Archive for October, 2011


I have the chills and I’m dragging my heels today, I think my eight year-old has shared his cold virus with me.

I try to find reasons to be cheerful when I feel lousy. There is a scene in Woody Allen’s movie masterpiece, Manhattan, where he recites his list of reasons for living. I have such a list in the back of my mind somewhere. And on it most certainly is finding out what Zhang Huoding will perform next. Few things cheer me up like Zhang Huoding performing.

Fern found the two following files, for which I am very grateful. First a PDF called “One Half Water, One Half Flame” in both English and Chinese, which provides a nice overview of Zhang Huoding’s career. Click here to download it.


Next, a high quality 2 minute video of a television performanceby Zhang Huoding of an aria from the red-themed opera Sister Jiang. Click here to download the video, which is a .VOB extension playable in VLC. File size is 149 MB.

Zhang Huoding

Enjoy! [and keep them coming Fern! 😉 ]

A really big opera. Big size, big history, big story, just the stage set isn’t big, a typical one table – two chairs – one city wall combination.

I feel a little guilty because it’s featuring a single female character, a poor village girl portrayed by a unique huadan actress, Liu Shuyun.
Zhang Ke, a true representative of Yang Baosen’s legacy plays the main protagonist, Lu Song, disciple of Tan Yuanshou is excelling in not one, but two roles, and Meng Guanglu, who doesn’t really need any introduction, portrays the antagonist for a change. Yes, he’s NOT Bao Zheng this time.

The complete opera is very long, spectators nowadays don’t like to sit more than 3 hours in one place, thus it wasn’t performed in full for a long time. The Youth Troupe of Tianjin took up the responsibility to breath new life into the play. This production, with a few minor changes, is a complete edition – kind of a revival for this drama.

Download a small news video about the production.
You can learn how to put on a fake beard.

Wu Zixu, one of Beijing Opera master Yang Baosen’s representative works, consists of the following stories:

(1)《战樊城》Zhan Fancheng (The Battle of Fancheng)
(2)《长亭会》Changting Hui (Meeting in the Long Pavilion)
(3)《文昭关》Wenzhaoguan (The Zhao Pass)
(4)《芦中人》Luzhongren (The Man in the Reeds)
(5)《浣纱河》Huan Sha He (Washing Silk at the River)
(6)《鱼藏剑》Yu Cang Jian (Sword Inside the Fish) (alternate spelling: 《鱼肠剑》”Fish-gut Sword”)
(7)《专诸别母》Zhuan Zhu Bie Mu (Zhuan Zhu Leaves His Mother)
(8)《刺王僚》Ci Wang Liao (Murdering Wang Liao)
(9)《打五将》Da Wu Jiang (Defeating Five Generals)


I wrote the following summary according to the separate scripts of the acts at Fortunately the story, though lengthy, isn’t too complicated. The parts that are omitted or altered in this production are in italics.

(1) During the Warring States period (475-221 BC), Wu She, minister of Chu State is daring enough to directly criticize the king, Ping Wang (Ji Yijiu). His “well wisher”, Fei Wuji isn’t hesitant to frame Wu She, as a result the king orders his execution.
Wu She has two sons residing in Fancheng, Wu Shang and Wu Yun (courtesy name Wu Zixu). Fei Wuji wants to get rid of them too, and forces Wu She to write a letter and ask them to come to the capital. Wu Shang is willing to go, but Wu Yun foresees that they would meet their death, and holds his brother back. Finally they come to an agreement: in order to show filial obedience, Wu Shang goes, but Wu Yun escapes, hoping that he can gather an army and return for revenge.
As suspected, both Wu She and Wu Shang get executed. King Ping sends out an order to arrest Wu Yun, and dispatches Wu Chenghei and his army to capture Wu. Wu Chenghei’s soldiers fail, Wu Yun gets through the city walls and flees to Wu state. (The last part of Zhan Fancheng is left out, namely the actual battle. The next scene after the announcement of King Ping’s order is set in Dong Gaogong’s domain. For the sake of completeness, I clipped this part from another staging with Yang Shaopeng, you can download that too below.)

(2) On the way, Wu Yun meets an old friend, Shen Baoxu and his troop of Chu soldiers. Wu Yun tells him the whole sad story, and Shen Baoxu advises him to settle in Wu. (Since this was a one day performance, this part is left out too, in order to save Zhang Ke from appearing dead tired in the ending scenes.)

(3) Wu Yun arrives to the Zhao Pass, but unfortunately he cannot get through since his “Wanted” posters are already on display. He’s hiding in the home of a hermit, Dong Gaogong for seven days, and due to the constant worrying his hair and beard turn grey.

Have you seen this man?

Dong Gaogong has a friend, Huangfu Ne, who looks exactly like Wu Yun. They exchange clothes and go to the pass. Huangfu Ne arrives first, and immediately gets arrested. He stirs up a great fuss, meanwhile Wu Yun sneaks through the pass. Finally Dong Gaogong testifies that Huangfu Ne is his friend, not Wu Yun, thus he gets released.

(4) The manhunt for Wu Yun continues, and he flees to the riverbank. There’s no ferry, just a fisherman with a small vessel. Wu Yun asks him hurriedly to cross the river. The fisherman recognizes him, helps the worn out hero and accepts nothing in return. Wu Yun comes ashore and leaves, but soon he returns and asks the fisherman not to inform the soldiers about his whereabouts. Seeing that Wu doesn’t trust him, the old man throws himself into the river and dies. Wu Zixu is too late to stop him, he only gazes at the ripples in remorse and finally leaves.

(5) Wu almost reaches the borders of Wu state, but he’s all worn-out and hungry. He sees a silk-washing girl on the riverbank, and has no other option but to beg for food. The girl gives him food what Wu gladly accepts, but he doesn’t want to embarrass the girl who hasn’t met a single male before, and leaves quickly.
(In the original script, the girl figures out from his manner that Wu isn’t a beggar, and asks what happened to him. Wu Yun tells her the story, and unintentionally they start a lengthy chatter. Just like in the case of the fisherman, Wu leaves but returns shortly after, and asks the girl not to inform the soldiers about him. The girl feels that her chastity is ruined anyways after the conversation, and jumps into the river just like the old man.
In this edition, this part is left out. Both audience and critics appreciated the decision. But if you would like to see the original, much more depressing version, I uploaded an additional video of this scene with Sun Huizhu and Zhang Huifang.)

(6) Upon his arrival to Wu state, Wu Yun meets a brave young man, Zhuan Zhu, and they become sworn brothers. Wu has to beg for alms at the market to maintain himself.
One day, prince Ji Guang has an outing, and hears Wu Yun’s reed pipe. He figures out from the tune and Wu’s accent that he’s not an ordinary beggar, and appoints him at the official residence. Ji Guang wants to assassinate his cousin Ji Liao, the current despotic ruler of Wu state, and take the throne for himself. Wu Yun recommends Zhuan Zhu for the task. Their plan is to disguise Zhuan Zhu as chef at the king’s banquet, and hide the murder weapon into the king’s favorite dish, a roast fish.
(Ji Guang’s short sword was unearthed in 1974 and is on display in the Anhui Museum. The actual blade is much longer (54cm) than the prop in the play – that would have been a huge fish. ᵔ.ᵔ)

(7) After getting the task of murdering Ji Liao, Zhuan Zhu returns home and bids farewell to his mother. Seeing that he’s somewhat reluctant to leave, Zhuan Zhu’s mother is preaching to his son for a while, then hangs herself to clear up Zhuan’s misgivings.

(8) According to the plans, Zhuan Zhu disguises himself as caterer and offers a delicious fish dish to Ji Liao at the banquet. Ji Liao knows well that Ji Guang, who’s also invited to the feast, isn’t loyal to him, thus surrounds himself with security guards and wears a protective vest under his garment. But the security check fails to discover the dagger hidden into the fish, and in the right moment, Zhuan Zhu stabs King Liao to death. Unfortunately he can’t escape after the assassination and pays with his life.

(9) In the battle for the kingship, Wu Zixu defeats five generals and Ji Guang ascends the throne as King Helü. End.

京剧《伍子胥》Wu Zixu

Click here to download the video.

