Shadow Figures Opera

The Chinese
shadow figures arts took shape during the Song Dynasty and came into
its heyday later on. Shadow figures opera is the folk movie
which brought the spiritual treat to people in ancient times more than
that of movies and TV in modern society. It`s a pity that the shadow
figures opera can be hardly seen now. The early shadow figures were
carved of paper: gradually sheepskin. and donkey skin and cowhide were
used from the Song Dynasty. These materials were made into translucent
leather through the process of steeping. scraping and polishing. then
the craftsmen made them into all kinds of shapes of figures. stage prosperities.
mountains and waters. birds and beasts by painting. carving and coloring.
During the performance the artist operated the arms. legs and body with
three little sticks which were cased on the Liangzi made
of white cloth. while music and libretto were playing. and by this way
a series of excellent operas were played. There are still shadow play
groups performing in the extensive rural areas. which tour towns and
villages at festivals and increase the festival`s atmosphere.
What
is shadow figures opera? It can date back to the opera performing tales
and legends by figures made of animals` skins and papers in the Song
Dynasty. which was very popular in the rural area. There is no big difference
between movie and shadow figures opera in projection way: firstly. it
must be caste on the white curtain at night. the same as movies` projection
principles; secondly. it has sounds and pictures. the music. libretto
and spoken parts of the opera all stem from the houhou (behind
the back row) which is behind the curtain; thirdly. it has script. and
every section of the opera has a complete story. especially wanwanqiang
which is popular in the area along Wei River in Shaanxi Province. In
the light of different stories. different shadow figures. background
and props were used in performance. Movie was born only more than one
hundred years. while the shadow figures opera has a history of more
than 1. 000 years. which is older than movie. Movie uses different common
languages in different countries. while shadow figures opera takes measures
to local conditions. which uses the dialect in performance in different
places. so the aged enjoy it because of the strong local flavour .
How
the shadow figures opera came into existence? There are different options
among local people. of which the earliest emerged during the reign of
Emperor Wendi in the Han Dynasty. One of the emperor`s lovely sons cried
all the times. and nobody could calm him down. People in the imperial
palace were on tenterhooks all day. One day a clever maid thought of
a good way to operate a piece of leaf outside the screen window. and
make different poses. imitate sounds of people and birds. which was
efficient to calm down the prince. and the emperor was very pleased.
It is the oldest legend about the emergence of shadow figures opera.
In the following years the lifelike props of shadow figures were made
of cowhide and donkey skin in northern China. and were painted with
different colors. carved carefully. The figures` head. hands. feet and
body were connected with thread. could be operated separately. The Sheng.
Dan. Jing. Mo and Chou included in the figures can be used interchangeably.
except the special figures. for instance. Xuanzang. Nezha. Zhangfei
and Caocao who were made specially.
The
contents of the oldest shadow figures opera were all related to the
traditional morals. The survived operas today include Village of GAO
Family and Exposing Beauty Trap in the Legend of Hanxiangzi of Eight
Immortals series. ZhangTinggui Served His Mother with His Fresh of the
Twenty-four Stories upon Filial Piety. and the classical heroes operas.
Qinxiong and Loyalty Chamber. which extended the morals loved by people.
Daoqing Opera originally referred to spread morals. so it got its name.
Daoqing Opera was serious on contents in ancient times. and without
flicking. Later on it absorbed the material expressing daily life from
other operas (such as Beijing Opera. Shaanxi Opera and Henan Opera).
and disposed of the vulgar parts. Thus. people now in Lingbao County.
Henan Province. the hometown of Daoqing Opera. insist that Daoqing Opera
is beneficial for the morals. manners and public sentiment. Today we
can see the contents of the classical shadow figures opera has the instructive
function of establishing local custom. enlightening people. and promoting
righteousness. moral. loyalty and filial duty.
