You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Performing Arts

China Operas

Chinese opera is a performance of dramatized singing and dancing. On the stage, all acts, including the musings of the actors, are demonstrated through dancing motions of the body, music-like dialogues and singing. All these things are accompanied by music. The music-like language is divided into singing and music-like dialogue, and the dancing acts are divided into manner, expression and posture. The first are called singing and dialogue and focus on tune and melody, while the latter are called acting, martial arts and acrobatics and focus on actions and shapes. Both are linked by rhythms, but both can be transformed and controlled by each other.

Singing and Dancing

In opera, music is the leading factor, especially singing. Dialogue thus cannot be expressed naturally, but must be recited with a cadence, focusing on rhythms and metre. The combination of language with music makes the language musical. Physical acts also become dancing. The postures, expressions, acrobatics and combat movements are exaggerated. Even the artificial beard, long hair, sleeve, girdle, boots, plait and long peacock feathers worn on a mandarin's hat are used to enhance the expression of the dance movements. Through these music- like and dance-like actions, the performance art of the Chinese opera shows its artistic language.


The various artistic skills used in the opera are adapted to portray the characters and plots. For instance, dance in the opera is quite different from ordinary dance, inasmuch as it has to obey the directions inherent in the dramatization and the development of the plot. In the opera, fine expression, strict reasoning, description of plots and fierce combat are presented in the unique conditions of the world of music and dance which is the opera itself. (Fig.5-1)


Musical rhythm in opera has to follow the rhythms of the actors' bodies. Gongs and drums play the dominant role in this respect, being compared by some to the skeleton of the performance, while the singing, dialogue, acting, martial arts and acrobatics are the blood and muscles. The music made by gongs and drums produces a majestic effect, and highlights the performance of the actors and actresses. The beats of the gongs and drums even follow the rolling of the eyes and gestures of the fingers. Rhythm is the focus of the dancing and dramatic performance.

Page 1 of 1    1 

Conventions, Fundamentals of Acrobatic and Combat Skills and Special Skills
Each of the four means of expression in opera (singing, dialogue, acting and combat has its own conventions.
Strict Adherence to Convention
The artistic language of Chinese opera is not simply a copy of the outward and non- essential phenomena of life, but an expression of the essential and special things. Unrestrained and natural acts, and even feelings which are difficult to express in logical language, are transformed into lively images through concrete actions and objects.
The System of Roles
The roles on the Chinese opera stage fall into four categories: sheng Dan, jing and chou These roles have the natural features of age and sex, as well as social significance (including social position, Occupation and personal characteristics). These roles are artificially exaggerated by makeup, costume and gestures.

Page 1 of 1    1 

Quick Navigation

New Article