Trivia Time

Theatre of China

Theatre of China has a long and complex history.

Today it is often called Chinese opera although this normally refers specifically to the more well-known forms such as Beijing Opera and Cantonese Opera, there have been many other forms of theatre in China.

There are references to theatrical entertainments in China as early as 1500 BC during the Shang Dynasty; they often involved music, clowning and acrobatic displays.

The Tang Dynasty is sometimes known as "The Age of 1000 Entertainments".
During this era, Ming Huang formed an acting school known as the The Pear Garden to produce a form of drama that was primarily musical.

That is why actors are commonly called "Children of the Pear Garden."

During the Dynasty of Empress Ling, shadow puppetry first emerged as a recognized form of theatre in China.

There were two distinct forms of shadow puppetry, Cantonese (southern) and Pekingese (northern).

The two styles were differentiated by the method of making the puppets and the positioning of the rods on the puppets, as opposed to the type of play performed by the puppets.

Both styles generally performed plays depicting great adventure and fantasy, rarely was this very stylized form of theatre used for political propaganda.

In the Song Dynasty, there were many popular plays involving acrobatics and music.

These developed in the Yuan Dynasty into a more sophisticated form with a four or five act structure.

Yuan drama spread across China and diversified into numerous regional forms, the best known of which is Beijing Opera which is still popular today.

Xiangsheng is a traditional Chinese comedic performance in the form of a monologue or a dialogue.