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A Qiongju Opera Troupe in Hainan

Making-up for a performance.

Arranging props.

The all-important musicians.

Getting into character.

Observing audience feedback.

Qiongju Opera aficionados.

 

A simple stage had been set up at the entrance of Balun Village in the Qiongshan District of Haikou City. Curious villagers gathered around to watch the actors and actresses prepare for their performances. It had been three days since the troupe''s first Qiongju Opera show in the village, and public interest was so strong that Chen Zeliang, manager of the troupe, decided to put on a fourth show. Chen''s troupe comes from Dazhipo Town in the Meilan District of Haikou. To date, more than 20 independent troupes from all over the province are based in Dazhipo, and each stages over 250 shows a year. They cover every corner of the province, sometimes traveling to neighboring Guangdong Province''s Xuwen and Zhanjiang. Qiongju Opera is a particular favorite of native Hainanese, and no festival or traditional ceremony is considered complete without it.

From the performers point of view, one of the biggest attractions of these tours is the opportunity to perform before diverse audiences. Another is that such troupes sponsor their performers, so local opera school graduates flock to Dazhipo, regarding it as the first step in their stage career.

Qiongju Opera began in the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It became popular in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and most particularly in Hainan and Guangdong provinces, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. It was during the Qing Dynasty that Qiongju Opera, originally performed as puppet plays, then later began to be acted. In 1922, Xu Chengzhang, a Qiongju Opera artist dedicated to the reform and modernization of Chinese traditional art, formulated the more contemporary performance style as seen today.

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