Length: 3:06:57 File size: 1,17GB, 720×576 Extension: MKV
Broadcast: CCTV “Theater in the Air” 2011-08-13
Performed: Tianjin China (Zhonghua) Theater 2011-07-02

Additional videos:

The Battle of Fancheng – battle scene (143MB)
2011-08-24, Mei Lanfang Theatre, Beijing
Performers: Yang Shaopeng (杨少彭), Huang Chen (黄臣) and Wang Yuxi (王玉玺).

Washing Silk at the River – tragic version (131MB)
2010-08-27, Chang’an Grand Theater, Beijing
Performers: Sun Huizhu (孙惠珠) female laosheng and Zhang Huifang (张慧芳).

Cast of the main video:

Wu Yun: Zhang Ke (张克)
Ji Liao: Meng Guanglu (孟广禄)
The old fisherman: Shi Xiaoliang (石晓亮)
Girl washing silk: Liu Shuyun (刘淑云)
Dong Gaogong, Ji Guang: Lu Song (卢松)
Wu Shang: Ma Liansheng (马连生)
Zhuan Zhu: Yang Guang (杨光)
Huangfu Ne: Fang Zhigang (房志刚)
Mi Nanshi: Chen Xiqiang (陈玺强)
Fei Wuji: Liu Junjie (刘俊杰)

A few memorable arias:

“一封书信到樊城” from Battle of Fancheng – 0:18:35

Yang Baosen version (mp3)

“鸡鸣犬吠五更天” from The Zhao Pass – 1:04:32

Yang Baosen version (mp3)

“一事无成两鬓斑” from Sword Inside the Fish – 1:54:35

I couldn’t find any recording with Yang Baosen, that seems to be extremely rare, but I decided to upload Yu Kuizhi’s version, who loosely fits into the Yang school.
Yu Kuizhi version (mp3)

As curiosity, I also added the recordings of Beijing Opera master Yu Shuyan (余叔岩) and his present day follower, Wang Peiyu, just to note further differences.
Yu Shuayan version (mp3)
Wang Peiyu version (mp3)

“列国之中干戈厚” from Murdering Wang Liao – 2:50:40

Qiu Shengrong version (mp3)
Fang Rongxiang version (mp3)


During the performance, Zhang Ke changes clothes several times:

Wu Yun as traveler. His beard is still black.

Next morning, his beard is already white.

Wu Yun as refugee.

Wu Yun as beggar.

Wu Yun as advisor.

Wu Yun as general.

I still couldn’t get the hang of Tan-style, but Lu Song surely left an impact on me.

The outfit trick

Innocent maiden with picnic basket

Ji Liao, rubbing his palms: “Hmm, this smells good!”

Black beard, black clothes, black face, black fish: Zhuan Zhu as chef

Have fun opera fans, see you next week!

Sources: Article on the

On the Docks

Two years ago, my friend Zach purchased a few DVDs for me in China of the movie versions of the 8 Model Works, which are red-themed Modern Beijing Operas. During the cultural revolution in China, there was a time where traditional Beijing Opera was banned in China and only 8 Yang Ban Xi operas were officially sanctioned by the state. These operas were created from scratch using the finest talent available at the time, conveying overtly the party line.

To my personal taste, the YangBan Xi opera movies are artistically uneven. This is mostly because I strongly dislike western ballet in my jingju. I don’t know much about ballet, but I do know for an indisputable fact I find it very boring.

My favourite DVD in the lot, pictured above, is the really dynamic Hai Gang (On the Docks) which is set on Hainan Island.

Artistically, it compares quite favourably in my opinion with the very best Gene Kelly musicals of about the same era. It has high production values, the performances are crisp. It is a cinematic treasure, capturing a moment.

Technically is another matter, the “On the Docks” DVD I own is nowhere close to “Singing In the Rain”. In fact, the DVD quality of Hai Gang is so bad I would venture to say it should be banned from sale in China! How bad is it? Let’s compare picture quality. Same computer, same player.

Here is the digitally restored Singing In The Rain DVD featuring Gene Kelly (click on image for full size):

Singing In The Rain DVD

Singing In The Rain DVD

Here is the Hai Gang DVD:

On The Docks DVD

On The Docks DVD

In fact, I cheated to improve the image by altering the height because it is badly skewed, probably due to a mastering mistake in vertical versus horizontal resolution. Notice the line at the bottom of the screen. Overall, this looks like it was shot using a video camera from a projected half-decent 16mm print.

Let me be the first to say it: it’s now time to digitally restore Yang Ban Xi!




After the previous rather depressing post, we will move on from the subject of plastic bags to a couple of fun-filled animal shots to cheer us all up.

tiger jump!

shoo sheep!



Fern found the top two, and the bottom one from the Guo Wei Barren Tears opera we posted earlier.


The theme of my post this week is collecting. Please be warned it is somewhat autobiographical.

I admit I am an collector of perhaps epic proportions. When I was young, while my maternal grand-mother and my uncle were still alive, I collected Hungarian stamps. Later, in my teens, and financed by numerous paper routes, I collected comic books and amassed a monstrous pile, of which I sold off about a third in my mid-twenties. At around the same time, I started collecting rock records for a decade or so until CDs came along (I have a bunch of those as well). Once in a used book store I bought up a large quantity of 45 rpm discs that had belonged to a radio station that had just closed down for a nickel a piece. A couple of years ago, I gave all those away to a visiting friend who sells vinyl on the Internet, knowing he was going to be able to pay his rent with them for a few months (and he did).

I am also an old time radio (OTR) collector. In the 1970s, I bought a few Sandy Hooks vinyl records and listened to old episodes on CBC radio in the summer. I purchased reel-to-reel tapes through the mail. When MP3 files happened, OTR collectors everywhere put their old tapes of shows online and I collected those. A few years ago, I organised those files and I donated a copy of my collection to the Internet Archive. It was too long to upload, so I sent them a boatload of DVDs in the mail. Some people, however, collect the original transcription disks records. The company Radio Spirits markets remastered radio show episodes that mostly came from the efforts of one such collector, Terry Salomonson. I really like that company, they have quietly released a lot of “lost” episodes featuring Orson Welles in gloriously computer-restored quality over the past few years. Amazing.

Now, when I can, I collect silent movies on DVD. Since last year, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis can finally be termed “Complete” because of a an Argentine film collector. The 2010 Flicker Alley DVD edition of Chaplin at Keystone is also a tour de force involving collections worldwide.

Some collectors are lucky, they just get whatever they want and never have to worry about money.

Me, I’ve always been and will always be too too broke to pursue my interests with great abandon.

Collecting is something you can’t really control. To temper my natural inclinations, I’ve steered toward collecting old used paperbacks that are light reading in the bus and that cost next to nothing. For example, a lot of Alexandre Dumas Père. In the past 18 months, I have re-read les Trois Mousquetaires, and Vingt Ans Après and read for the first time the three volumes of Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, as well as Pauline, Othon l’archer and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. These novels have a lot of bang for the buck, especially the Bragelonne books which I purchased as a 50 year-old boxed set in mint condition for only $20. I also re-read nearly all of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novels. I also pick up novels by Van Vogt, his Universe Maker is a masterpiece. I’ve read Gaston Leroux as well, and as I was saying to Fern in a post on, all of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes as well as several pastiches by Laurie King and Loren Estleman. I had a big kick last year re-reading my complete Perry Rhodan collection in English. I’ve since resumed reading this space opera series in French. It’s just about the easiest read on the bus.

I know all the used book stores in my city as well as all the surly clerks who work in them, all eternally hoping I will leave so they can go to have a smoke outside. Junkies of a different nature, I think.

I am not single and my significant other is not a collector, and she has always had trouble understanding. I have my “den” at home, a room on the second floor where I keep all my stuff. I keep the door closed because the clutter drives my wife crazy. The deal we agreed on when we bought the house was that I would have my own room for an office and that she would have no say in decoration or content. She has lived to bitterly regret this arrangement. Over time, I piled up my belongings in there as she improved the rest of the house (I have a phobia about flooded basements) and the smell of acidifying paper got pretty bad (everything is 30, 40 or 50 years old), especially in winter when the windows stay closed. My wife complained about the odour, so to her great surprise, instead of giving away my books to the city dump, I started bagging them on my shelves. It helped a lot to tame the smell, I recommend it, but it looks a bit crazy and not just a bit anal. My older cousin visited from Hungary last year, and gave me a horrified look when she saw my shelves, asking why on Earth everything was bagged. After I explained, she shook her head in pity and disgust. I don’t think she’s a collector.

