Peking Opera before the Twentieth Century


Colin Mackerras


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Peking Opera, which takes its name from having been born and matured in Beijing (currently the common romanization of the name of the city which was known as Peking)-the capital of China now and also at the time when this art form originated- is a highly comprehensive art, integrating music, singing, gesture, costume, make-up, movement, words, acrobatics, and stagecraft in a way unique in the world. Nevertheless, its form and content have their origin in earlier types of Chinese theater, mainly deriving from other parts of China. As possibly the most highly developed of numerous styles of regional theater which had grown up in China since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), its development gathered momentum during the succeeding Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the latter a period dominated by the Manchus. In the twentieth century the Peking Opera has become a kind of national Chinese theater, with many both inside and outside the country associating it with "Chinese opera." Yet in fact at the beginning of the twentieth century it was not performed very commonly outside of Beijing and a rather small number of other centers.

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