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New Fashion Drama and Liantaiben Drama

In the early years of the 20th century, Chinese theater spared no effort to improve its artistry and win audiences. Of various artistic reform programs, the new fashion drama and liantaiben drama were two important achievements. The new fashion drama focused on portraying modern life, and actors often wore fashionable dress; hence the name. Especially around the time of the Revolution of 1911, the creation of new fashion dramas was very active, influencing various operas. New fashion dramas fell into the categories of "new foreign fashion dramas," new current affairs dramas" and "fashion dramas of the Qing Dynasty."

Many new fashion dramas were aimed at reflecting various prominent social problems. A Black Wronged Soul, a Peking Opera work, describes how a rich and handsome young man becomes a drug addict, and ends up pulling a rickshaw. One day, he finds that the girl sitting in his rickshaw is none other than his own daughter, but it is too late to repent. This play was performed by the actors of the Shanghai School of Peking Opera, and so impressed the French consul that he invited the troupe to present it in France. (Fig.4-5)

The liantaiben drama sprang up in Shanghai, where society was more liberal than elsewhere in China, but it soon spread far and wide. This form of drama had complicated plots and lots of suspense. It used sound, light, electricity and other scientific and technological achievements which were new at that time to achieve novel effects. Exchanging a Leopard Crown Prince was the most influential of all liantaiben dramas. In the 199Os, the Peking Opera Troupe of Shanghai resurrected this drama, after revising the script. It was an instant hit, especially with younger theater-goers.

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