You are either born a collector or you’re not. My 8 year-old son was a serious collector from the start. Right now he is collecting Star Wars plastic sabres and is pestering his grand-mother in Florida weekly over the phone for the “rare” purple-colored one. Before Star Wars was Hergé’s Tintin (of which a movie by Spielberg is coming out next year). And before that, toys from Pixar’s Cars movie, and so on. He’s lucky I’m his dad. I know him and understand what he’s going through when he sees something he absolutely needs, right now.

I think collectors preserve popular culture, which in turn becomes culture period. Alexandre Dumas while he was alive was considered a trashy fiction writer, now he is buried in the Panthéon.

In the 20th Century, there was a lot of popular culture to collect. Take The Shadow for example, the magazine hero from the 1930s who also had a radio show popularised by Orson Welles. When I was younger, I collected everything I could get my hands on regarding The Shadow, but by the late 1970s, the pre-World War 2 pulp magazines, like comic books, were excessively rare because of robust paper recycling drives during the war years. Some magazine episodes I had heard about through printed mentions, like The Golden Master or The Shadow Unmasks,  but they were mythologically rare and I had given up the hope of reading them in my lifetime. Around 2005, collector John Olsen took it upon himself to scan and digitize all of the nearly 300 magazine adventures (written for the most part by Houdini’s personal friend Walter Gibson). He asked collectors to lend him their pulp collections. John then converted all the adventures to text files and put them all online one by one until he finished the run. I’m proud to say I provided one of the very last pulps John was missing, The Mother Goose Murders, a digest format from March 1946. I only own one Shadow pulp, and it was one he was missing.

Now I collect Beijing Opera videos because jingju fascinates me beyond words. I think in today’s dismal world what we need is quality, intelligence, music and art. When I started the web site I was looking for a English-language Beijing Opera web site equivalent of what is to silent films, but there was none. So I put on my clown nose and decided to create one. Now, I view this web site as the best way to organise a Beijing Opera video collection, by providing cast and story info, provenance, and notes on what I liked about them. One day I would like to travel to China by myself and stay there for a few months and do nothing but eat dim sum and go to the opera. Perhaps my lottery ticket will pan out.

In the meanwhile, this afternoon I decided to re-sort my jingju video files. They quickly accumulate in directories all over the place and I can’t find anything. Duplicates take up disk space too (especially when they are each over 1 GB in size).

This time, to make things right, I followed pretty much the same directory hierarchy as this web site’s categories. Which reminded me of a scene from John Cusack’s very best movie, “High Fidelity”, the one where he decides to re-sort his record collection.

I explained to Fern in an email a while back on a week when she got in the same groove, that the Chinese might sort Beijing Operas either by opera title (like Fern does now for her video list), or by performer (which I have done up till now, I couldn’t bear splitting my favorite singer Zhang Huoding‘s videos into different folders), or by character (like Judge Bao or Silang). In the 21rst Century, you could also sort them by file types, or a purist might sort them by “before or after the cultural revolution”.

I’m pretty sure Fern is a collector too. A lot of women are, I know Imelda Marcos collected shoes.

This week I am trying to talk Fern out of keeping a stray mouse she has collected accidentally.

Real collectors never stop collecting or give up. They can’t.

By the way, this blog has now passed its 100th post.


As we mentioned already, today would be the 91th birthday of Beijing Opera master Zhang Junqiu. 91 isn’t a round number, so no big commemorating concert this year, but don’t afraid, last year almost 30 artists gathered in the National Political Consultative Hall in Beijing to celebrate the occasion.

Noted Beijing Opera artists, students, followers and family members of Zhang Junqiu came to show their appreciation, including two of his most well-known disciples, Wang Rongrong and Xue Yaping.

Zhang Junqiu and Wu Lizhen’s son, Zhang Xuehao was also present, together with his new wife Dong Cuinuo, a talented disciple of his father. Another relative appearing on the stage was Zhang Xin, wife of Zhang Xuehao’s younger brother, Zhang Xuejiang. Without a doubt, the Zhang family is a real opera family. -‿-

Another point of interest was the last duo, Mei Baojiu and his brilliant disciple Hu Wenge, who was just featured in a complete opera here.

This group photo comes from the CCTV Forum, you can find more great pictures there:

Zhao Fangyuan, Zhang Qiting, Zhang Leilei, Wu Haoyi, Wang Pan, Jiang Yishan, Wang Runjing, Yang Yongshu, Zhang Ping, Wen Ruhua, Dong Cuinuo (changed dress), Zhang Xuehao, Xue Yaping, Wang Rongrong, Zhao Xiujun, Zhang Xuemin, Zhang Xin, Zhang Liyuan, Zhao Qun, Wang Yige, Wan Xiaohui, Hong Yan, Liu Dong

Concert celebrating Zhang Junqiu’s 90th birthday

Click here to download the video.

Length: 2:48:26 File size: 445MB, 720×432 Extension: MKV
20 September 2010, National Political Consultative Hall, Beijing
Broadcast in CCTV’s Theater in the Air on 27 October 2010.

List of performers:

0:02:45《女起解》Nü Qi Jie (Su San Sent Out Under Guard) – Zhang Qiting  (张其婷)
0:03:34《春秋配》Chun Qiu Pei (Romance of Chunfa and Qiulian) – Liu Dong (刘栋)
0:04:30《秦香莲》Qin Xianglian – Wu Haoyi (吴昊颐)
0:05:40《望江亭》Wangjiang Ting (Riverside Pavilion) – Wang Yige (王奕戈)
0:06:22《诗文会》Shi Wen Hui (Meeting by Poetry) – Zhao Fangyuan (赵芳媛)

0:07:15《状元媒》Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) – Dong Xueping (董雪萍)
0:09:13《楚宫恨》Chu Gong Hen (Sorrow in Chu Palace) – Wan Xiaohui (万晓慧)
0:11:11《坐宫》Zuo Gong (Sitting in the Palace) – Hong Yan (洪岩), Zhang Leilei (张蕾蕾), Tan Zhengyan (谭正岩)
0:15:10《秋瑾》Qiu Jin – Wang Pan (王盼)
0:20:43《状元媒》Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) –  Zhang Liyuan (张笠媛)
0:26:52《诗文会》Shi Wen Hui (Meeting by Poetry) – Zhao Qun (赵群)
0:30:32《女起解》Nü Qi Jie (Su San Sent Out Under Guard) – Jiang Yishan (姜亦珊)
0:36:35《赵氏孤儿》Zhaoshi Guer (The Zhao Orphan) – Yang Yongshu (杨永树)
Uncle Yang is an amateur actor, inspired by Zhang Junqiu’s art since childhood. He isn’t an official disciple of Mr. Zhang but it’s said there was an outstanding teacher-student relationship between them.

0:41:15《状元媒》Zhuangyuan Mei (Top Scholar as Matchmaker) – Zhang Xin (张新)
0:49:25《彩楼记》Cai Lou Ji (Tale of the Decorated Chamber) – Wang Runjing (王润菁)
0:55:33《银屏公主》Yinping Gongzhu (Princess Yinping) – Zhang Xuehao (张学浩)
1:03:28《打渔杀家》Da Yu Sha Jia (The Fishermen’s Revenge) – Wen Ruhua (温如华)
1:06:38《楚宫恨》Chu Gong Hen (Sorrow in Chu Palace) – Zhao Xiujun (赵秀君)
1:20:30《刘兰芝》Liu Lanzhi – Dong Cuinuo (董翠娜)

1:28:32《西厢记》Xi Xiang Ji (Romance of the West Chamber) – Zhang Ping (张萍)
1:34:10《望江亭》Wangjiang Ting (Riverside Pavilion) – Zhang Xuemin (张学敏)
1:37:48《苏武牧羊》Su Wu Mu Yang (Su Wu as Shepherd) – Zhu Qiang (朱强)
1:42:37《锁麟囊》Suo Lin Nang (The Unicorn Purse) – Chi Xiaoqiu (迟小秋)
1:48:44《周仁献嫂》Zhou Ren Xian Sao (Zhou Ren Offering His Brother’s Wife) – Li Hongtu (李宏图)
1:56:42《捉放曹》Zhuo Fang Cao (Capturing and Releasing Cao Cao) – Du Zhenjie (杜镇杰)
2:02:15《西厢记》Xi Xiang Ji (Romance of the West Chamber) – Wang Rongrong (王蓉蓉)
2:07:20《韩玉娘》Han Yuniang – Zhang Ke (张克)

2:13:44《怜香伴》Lian Xiang Ban (A Gentle Companion) – Xue Yaping (薛亚萍)
2:19:00《铡美案》Zha Mei An (Case of Chen Shimei) – Meng Guanglu (孟广禄)
2:24:08《四郎探母》Silang Tan Mu (Silang Visits his Mother) – Zhao Baoxiu (赵葆秀)
2:27:55《辕门射戟》Yuanmen She Ji (The Magic Arrow Shot) – Ye Shaolan (叶少兰)
2:34:06《横槊赋诗》Heng Shuo Fu Shi (Cao Cao Sings an Ode with Long Lance) – Shang Changrong (尚长荣)
2:37:27《贵妃醉酒》Guifei Zuijiu (The Drunken Concubine) – Mei Baojiu (梅葆玖), Hu Wenge (胡文阁)
2:43:00《忆秦娥·娄山关》 Yi Qin’e·Lou Shan Guan (Remembering Qin’e – Loushan Pass) – Zhang Junqiu (张君秋)
This is an old tune with Mao’s new lyrics.

