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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.

One of the main features of Chinese opera is strict adherence to conventional rules and procedures. No natural image is allowed to appear on the stage; it has to be refined, concentrated and aggregated according to esthetic principles, and conform to a technical pattern which is lively and yet strict. The accented beats, tunes, dialogues, postures, gestures and steps, as well as the various styles of martial arts and acrobatics, never depart from the traditional rules and conventions governing language, psychological changes and physical movements.

Opera convention extends to the most minute details, such as the actions of opening and closing a door, going up and down stairs, rowing a boat, riding a horse, swimming and walking, as well as emotions like smiling, crying, or being shocked or stricken with fear. However, this would lead to unimaginative and wooden acting if there were not room for the actors and actresses to put their own expressions and interpretations into their roles. (Fig.5-2)

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