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New Flowers on an Old Tree

Along with the establishment of the new social system, theatrical circles, including opera troupes, schools and performers, came under the leadership of the government cultural administration departments. Almost all opera actors and actresses could draw wages; they did not need to solicit audiences to make a living. Theatrical theorists, represented by Zhang Geng (1911- ) and Ah Jia (1907-1994), began to build up basic theories of Chinese theater and set up the director system. Meanwhile, the government advocated the principle of "sorting out and adapting traditional dramas, and compoing new historical dramas and modern plays." At the same time, a lot of work was done to preserve old operas and dramas which were in danger of being lost. A hundred flowers began to blossom in the theatrical garden. Of these theatrical flowers, some of the most outstanding are Fifteen Strings of Cash(Kunqu Opra),After the Reunion(Puxian Opera), Searching the Academy (Yueju, or Guangdong Opera), Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai(yueju,or Shaoxing Opera), The Story of Funu (Chuanju, or Sichuan Opera), Reconciliation 0f the General and the Minister(Peking Opera), Guo Ai Slops His Princess Wife(Jinju, or Shanxi Opera), Three Drops of Blood(Qinqiang, or Shandong Opera), The Magic Lotus Lantern (Hebei Bangzi),Qin Xianglian(Pingju Opera), and Lady Chen Sanwu(Pear Garden Opera).

A Local Opera Rescued

Fifteen Strings of Cash was adapted by the Zhejiang Kunju Opera Troupe in 1955, based on a story of the same name written by Zhu Sucheng, a scholar who lived at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. Kuang Zhong, the leading character in the play, is the reincarnation of Bao Zheng, an official famous in Chinese history for his honesty. Soon after he takes up his official post, Kuang Zhong is told in a dream about a miscarriage of justice. He makes a careful investigation and rights the wrong. He points out that the victim of the in justice has been misled by Superstitious ideology and feudal doctrines. The language of the original story was made easier to understand, and so this drama contributed greatly to reviving the popularity of Kunqu Opera. (Fig.4-8)

A Precious Jewel Burnished

The Drunken Beauty is a traditional Peking Opera work. The original story describes how Yang Yuhuan, a consort of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, becomes drunk and begins to think of love- In the 1950s, Mei Lanfang, modern China's most famous Peking Opera actor, put a great deal of effort into improving the story for the stage by expressing Yang Yuhuan's unhappiness as a consort out of favor, with Such novel tricks as picking up a cup with his mouth, lying down and flopping like fish, and performing drunken steps and fan dances. (Fig.4-9)

A 100-Year-Old Lady Assumes Command and Chuncao Rushes into the Hall

A 100-Year-old Lady Assumes Command was adapted from the Yangju Opera work Twelve Widows Go on the Western Expedition. Later, it was adapted for Peking Opera and renamed Women Generals of the Yang Family. The play tells how Yang Zongbao, a frontier marshal, is killed by the king of Western Xia. jiao Tingchun and Meng Dingguo, two generals, take the bad news to the Yang family. The 100-year-old She Taijun, Yang Zongbao's grandmother, leads 12 widows of the Yang Family and Yang Zongbao's son on an expedition to avenge Yang. The old lady Succeeds in luring the enemy into a trap and annihilating them. The play sings the praises of the patriotism of the women. The images of She Taijun, Mu Guiying and other heroines in the play are true-to-life and impressive.

Chuncao Rushes into the Hall, a Puxian Opera work, was adapted by Chen Renjian (1913-1995), a playwright of Fujian Province, in 1979 based on an earlier play called Z0o Leiting. In his adaptation, Chen focused on how Chuncao, a serving maid in the prime minister's residence, deals with the prime minister, other high- ranking officials and even the emperor himself in a brave, upright and clever way. At a critical juncture, Chuncao helps the daughter of the prime minister get approval for her marriage, and clears the name of a falsely accused scholar The play is full of progressive optimism, in spite of some implausibilities.(Fig.4-10)

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