The little slideshow thing starting at 2:45:53 is featuring a few pictures of Zhang Junqiu I haven’t met online before, for example this colored one from The Orphan of the Zhao Family:

My personal favorites this time were Wu Haoyi, Zhao Qun, Dong Cuinuo and Du Zhenjie.
Fanciest outfit: Wang Yige (Bertrand found an article in English about this girl back in July, which I did not forget just carefully saved up for this post. Thank you Bertrand!)
Best optical illusion shirt: Wen Ruhua
Most original excerpt: Zhang Ke
Performer forcing me to sing-along: Zhu Qiang

I hope you’ll enjoy this video and all the famous arias.
See You next week!

Back then in 1936, a Beijing newspaper, 《立言报》Liyan Bao held a public voting about the most promising young performers of Beijing Opera. Li Shifang got 5800, Mao Shilai 5000, Zhang Junqiu 4800 and Song Dezhu 3600 votes as the most talented young stars, and were labeled as “the four junior dan” (四小名旦), with a reference to “the four great dan” (四大名旦), namely Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Xun Huisheng and Shang Xiaoyun.
The expression stuck on them permanently after a performance of Tale of the White Snake in 1940, in which the four were acting together.

After the air accident of Li Shifang in 1947, another newspaper《纪事报》Jishi Bao intended to fill the “vacancy”, and organized another voting. Among the most populars names voted for were Zhang Junqiu, Mao Shilai, Chen Yongling and Xu Hanying, but the audience had deeper impression on the original four, and the new result didn’t change the previous conclusions.

In the first place, I’ll write about my personal favorite, Zhang Junqiu, who had the longest and most outstanding career of the four. You might have read some excerpts from this post in my personal blog, but this one is a seriously revised and improved version, trying to introduce Mr. Zhang as an artist and as a person as well.

This post was sitting in the Drafts folder for months with a reason: as a token of appreciation, I wanted to post it on 14 October. Zhang Junqiu would be 91 today. (I’m not sure it’s allowed to reveal, but Bertrand also celebrates his birthday this week, so the animated bunny is greeting him too.)

Thank you Bertrand for your invaluable help with English grammar and expressions. I really appreciate every suggestion, let them come!

Zhang Junqiu (张君秋)

Life and work

Zhang Junqiu (birth name Teng Jiaming) was born on 14 October 1920 in Beijing into a poor Han family. His mother, Zhang Xiuqin was a popular bangzi qingyi in Zhangjiakou, Hebei. Later she married a minor official, Teng Mo, who eventually abandoned his family and became a Buddhist monk. Zhang Xiuqin had to face many hardships in order to raise up both of her sons alone. To distance themselves from their father, both children changed their birth name Teng to Zhang Junjie and Zhang Junqiu.

At the age of 14, Junqiu became a student of Li Lingfeng, a disciple of Wang Yaoqing. For some reason, Li Lingfeng wasn’t given good roles, and soon he started to teach for a living. He had a very good eye to spot talent, and saw that the young Zhang Junqiu is showing promise, thus he accepted him as a “held-at-hand disciple”, a student who lives in the house of the master since childhood. Zhang Junqiu knew well what a tremendous help for his family is that he doesn’t have to pay a tutoring fee, and he was working very hard day and night.

Because of his delicate voice and white skin, he was trained for dan (female) roles. After specializing in qingyi, Zhang Junqiu made his stage debut in 1935 in Beijing Lucky Theatre. He was performing Nü Qi Jie (Su San Sent Out Under Guard) with Lei Xifu, gaining the favor of the audience with the superb quality of his voice and his highly skilled singing technique.

Early portrait; in The Broken Bridge; with Li Shifang in the role of Du Liniang

Later he was taught by Wang Yaoqing himself, also got guidance from Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Shang Xiaoyun, Xun Huisheng, Yan Lanqiu and Zhu Guifang. In his pursuit of the “divine essence” of theater art, Zhang Junqiu didn’t stick stubbornly to the style of the predecessors. Assimilating and enhancing the characteristics of various schools, he finally formed his own unique style, now known as Zhang school (张派).

His performing style was skillfully combining the magnificence of Mei school, vigorousness of Shang school, softness of Cheng school and the subdued style of Xun school, enhanced with his own clear, bright voice and sumptuous stage appearance. With a referral to the “four great dan”, journalists in 1936 made a comparison that his stage appearance is as graceful as Mei, his singing skills as good as Shang, his accent as sweet as Cheng and his movements as stylish as Xun.

Zhang Junqiu had a sweet and smooth, yet fresh and loud voice of a very wide range, singing low and high pitches with ease.  His performance, excellent in voice and expression, got even more rich in his later years. He particularly paid attention to the portrayal of characters and conveying emotions with her singing, depicting refined and graceful women, valiant heroines and elegant society ladies all differently.

With Ma Lianliang; with Liu Xuetao in Riverside Pavilion; as Qin Xianglian

In his early period he was singing qingyi roles mainly in Offering Sacrifice at the River, Leifeng Pagoda, Yu Tangchun and Romance of Chunfa and Qiulian. His later trademark roles, like Tan Jier in The Riverside Pavilion, Princess Zhuangji in The Orphan of the Zhao Family and Cui Yingying in the Romance of the Western Chamber all turned into typical roles of Zhang school repertoire.

In the 1930s, Ma Lianliang’s troupe was lacking a good dan performer, and Ma was afraid that Tan Fuying or others make an appointment with Zhang Junqiu first, thus he quickly invited him to Fufeng to participate in Su Wu As Shepherd. After the performance, both the audience and Ma Lianliang were pleased, and Ma offered a permanent contract to Zhang which he immediately accepted, thus stepping on the path leading to stardom.

As Zhang Junqiu’s popularity grew, his contracted payment also got bigger, resulting in a desperate quarrel over the money between Zhang’s mother and his master, Li Lingfeng. Zhang Junqiu found himself in a very awkward situation, but finally attached more importance to the will of his mother, and after finishing his apprentice years, he and Li parted ways like strangers.

During his years in Fufeng, Zhang Junqiu accumulated lots of stage experience, also gained widespread popularity and a solid audience base. However, majority of his roles were supporting roles, his name didn’t appear in the main cast, and he couldn’t really walk his own independent ways. Circumstances gradually lead to disagreement between Ma and Zhang, that climaxed after a performance of The Rainbow Pass, and when his contract finally expired in 1941, Zhang Junqiu left Fufeng.

Organizing the new troupe of Zhang Junqiu was the responsibility of his father-in-law, Zhao Yankui.  For wusheng role they appointed Sun Yukun, who was the single leading wusheng performer at that time. After the death of Yang Xiaolou Lucky Theatre continued its performances with Sun Yukun, but his fame and prestige didn’t equal to Yang’s. Soon he had to quit, and thus he accepted Zhang Junqiu’s offer. Laodan actor Li Duokui was also in the starter team, and in 1941-42 he was working together with Zhang Junqiu in Silang Visits his Mother, Red-maned Fiery Horse, Sun Sanxiang and Jin Suo Ji. They couldn’t get Yang Baosen for laosheng role, and in 1942, Shi Huibao joined the troupe.

