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Untiringly Reviewing History

It seems that Chinese playwrights, artists and audiences never tire of historical themes. On the 20th century stage, newly adapted dramas based 0n historical stories occupy a dominant position. Playwrights are not satisfied with telling a historical event in a simple, straightforward way, or viewing the past of the nation in a simple historical way to make setbacks serve as warnings to the rulers. Instead, the new historical dramas link the vicissitudes of the world to the mysteries of life, Heaven and Earth, and view mankind itself through the eyes of philosophers and poets.

Extraordinary Puxtan Opera Songs of the Autumn Wind

Songs of the Autumn Wind is a Puxian Opera written by Zhou Changfu. Its protagonist is Li Shou, magistrate of Xin'an County. A young, brave and courageous official, Li Shou protects the crown prince of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty as internecine strife breaks out in the palace. However, he later betrays the crown prince in return for promotion. His degeneration and decay, and the tyranny of Emperor Wu are the themes of the play. The emperor resorts to cruel methods to keep the empire from falling apart, even if it means sacrificing his own son. Songs of the Autumn Wind embodies a new historical viewpoint, and leads other traditional dramas with similar themes in reflecting historical happenings widely, deeply and authentically.

Ethnic Minorities Express Themselves on the Stage

From the late 1950s on, dramas representing the histories and lives of China's ethnic minorities came into prominence. For instance, in 1958 Ashima, a story of a heroine of the Hani people of Yunnan Province, was written and performed. This drama featured local songs and dances. In 1959, a Tibetan Opera work which dealt with the Subject of the marriage between Songzan Gambo (a Tibetan king) and Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty was staged. Zhaxi Toinzhub (1899- 1961), an expert on Tibetan Opera, and a leading artist, made great contributions to reforming this ancient opera genre, creating songs and tunes based on the Tibetan folk tradition, and adding orchestral music. Meanwhile, Tibetan Opera troupes began to put on regular shows in theaters and adopt modern stage techniques.

Watching Husband Clouds is a drama based on a well-known folk tale of the Bai people of Yunnan. In 1982, Yang Ming (1919- ), a Bai writer, and some Bai actors and actresses successfully presented the story on the stage. It is commonly acknowledged that Watching Husband Clouds is the representative work of Bai Opera. In the 12th lunar month every year, when dustpan-shaped white clouds appear over Yuju Peak in the Cangshan Mountains, rolling waves appear in Erhai Lake. This natural scenic wonder gave birth to the following story: A princess of the Nanzhao Kingdom fell in love with Ah Long, a young woodcutter Their marriage was opposed by the king, so the two lovers hid themselves in a cave on Yuju Peak. When winter came, and the weather became very cold, the young man turned himself into a bird, and flew into the palace, looking for some warm clothes for the princess Unfortunately, he was caught by a monk in the palace, who turned Ah Long into a stone donkey, which he threw into Erhai Lake. Meanwhile, the princess died of hunger and cold in the cave. Later, she turned into white clouds hovering over the summit of Yuju Peak. From then on, when white clouds appeared over Yuu Peak in the 12th lunar month every year, the stone donkey in Erhai Lake would bray and jump to the surface of the water, with the wind blowing hard and the waves rolling. This story lauds the Bai people's spirit of not yielding to despotic rule, and longing for freedom and happiness. (Fig.4-11)

Cao Cao an Yang Xiu - a Soul-Stirring Peking Opera Work

It was a trend of the historical dramas created after the 1980s to combine historical incidents with the strong feelings of playwrights, re- narrate well-known historical events and recreate historical figures whom the people were familiar with. Cao Cao and YangXiu, a Peking Opera drama, was the most outstanding representative of this trend. Through a series of tragic events, two proud souls, Cao Cao and Yang Xiu collide with each other. The former is a statesman, and the latter is a scholar. When depicting Cao Cao, the author did not forget to recognize his great talent and bold vision; and while praising Yang Xiu, he did not fail to criticize his shortcomings.

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