Orphan of the Zhao Family), headlining:

Mu Yu (actor) as Cheng Ying

Mu Yu

Dou Xiaoxuan 窦晓璇 (actress)

Dou Xiaoxuan

and Li Yang 李扬 as the evil minister Tu.

Also in the cast:

Jiang Yishan 姜亦珊, Li Xiaopei 李小培, Li Yang 李扬, Tan Zhengyan 谭正岩 and Zhang Kai 张凯.

This play has quite a bit of history. The following is based on three sources: from Fern here, from http://www.shme.com/culture/legend/orphan.htm and from http://www.hjenglish.com/talk/page/123097/

The Orphan of the Zhao Family, or Orphan of the House Tcho (趙氏孤兒), or The Great Revenge of the Orphan of Zhao Family (趙氏孤兒大報仇) was mentioned in the “Historical Records” by Sima Qian ( 2nd century B. C.) and in the “New Anecdotes” by Liu Xiang (77-6 B.C.). Capturing the popular imagination, it has been retold in many forms. It became a play during the Yuan Dynasty, written by  Ji Junxiang (紀君祥) in the second half of the 13th century. It is the first Chinese play known in Europe. Joseph Henri Marie de Prémare translated the play into French as “L’orphelin de la maison de Tchao, tragédie chinoise“, which was collected in Jean Baptiste Du Halde’s “Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique et physique de l’empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise“, published in 1735 (the play was published separately in 1755). Thomas Hatchett (active 1721-1741) published an adaptation of the play in English, “The Orphan of China” (1741) that changes the ending significantly so that the play conforms to classical conventions of the three unities.

Loyalty is the theme of the story, as the hero sacrifices his own son and friend to save the life of another family’s orphan whose family has bee massacred in order that the toddler, once grown up, can later avenge them.

In the state of Jin in today’s southern Shanxi province during and Autumn period ( 770-476 B. C. ), the King of Jin‘s evil minister Tu (屠岸贾)  becomes jealous of the growing power and popularity of an upright minister named Zhao Shuo. The minister decides to eliminate his rival.

Zhao is framed and accused of  treason for having attempted to murder the King of Jin. Zhao’s entire family except Lady Zhuang (庄姬), the King’s half-sister who had married one of Zhao’s sons, is executed. Before long a son was born to the unfortunate widow.

Hearing of the birth of the Zhao baby, Tu insists that the law must be enforced and the infant executed as well. The mother, however, is too clever to let her precious baby be thus ruthlessly killed. The child had been put under the care of Cheng Ying (程婴), one of the faithful followers of her husband, whose wife happened to give birth to a son about the same time and was able to nurse both babies.

Failing in his search, Tu offeres a great rewards to anyone who delivers the baby within ten days. He threatenes further that he will kill all the babies in the kingdom of the same age as the Zhao child, if he is not found.

Cheng Ying consults with Gongsun (公孙杵臼), another faithful follower of Zhao, and they decide on the following heart breaking plan:

Cheng sacrifices his only son while Gongsun, at the cost of his life, pretends to conceal the Zhao baby on the Shouyang Mountain (首阳山). Cheng reports on Gongsun’s “perfidy”. Tu sends men and finds the (wrong) baby. In order to test the friendship between Cheng Ying and Gongsun, Tu ordered the former to thrash the latter. They both play the tragic game so well that goes as they had planned. Gongsun and Cheng’s child are executed.

Refusing to accept the reward offered him, Cheng requests instead that he and “his son” be allowed to stay in Tu’s mansion, for they, he asserts, might be assassinated by some other (imaginary) follower of Zhao because he had given information concerning the baby’s hiding place.

The stupid minister not only shelters them under his own roof, but adopts the baby and educates him with utmost care. When the fortunate child became a powerful young man, he, following Cheng’s instructions, kills Tu and his family in revenge.

As plans go, this one is a doozy.

This is a lavish production! With shifting scenery, a great number of different costumes to marvel at, and many interesting painted faces. The executioner has a nice pink one:

Zhao taken away by the executioner

The complete cast in Chinese:

1、穆雨 饰 程婴; 2、窦晓璇 饰 庄姬(前); 3、姜亦珊 饰 庄姬(后); 4、李小培 饰 魏绛; 5、李扬 饰 屠岸贾; 6、谭正岩 饰 赵盾; 7、张凯 饰 公孙杵臼; 8、梅庆羊 饰 晋灵公; 9、常秋月 饰 卜凤; 10、魏学雷 饰 赵武; 11、苏从发 饰 赵朔; 12、王磊 饰 韩厥; 13、翟岗 饰 裴豹; 14、曹阳阳 饰 祖麂

Dou Xiaoxuan is a headliner in China, winner of the last 2012 qingyi competition, and a crowd favorite. She is the only actor in this play loudly hailed on her arrival about 40 minutes in. In this opera she has a brief but very tragic role as the mother of the sacrificed son. She sings well and even has a costume change.



Despite Dou, who adds some spice to the broth, this is essentially a male role (sheng) play.

There are a lot of nice moments in this. Let me know which one is your favorite!
Click here to download Part 1 of the video

Click here to download Part 2 of the video



Chi Xiaoqiu

And so, here is the final opera in the series at the Chang’an Grand Theater commemorating the 110th birthday of Cheng Yanqiu. It features a performer the Chinese clearly appreciate, Chi Xiaoqiu.

锁麟囊》Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse) – Chi Xiaoqiu 迟小秋, Xu Mengke 徐孟珂,  Hou Mei侯美 , Lang Shilin 郎石林, Mei Qingyang 梅庆羊, Mu Yu 穆雨

The tempo is a bit faster on some arias, Mu Yu is in the cast. The chous are different. Let’s have one more unicorn, why not? It’s time better spent.

Fern attended this performance while in Beijing last month. She wrote on her blog:

 “(At the very end of part 2 of) the CCTV video, you can see a very old man when the audience is shown. He is the son of Cheng Yanqiu, hardly could walk, he was helped to step on stage to say a few words. There was also an old lady, a disciple of Cheng, I forgot her name, she spoke for a long time after curtain call, and gifted two rare items to Chi: a shawl Cheng used to wear on stage, and a head ornament that Cheng gave her long ago. She praised Chi for resembling Cheng so much and (the latter) was so moved that she cried for a long time on the stage.”

Click here to download Part 1 of the video

Click here to download Part 2 of the video

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