In the first few seasons, Zhao Yankui came up with brilliant casting and picked the repertoire wisely. The audience appreciated not only the good plays, but also started to admire Zhang Junqiu’s elegant style. This setup didn’t last long though, theaters of Shanghai and Tianjin invited Zhang Junqiu, who accepted the offers to make some good money. After he returned, his mother, who wasn’t satisfied with the profit, insisted to reorganize the troupe. Sun Yukun left, and Zhao Yankui, who didn’t support the idea of sending friends away, also quit. Needless to say, things started getting worse since then.
“Filial piety was Junqiu’s greatest merit. His mother’s words were equal to an imperial edict. Even when he became famous, he wholeheartedly served his mother.”, said Liu Xuetao, good friend and colleague of Mr. Zhang during a 2007 interview.

From 1942, Zhang Junqiu frequently worked together with performers like “Donghuang” Meng Xiaodong, Wang Youchen, Tan Fuying and Ma Lianliang. In 1947, together with Yu Zhenfei and Ma Lianliang he moved to Hong Kong and they were performing there for several years.

Qiu Shengrong, Tan Fuying, Zhang Junqiu, Ma Lianliang

In 1951 he returned to Beijing and together with Ma Lianliang, Tan Fuying and Qiu Shengrong they established the Jingju Troupe of Beijing and staged many classics, like The Auspicious Dragon and Phoenix, Qin Xianglian, The Orphan of the Zhao Family, Top Scholar as Matchmaker, The Riverside Pavilion and Romance of the Western Chamber.
In 1956, Zhang Junqiu’s Third Troupe, Ma Lianliang’s troupe and Tan Fuying and Qiu Shengrong’s Second Troupe were merged, constituting the powerful final formation of the Jingju Troupe of Beijing.

Zhang Junqiu was fully experiencing the persecution of  the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). After the storm, he came back out of retirement and wholeheartedly engaged himself in Beijing opera education, accepting many domestic and international students. He had more than a hundred students from every part of the country, like Xue Yaping, Li Bingshu, Yang Chunxia, Yang Shurui, Wang Wanhua, Lei Ying, Zhang Jinglin, Dong Cuinuo, Wang Rongrong and Zhao Xiujun, just to mention a few.

In 1986, accepting the invitation of the Tianjin government, he took charge of the training of Tianjin’s Youth Jingju Troupe. Later Li Ruihuan, chairman of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee entrusted him with chief art consulting assignment in “The Essence of China’s Beijing Opera” project, a program started to save the archive recordings of old masters. Zhang Junqiu was working on this project until his death, and finished more than 120 recordings. (You can download one item of this series here.)

He held many positions, like vice-chairman of China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, vice-president of the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts and vice-chairman of the Chinese Dramatists Association. In 1990 he got Lifetime Achievement Award from Lincoln Art Center and New York Sino-American Art Association, also received honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree of Lincoln University.

From Zhang Junqiu’s several children some decided to follow the footsteps of their father, and chose Beijing Opera as a profession. Zhang Xuejin (张学津) and his twin brother, Zhang Xuehai (张学海) work as laosheng, Zhang Xuehao (张学浩) was working as wusheng before, but later he switched to qingyi role, in order to pass on the legacy of his father.

“Lenient and rigorous”

Zhang Junqiu knew well that success in Beijing Opera isn’t solely based on talent. Without blood, sweat and tears, no-one can make major advancement. As a teacher, he was unable to tolerate if his disciples are negligent. Many of his students are outstanding, gifted artists, harvesting prestigious awards in China and overseas, yet they unceasingly dedicate themselves to develop their art skills to match Mr. Zhang’s strict requirements. People often had the impression that he’s cold as ice, but if you ask his followers, without prior consultation they all describe him as amiable, delicate and careful in life.

Teaching Li Jinqiu, Wang Rongrong and other disciples

One of Shang Xiaoyun’s direct disciples, Cheng Qing from Shandong, who accepted Zhang Junqiu as a teacher after the death of Mr. Shang, characterized Mr. Zhang as someone who is always very modest and cautious with people, talking to everyone politely. With his students, he was even more friendly. When his disciples visited him at home, Zhang Junqiu was always very happy, as if he were a child himself.

Another of his students, Di Ping also mentions how rigorous Mr. Zhang was as a teacher. However, he frequently offered a meal to his disciples, to make sure they eat enough, and he never forgot to warn them in winter to wear warm scarves. “Every time he saw me off at the bus stop, he reminded me to close the zipper on my bag, to keep money safe. He really treated us like his own children.”, said Di Ping.

In Zhang Xuehao’s memories

After a performance in Tianjin, celebrating Zhang Junqiu’s 80th birthday in October 2000, his seventh son, Zhang Xuehao, also a noted Beijing opera artist, was speaking about his father during an interview. The followings are his own words.

“My family was a very special household. I spent my childhood and younger years in a peaceful and happy family atmosphere. […] My grandmother, my mother, twelve brothers and sisters were living together.

Just like his art career, the married life of my father also experienced ups and downs, full of intriguing drama. His first wedding was in 1940, he married my aunt Zhao Yurong, daughter of Zhao Yankui, Shang Xiaoyun’s accompanist. Aunt Zhao came from a performing artist’s family, there were no cultural or moral differences, it’s only that their marriage was a job-based relationship. Although they had five children, and there was no major friction between them, their marriage wasn’t based on love, and looking back now, none of them was very happy.

Only when my father arrived to Shanghai to perform, has he met the person he was really fond of: my mother, Wu Lizhen. My maternal grandfather was the head of a very rich Shanghai banker family. At that time my mother was a student at Shanghai Saint John University’s foreign language department. She was a beautiful and intelligent, refined young miss, interested in music, literature and theatre since childhood,  also my father was young and very handsome. They fell in love at first sight, and gave each other a pledge to stay together throughout a lifetime.

Wu Lizhen, Zhang Xuehao 

Their relationship was violently opposed by my mother’s father. According to the social prejudice of those times, how could the daughter of a financier family marry an opera artist, what’s more as a second wife? My mother willingly sacrificed everything for love, left her home without hesitation, and they got married.

My parents were inseparable for 25 years and raised up three boys and four girls. Among the children of my father, I am the seventh oldest, thus my parents were just calling me “little Nr.7”.

My mother was a good-natured and compassionate woman, thus my father’s first wife could stay under the same roof even after their marriage, for appearance’s sake. So my mother had to face very complicated family relations, always had to take the whole picture into consideration and suffer in silence. She loved not only her natural children dearly, but also respected Aunt Zhao and treated all her children like they were her own. […]

Dad ardently loved Bejing Opera profession, and owing to mom’s great efforts, he didn’t need to worry about the household and trivial matters, and could fully concentrate on art. This is essential for an outstanding artist. My mother also supported him in his work, every time dad had a new role, she helped him to learn the script. If the new play was a historical drama, she went to the bookstore to buy books about that certain historical era. […] My father was learning jingju art and skills from childhood, without proper cultural education, and my mom helped him to improve. She told him to write a diary, and dad had to write a paragraph every day. […] Dad’s students and friends all liked and respected my mother very much.

[…] All my older brothers and sisters attended theatre schools, and my parents better wanted me to become a doctor, but I was afraid of the idea and secretly applied to the theatre art school as well. They didn’t blame me after all, but encouraged and helped me in my studies. […] Whenever I had a performance, my parents commanded the whole family to watch the play, to give me inspiration.

During the Cultural Revolution, my father and mother were suffering from persecution, and our whole family had to leave the courtyard house we lived in for several decades, and all three generations moved to an old house with two and a half rooms. At that time my mother already suffered from serious illness, yet she worked her heart out to manage the household. Following my grandmother who died of illness, my mother also passed away in 1969, at the young age of 48. The loss of the two persons he loved the most completely devastated my father.

Some photos of Mr. Zhang in his later years

Time flies, 20 years went by, but my father never recovered from grief, and still deeply cherished the memory of my mother. He was brilliant and splendid on the stage of Beijing Opera throughout his entire life, but on the complicated stage of real life, especially in his later years, he has been struggling more than anyone would imagine, experiencing the joys and sorrows of life just like anyone else.

When my father remarried later [in 1974 with Xie Hongwen], a stepmother entered the Zhang household. Since then, my father’s emotional world was somewhat hazy, and he was sinking into a state of subtle suffering. The children, one after another left home, and he wasn’t familiar with this new lifestyle. He never could express his true feelings easily, but it seemed to us that he’s not happy at all.