Shaanxi
Province was the birthplace of China`s Shadow Figures. which was well
known for its long history. varied and plain knife skill. careful carving
craftsmanship and vivid and attractive colour. In the light of different
areas. Shaanxi Shadow Figures falls into two sects: the Eastern Sect
and the Western Sect. The Eastern Sect is scattered over the area of
Huaxian. Pucheng and Heyang Counties and Weinan City. while the Western
Sect is distributed over the region of Qianxian. Liquan. Jingyang. Zhouzhi
and Huxian Counties. The two sects have different features of style.
but they all carry the autistic characteristics of traditional stone
relieves. paper-cutting and facial make-up in operas of Han Dynasty.
The figures have different features and strong characteristics due to
distinct story of operas. The patterns of personal adornment and stage
property. composing traditional design. have stung ethnic and local
colour. The Shadow Figures` colour is simple and gorgeous. and it will
be a strong and harmonious colour effect when the colors of black are
used to unify others in primary colour contrast.The
Shadow Figures Opera in the area of Weihe River in Shaanxi Province
plays a significant role in history. Nowadays we still can find the
trace of it. You can feel the clear influence of Shadow Figures Opera
when you come to the loess tale land in Huaxian County. the hometown
of the famous general of Tang Dynasty. Guo Ziyi. The Shadow Figures
Opera in Shaanxi Province affected strongly by Shaanxi Opera
is sad. dreary. resounding. motion-expressive. fine and smooth. and
it is also called Wanwan Qiang (Bowls Tune). because the
band hit a bowl like a small bronze bell to decide the rhythm of performance.
Since 1911. the scripts of the Daoqing Opera of Lingbap
County in Henan Province have been lost. and the opera was speeded throughout
the memory between masters and apprentices.
Up
to Ming and Qing Dynasty. Shadow Figures Opera entered the period of
full bloom with characteristic of exquisite workmanship. lively knife
carving and unique coloring. When the shadow figures were lighted up.
it looked more beautiful. Artists of shadow figures at that time made
a comparison of the stage prosperity on the basis of craft. coloring
and making the production of time. The shadow figures were made of buffalo
skin in Anhui and Sichuan Province. while donkey skin (which was also
called Donkey Skin Figures ) and fish skin in Northern China.
lamp skin in Ganshu Province and ox hide in the area of Henan and Shaanxi
Provinces. The rare stage prosperities of shadow figures reserved among
the people can date back to Song Dynasty primary. others were made in
Ming and Qing Dynasties and the transition from Qing Dynasty to the
Republic of China (1912-1949). Shadow figures were made by special craftsmen
who earned their living by the craftsmanship. It`s regrettable that
inevitably the craft will soon lost with time going by.
The
China`s shadow figures art was blooming in history. The China`s shadow
figures spreading gradually to the countries in southeast Asia and Europe
in early 13th century has become part of the culture of the localities
with the development for centuries. It`s said that the great German
poet. Gods. once took charge in performing Shadow Figures Opera in 1774.
which was performed again on the banquet at God`s birthday in 1781.
Three Pleas Shadow Figures Opera Troupe of Union of the
Republics of Germany paid a visit to Xianyang Art and Crafts Factory
in 1982. the members of the troupe exchanged arts with the famous shadow-figure-making
artist. Li Zhanwen. The troupe performed certain passage of the play
Western Side House . The American shadow figures fan. Handan.
came to Xianyang city in July 1982. He watched the performance and said.
I`ve been to many countries. but your Shadow Figures Opera is the most
excellent. belonging to the world class! The Shadow Figures Opera
in Shaanxi Province. an important compartment of Chinese folk art has
been exhibited in 20 countries including Germany. Japan and America
around the world and won piles of medals.The
Shadow Figures Opera. the ancient folk art. will be lost while movies
and TV programmers are popular nowadays. The professional shadow figures
troupes become more and more rare. Just like that of the traditional
Chinese architecture culture. the Shadow Figures Opera also faces the
crossroad of surviving or perishing.