What is Chinese Opera?

With origins dating back to the third century CE, Chinese opera is still a thriving art form today in theaters across Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. Performances feature music, heavily codified gestures, acrobatics and martial arts within the narrative scope of classic Chinese literature and folktales. Chinese opera movements, costumes and stories are infused with a rich use of Confucian, Buddhist and folkloric symbolism. The meaning of each gesture or movement acts as a vehicle for the narrative, while costumes (their colors and embroidered motifs) and makeup convey the nature and status of the wearer. Over time, numerous regional styles of Chinese opera developed into distinct branches, creating Beijing opera, Cantonese opera, and Sichuan opera to name but a few.  See the Resources page for useful links and more information about Chinese opera performances, films and books.

A Beijing opera performance of The Monkey King given at Huguang Guild Hall, Beijing in 2007. 
Image & text  ©The Peony Pavilion blog.