In the early 70s, after I graduated from the National Chinese Opera Academy, I moved to other part of the country. When I visited my father in Beijing, he was very happy and once he said: “Little Seventh, nowadays I live a lot better, I have more than 80 yuan for a month.”
He said this when my stepmother wasn’t in the room. He knew that I earn only 30-40 yuan a month, my life is hard, and he immediately tried to stuff a 10 yuan note in my hands.
My stepmother came in just in this moment, and halted in front of us. My father was extremely embarrassed. She cast a cold glance at us, didn’t say a word, just turned around and left the room. […]
When I said good bye and walked to the subway station, I looked back and I saw my father on the 14th floor, standing on the balcony and still waving after me. My tears started to flow.


In the last half year of 1996 my father was busy with “The Essence of China’s Beijing Opera”  project. Once he said in the phone [Zhang Xuehao was in the US at that time]: “I’m in a bad mood.” I quickly asked him why. Someone did hurt him? Dad was the most important for me, I was unable to tolerate any insult to him. It turned out it’s all about his job. He was appointed as art consultant, and he really wanted to do a good job, but was constantly worrying because he wasn’t satisfied with the students.
I wrote a lengthy letter to my father, and asked him not to get vexed. This letter finally stabilized his mood.

When my brother Xuejin came to the United States to perform in 1997 April, he brought me a video tape he recorded with Dad. My father repeatedly said it’s not easy for him that his children are so far away. This made me very sad.”

Shortly after, Zhang Junqiu passed away on 25 May 1997, at the age of 77.

Sources:, Hudong Wiki, Zhang Junqiu and Wu Lizhen, “Anecdotes on famous persons of Peking Opera” by Ding BingsuiInterview with Zhang Xuehao (cache), Life Daily News
Pictures: xueyaping. com [1][2]

A withering look from the Empress in Xie Yahuan

This production was performed by the National Beijing Opera troupe at the Chang’an Grand Theater in Beijing, on 2011-06-06. It was broadcast on CCTV’s “Theater In the Air” program two weeks later on 2011-06-23.

The tragic Beijing opera “Xie Yaohuan” was created by the famous Chinese playwright Tian Han, in 1961. The title was named after the heroine Xie Yaohuan, an official in the reign of Empress Wu Zetian.

The story (adapted from here):

During the reign of Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty, many farmers in the southern region of the Yangtze River fled to join outlaws at Tai Lake because of despotic gentries ruling them. A woman official, Xie Yaohuan, asks the rulers to appease these farmers. Empress Wu Zetian, holding her in high esteem, appoints her to the imperial censor and sends her on an inspection tour of south China.

When Xie arrives in Suzhou, she sees that Wu Hong, a son of Wu Sansi who was a powerful courtier and nephew of Wu Zetian, and Cai Shaobing, a brother of Lai Junchen (AD 651-697) who was a secret police official during the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty and Wu Zetian’s Zhou Dynasty, were bullying residents and tussling with righteous Yuan Xingjian during a public gathering. She takes them to Yamun for trial and judges both Wu Hong and Cai Shaobing guilty. Wu and Cai defy the judgement. As Wu and Cai are in contempt of court, Xie orders  Cai beheaded and Wu bludgeoned to death. At the same time, she discovers Yuan Xingjian as a chivalrous man during this affair, and marries him.

However, avenging accomplices, Wu Sansi and Lai Junchen, falsely accuse Xie of having connections with bandits. Empress Wu Zetian decides to investigate the allegation, and arranges a clandestine tour to south China. In the meantime, Xie is thrown into the prison, awaiting execution. After investigating herself, the furious empress orders Lai Junchen executed and Wu Sansi dismissed from his post. She then ennobles Xie Yaohuan Marquis Dingguo. But Xie refuses to go to her post, preferring to be buried alive with her husband Yuan Xingjian in Tai Lake.

Dozens of people play in this opera, it seems. Fern provided the following cast list:

Xie Yaohuan: Zhang Xinyue (张馨月)
Yuan Xingjian: Li Hongtu (李宏图)
Xu Yougong: Zhu Qiang (朱强)
Empress Wu Zetian: Hu Wenge (胡文阁)
Wu Sansi: Chen Junjie (陈俊杰)
Lai Junchen: Huang Yanzhong (黄彦忠)  Head of Tang dynasty Gestapo. Boo!
Su Luangxian: Wang Mengting (王梦婷)
Cai Shaobing, Wu Hong: Zhou Pu (周璞), Huang Baixue (黄柏雪) (the 2 chou characters)

Huang Baixue’s name seemed familiar, he was one of the tax collectors in the tiger-version Barren Mountain. And now I remember, Zhou Pu was supposed to play the other tax collector in that performance, but for some reason another actor substituted him. Seems these two performers are frequently paired up(?)


Some photos of this performance (which were spotted here):

Hu Wenge as the Empress in Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

Xie Yaohuan

The big surprise of this opera for me is that the cast features actor Hu Wenge as the Empress, the only male Mei school dan in the past 50 years.

Let me say right off, before Fern told me the Empress was a cross-dressing role, Hu Wenge had me completely fooled and I thought “she” was a terrific “actress”! Hu Wenge sings effortlessly, and honestly, the more you watch him, the more he fools you. An absolutely top notch, superlative performance. “The Empress” is so deliciously evil in this, with those evil sidelong glances, I mean… she literally shoots lightning bolts from those peepers, whew! At about three minutes in, the live Chinese audience already, and deservedly, applauds after Hu Wenge sings his opening.

Fern, you’re going to kill me for this, but to me Cheng Yanqiu is not half as convincing in a female role as Hu Wenge in this production.

There is an English language article here about this interesting actor , from which an excerpt is reproduced here:

A third-generation successor of the Mei school, (Hu Wenge) has realized a childhood dream.

“When I was young, in the opera school where I studied, my teacher teaching Chinese culture wrote a name ‘Mei Lanfang’ on the blackboard. I didn’t know then who he was. My teacher then told me he was the model of all of us who studied the arts. So I engraved this name in my head and set him as my target. Although I knew he was so superior to me, so far away from me, I still regarded him as my spiritual support.”

Hu Wenge was studying Qinqiang, a local opera in northwest China’s Shaanxi province. But for seven years, he had been continuously requesting to be the student of Mei Baojiu, Mei Lanfang’s son and also China’s Peking Opera master. His unparalleled perseverance and sincerity finally moved Mei. In 2001, when Hu was already 30 years old, he eventually switched his study to Peking Opera.

Studying Peking Opera from the very beginning at the late age of 30 is not easy. Now, eight years on, Mei Baojiu is satisfied with his student.

“Hu Wenge was my only student learning the role of male Dan in Peking Opera. He is talented and also very diligent.”

Enjoying wide-spread popularity, Hu Wenge’s appearances can be on both domestic and international stages. Hu Wenge says this kind of popularity is not new to him as he enjoyed it when he was a pop singer.

It is hard to imagine this tender and feminine voice is Hu Wenge’s, but it is. With this unique voice and presentation, He Wenge seized wide fame across south China between the 1980s to the 1990s. Hu Wenge says his performances were blockbuster events back then.

“It is hard to talk about my life. The fact is, when I graduated from the Qinqiang Opera School, China’s reform and opening-up policy had started. So I also opened up a new life as a pop singer. I was the first person to try tomato and my creative making-up as a woman and singing as a woman was novel to try at that time. I was a hit then and many singers of my generation feared performing together with me as they couldn’t rival my popularity.”

However, Hu Wenge adds that he suffered as equally as he enjoyed the fame and the fortune.

“I always felt people’s eyes on me. I could see fondness and appreciation in some, but never respect. They called me many terrible things. I was hurt a lot spiritually, more than any other singer.”

Hu Wenge made up his mind to follow his idol, Mei Lanfang, from the very beginning. Now he is on a road he dreamed of and on a stage which brings him more success and respect.

Hue Wenge

This is a dynamic production with nice sets and a lot of actors!

Some personal viewing notes:

The antics of the 2 chous at 25 minutes are a highlight for me; you don’t see chous singing and dancing very often, and these two are excellent. This verges on early American vaudeville. Anyway, I asked for an orange and purple hat for my birthday just like the one worn by one of the clowns, but never got one.

A painful-looking and rather gratuitous tumble at 41:00 or so… Careful with your back, young man!

I wasn’t crazy about the speeded-up aria at 1:01. It was a bit all over the place.

I’m not sure what the bad guy pantomimed at 1:13 before exiting? I think hiding a sack of money, but I’m not sure.

Gorgeous embroidery on the lady’s costume at 1:19, but the romance takes so long… Whew!

The two jinghu players play their instrument on the same side but wear their watches on different hands. Interesting.

In conclusion, to me it needs to be said, it seems everyone is more interesting in this opera than Xie Yaohuan and Yuan Xingjian. The two leads did not thrill me. I was sort of hoping to see an ending featuring them scream in abject terror as they are buried alive, instead there is very nice breezy music in the final scene that basically made me hungry for dim sum. The opera ends with a swipe from the boat scene in the White Snake.

I guess it’s time for a snack.


Click here to download the video. File size is 1.2 GB and file format is .mkv, playable in VLC.


And enjoy that Empress!



Costumes of Beijing Opera (行头·xíngtou)

Navigation: [Main costumes] · [+ pictures] · [Clothes] · [+ pictures] · [Accessories 1] · [Accessories 2]

Clothes (衣·yī)

  • chángyī(长衣)- long clothes
    • kāichăng(开氅)- open overcoat; casual wear for military leaders, warriors etc. and for ministers, officials off duty
      • shī kāichăng(狮开氅)- with lion/tiger/leopard pattern (example: Lian Po in Reconciliation of the General and the Minister) Pic1a
      • tuánshī kāichăng(团狮开氅)- with round lion pattern (example: Zhao Yun in Ganlu Temple) Pic2a
      • qílín kāichăng(麒麟开氅)- with Chinese unicorn pattern (example: Zhao Gao in The Cosmic Blade) Pic3a
      • tuánhuā kāichăng(团花开氅)- with 10 round patterns (example: Lin Xiangru in Reconciliation of the General and the Minister) Pic4a
    • gōngzhuāng(宫装)- palace garment for imperial concubines, princesses when enjoying themselves leisurely (example: The Drunken Concubine) Pic5a
    • gŭzhuāng(古装)- “ancient” garment; creation of Mei Lanfang, designed exclusively for Chang E, the Lady in the Moon
    • yúntáiyī(云台衣)- “cloud terrace” clothes; creation of Mei Lanfang, designed exclusively for Heavenly Goddess Showering Flowers
      Pic6a – Mei Lanfang’s original designs
      Pic7a – Costumes based on these designs
    • guānyī(官衣)- officials’ clothes
      • yībān~(一般官衣)- common official garment (example: Lu Su) Pic8a
      • qīng ~(青官衣)- black without a badge (补子); lowest position deputies, bureaucrats, managers (example: Zhang Xiu in Battle of Wancheng) Pic9a
      • xuéshì ~(学士官衣)- black with a square badge and a special headwear; officials with a “bachelor’s degree” (example: Zhang Xiu in Battle of Wancheng) Pic10a
      • hóng ~(红官衣)- red with square badge; county magistrates (example: Tang Qin) Pic11a
      • nǚ ~(女官衣)- shorter female version; for women who have been granted some title (example: Xie Yaohuan) Pic12a
      • găiliáng ~(改良官衣)- reformed for plainly aesthetic reasons; with golden round badge instead square (example: Lu Su in Battle of Red Cliff) Pic13a
    • xuéshìyī(学士衣)- for scholars who haven’t passed theirs exams yet (example: Cao Zhi in Goddess of Luo River; Bai Shizhong in Riverside Pavilion) Pic14a
    • lánshān(蓝衫)- “indigo garment” (example: Cheng Ying in The Orphan of the Zhao Family) Pic15a
    •  jiànyī(箭衣)- archer clothes
      • căixiùlóng ~(彩绣龙箭衣)- with colorful embroidered dragon; highest ranking characters (example: Zhou Yu in Meeting of Heroes) Pic16a
      • píngjīnlóng ~(平金龙箭衣)- with flat golden dragon; high-ranking characters (example: Shan Xiongxin) Pic17a
      • huā ~(花箭衣)- with multicolored floral pattern; middle-ranking characters (example: Yang Bajie in Blocking the Horse) Pic18a
      • tuánhuā ~(团花箭衣)- with round decorative pattern; middle-ranking characters (example: Yang Wenguang, Zhao Wu) Pic19a
      • sù ~(素箭衣)- plain raw silk without embroidery, black, white, blue, violet, gray colors; lower-ranking characters, ordinary soldiers Pic20a
      • bù ~(布箭衣)- plain cotton; lowest ranking characters (example: Chong Gongdao in Yu Tangchun) Pic21a
    • lóngtàoyī(龙套衣)-attendants’ clothes; court personnel (example: Wenji’s entourage personnel in Wenji Returns to Han Land) Pic22a
    • tàijiànyī(太监衣) – eunuch’s robe, a mang with silk cord belt
      • xiélĭng ~(斜领太监衣)- with crossover neck; junior palace eunuchs Pic23a
      • yuánlĭng ~(圆领太监衣)-  with round neck; chief palace eunuchs Pic24a
    • dàkăi(大铠)- “big armor”, simpler than the kao, without flags; palace guards, minor generals Pic25a
    • màodīngkăi(帽钉铠)- simplest armor with a special headwear; guard of high-ranking military officer Pic26a
Pic1a Pic2a Pic3a
Pic4a Pic5a Pic6a
Pic7a Pic8a Pic9a
Pic10a Pic11a Pic12a
Pic13a Pic14a Pic15a
Pic16a Pic17a Pic18a
Pic19a Pic20a Pic21a
Pic22a Pic23a Pic24a
Pic25a  Pic26a
  • duănyī(短衣)- short clothes
    • bàoyī(抱衣)- “clothes holding tight”, possible spelling 豹衣 (panther clothes), casual wear for heroic figures; dark for senior, light for junior warriors
      • huābàoyī(花抱衣)- decorated, tied onto the chest with cord; also called duandayi, clothes worn by the duanda wusheng (example: Ren Tanghui in At the Crossroads) Pic1b
      • sùbàoyī(素抱衣)-  plain (example: Xiao En in The Fishermen’s Revenge) Pic2b
    • kuăyī(侉衣)- possible spelling kuàiyī(快衣), “fast” clothes for acrobatic roles
      • huākuăyī(花侉衣)- decorated (example: Liu Lihua in At the Crossroads) Pic3b
      • sùkuăyī(素侉衣)- plain (example: Mu Yuji in White Water Shoal) Pic4b
    • măguà(马褂)- “horse coat”, buttoned riding jacket for traveling
      • lóng ~(龙马褂)- with dragon; highest ranking characters Pic5b
      • tuánhuā ~(团花马褂)- with round pattern; military commanders, bodyguards Pic6b
      • huáng ~(黄马褂)- simple yellow; entourage personnel Pic7b
    • cháyī(茶衣)- “tea (colored) clothes”; lowest ranking characters, manual workers, boatmen etc. (example: the old boatman in Qiu River) Pic8b
    • dàxiù’ér(大袖儿)- “big sleeved” clothes with apron-like skirt; shopkeepers (tea house, wine shop) Pic9b
    • duìjīn sēngyī(对襟僧衣)- open monk clothes (example: Lu Zishen in Wildboar Forest) Pic10b
    • zuìyī(罪衣)- prisoner’s clothes
      • nán ~(男罪衣)- male (Lin Chong in Wildboar Forest when arrested) Pic11b (Picture shows the xiepi version (斜披罪衣), used when the character is transported. The average prisoner wears a plain red jacket.)
      • nǚ ~(女罪衣)- female (example: Su San) Pic12b
    • kuàizĭshŏuyī(刽子手衣)- executioner’s clothes Pic13b
    • ăoqún(袄裙)- jacket and skirt, casual wear for the huadan and young girls Pic14b
    • ăokù(袄裤)- jacket and pants, same as above just with trousers; maid servants, village girls Pic15b
    • zhànăo zhànqún(战袄战裙)- battle jacket, battle skirt for the wudan; swordswomen (example: Yang Paifeng in Chu Feng Ling Kong) Pic16b
    • căipóăo(彩婆袄)- jacket and trousers for the caidan; old women, matchmakers, unattractive females Pic17b
    • bīngyī(兵衣)- soldier clothes; regimental soldiers Pic18b; heavenly soldiers Pic19b
    • shàngxiàshŏuyī(上下手衣)- clothes of combat soldiers Pic20b
    • zhànyì(战衣)-  clothes of female combat soldiers Pic21b
Pic1b Pic2b  Pic3b
Pic4b Pic5b  Pic6b
Pic7b Pic8b  Pic9b
Pic10b Pic11b  Pic12b
Pic13b Pic14b  Pic15b
Pic16b Pic17b  Pic18b
Pic19b Pic20b Pic21b
  • zhuānyòngyī(专用衣)- special clothes
    • bāguàyī(八卦衣)- “eight trigrams clothes”, robe with the 8 divinatory symbols and yin-yang symbol; learned and skilled characters, military strategists (example: Zhuge Liang in Empty City Strategy) Pic1c
    • mă pài bāguàyī(马派八卦衣)- same as above just fancier, creation of Ma Lianliang Pic2c
    • hèchăng(鹤氅) – “crane overcoat”, the cranes taking off hint at major Daoist success or a celestial being (example: Zhuge Liang in Battle of Red Cliff) Pic3c
    • făyī(法衣)- Priest’s clothes; ceremonial costume for Daoist priests or immortals (example: Zhuge Liang in Using the Eastern Wind) Pic4c
    • xiānnǚyī(仙女衣)- “fairy clothes”; for heavenly maidens (example: Heavenly Goddess Showering Flowers) Note: It seems that nowadays the Mei Lanfang version (Pic7a) is used far and wide. Pic5c
    • yúlínjiă(鱼鳞甲)- “fish scales armor”; modeling the early Chinese leather and metal scale armor (example: Consort Yu in Farewell My Concubine) Pic6c
    • qízhuāng(旗装)or qípáo(旗袍)- “Manchu garment” ; casual clothes not only for Manchurian, but for women of any nationality other than Han (example: Princess Tiejing in Silang Visits His Mother) Pic7c
    • bŭfú(补服)- “badge garment”, surcoat with a badge for officials (example: the two brothers of the Liao Empress in Silang Visits His Mother) Pic8c
    • jiāshā(袈裟)- Chief Buddhist monk’s patchwork-style vestment (example: Fahai in Tale of the White Snake) Pic9c
    • luóhànyī(罗汉衣)- “arhat clothes”, for Buddhist holy men who attained nirvana (example: Lu Zhishen in Wildboar Forest) Pic10c
    • nézhàyī(哪吒衣)- garment specially for Nezha (Daoist protection deity, the “trickster god”) Pic11c
    • zhōngkuíyī(钟馗衣)- garment specially for Zhong Kui (mythological figure, driving away evil spirits) Pic12c
    • guĭzúyī(鬼卒衣)- “ghost servant clothes” (example: the ghosts in Zhong Kui Marries Off His Younger Sister) Pic13c
    • zhìdùyī(制度衣)- combat clothes for Sun Wukong, the Monkey King; monkey version of archer clothes Pic14c
    • hóuyī(猴衣)- “monkey clothes”; monkey version of the huabaoyi (example: Sun Wukong in Havoc in Heaven) Pic15c
    • xiăohóuyī(小猴衣)- “little monkey clothes”; for young monkeys  Pic16c
    • hóujiă(猴甲)- monkey scale armor Pic17c
    • sēngpáo(僧袍)- Buddhist monk’s robe (example: the abbot in the Romance of the West Chamber) Pic18c
    • xiăosēngpáo(小僧袍)- young Buddhist monk’s robe, same as above just shorter with narrower sleeves
Pic1c Pic2c Pic3c
Pic4c Pic5c Pic6c
Pic7c Pic8c Pic9c
Pic10c Pic11c Pic12c
Pic13c Pic14c Pic15c
Pic16c Pic17c Pic18c
  • pèijiàn(配件)- accessories
    • kănjiān(坎肩)- vest
      • xiùlóng dàkănjiān(绣龙大坎肩)- long vest with embroidered dragon (example: Jin Linggong in The Orphan of the Zhao Family) Pic1d
      • sù dàkănjiān(素大坎肩)- plain long vest Pic2d
      • nǚ dàkănjiān(女大坎肩)- female long vest Pic3d
      • lăodàn dàkănjiān(老旦大坎肩)- long vest for old women Pic4d
      • sēng ~(僧坎肩)- Buddhist monk’s vest Pic5d
      • dàogū ~(道姑坎肩)- Daoist nun’s vest Pic6d
      • zú ~(卒坎肩)- servant’s vest (example: the two military servants in Empty City Strategy) Pic7d
      • shuĭtiánwén ~(水田纹坎肩)- “rice field pattern” vest (example: Chen Miaochang in Qiu Jiang) Pic8d
      • dàjīn xiăokănjiān(大襟小坎肩)- female short vest with big overlap Pic9d
      • pípájīn xiăokănjiān(琵琶襟小坎肩)- short vest with pipa overlap, based on Manchurian design; for non-Han females Pic10d
    • fàndān(饭单)- apron
      • dà~(大饭单)- large Pic11d (example: Liu Yingchun in Fen River Bay)
      • xiăo~(小饭单)- small Pic12d
    • dŏupéng(斗蓬)- cape
      • lóng ~(龙斗蓬)- dragon cape; highest ranking characters Pic13d
      • nǚ fèng ~(女凤斗篷)- female phoenix cape; equivalent of male’s dragon cape Pic14d
      • huā ~(花斗蓬)- male flower cape; middle ranking characters
      • nǚ huā ~(女花斗蓬)- female flower cape Pic15d
      • sù ~(素斗蓬)- plain cape Pic16d
      • nǚ sù~(女素斗蓬)- female plain cape, it has a decent pattern or a decorated border Pic17d
      • xiăo ~(小斗蓬)- short cape (example: Su Wu when herding sheep) Pic18d
    • suōyī(蓑衣)- woven rush raincoat (example: Tan Jier in Riverside Pavilion) Pic19d
    • băizhéqún(百折裙)- skirt with “hundred pleats”; worn by qingyi Pic20d
    • dàzhéqún(大折裙)- skirt with wide pleats; worn with hongpei or by the laodan Pic21dPic22d
    • tŏngqún(筒裙)- “tube skirt”, shorter skirt worn outside the main skirt (example: Hong Niang) Pic23d
    • shuĭqún(水裙)- “water skirt”, white double male skirt; for common people (fishermen, boatmen, woodcutters etc.) see: Pic24d
    • guŏtuĭ(裹腿)- “leg wrap”, binding on the lower leg to keep trousers tight and convenient; for horsegroom boys, possibly soldiers Pic25d
    • lĭngyī’ér(领衣儿)- cummerbund used with archer clothes; for non-Han soldiers Pic26d
    • nán dăyāobāo(男打腰包)- pleated, apron-like skirt for males, indicates that the person caught an illness Pic27d, Pic28d (imperial version)
    • nǚ dăyāobāo(女打腰包)- female version of the above, for sick or pregnant women Pic29d
Pic1d Pic2d Pic3d
Pic4d Pic5d Pic6d
Pic7d Pic8d Pic9d
Pic10d Pic11d Pic12d
Pic13d Pic14d Pic15d
Pic16d Pic17d Pic18d
Pic19d Pic20d Pic21d
Pic22d Pic23d Pic24d
Pic25d Pic26d Pic27d
Pic28d Pic29d

This post was… a bit exhausting.

Sources: Hudong WikiBeijing Opera Costumes by Alexandra B. BondsAppreciating Traditional Design,Confucius Institute Online「Clothes Chest」,

Photos:  秦钟wzl乌托邦帮刘骏红豆少主行者的镜界慢哥的地盘狠老虎不喂hitan_bri肥猫的空间戏剧像素耶律烨白头老王反客生CCTV “Theatre in the Air” ForumOperaphoto.comPhotofans.cnCultural China NetScrapbook from Beijing

Recommended site:
For a complete picture list of Beijing Opera costumes, accessories, shoes, jewelry, beards and hairs visit this Taiwanese site:
[ – Cultural relics of jingju]

Copyright notice: The pictures below pop up frequently on different websites, but actually they belong to The Honan Opera Troupe of The National Guoguang Opera Company (Taiwan), and are free for non-commercial use, especially for educational purposes.

Navigation: [Main costumes] · [+ pictures] · [Clothes] · [+ pictures] · [Accessories 1] · [Accessories 2]

Costume items

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Source: 「Clothes Chest」