With all thanks going to Kathy Hall and london jing kun opera
Talking for myself, I hate having to admit that I’m wrong, however, when it comes to important parts which are completely wrong, they are not only affecting my learning of the Chinese theatre genre, but also our readers’. Therefore, I thought I would get the corrections over and done with as soon as possible, to make sure I don’t ruin too much.
1) Corrections on scenery:
Here, we said that it is often when they perform a piece with “the set being just one chair.” This isn’t entirely true, however it isn’t false, as they can do this. Apparently, however, the set usually consists of two chairs and a table, in the different positions shown by the second picture. This is so the class and hierachy can easily be shown. All the most important characters sit down. The image in the second picture shows a formal set up of the table where the higher character sits on the stage left, whereas the middle one shows one where they are both roughly the same stature, although the slightly more powerful person (father, owner of house , important visitor, a person with a higher ranking or age, etc.) sits stage left. In the second last picture, it shows a chair being away from the table, which means a son/daughter is sitting with his/her father, as they are not worthy to sit with their father. The first picture shows how the importance gradient works and how the character moves on stage.
2) Additions on the stock characters:
We were taught of new stock characters in our Chinese theatre workshop (or, more accurately, how to pronounce their names and how they are split into many different people).
1)Sheng. This is not the only Sheng, there are broken down versions, for example Xiaoshen (young unmarried man), Laosheng (an old man with a long three strands beard), Wusheng (a military man, skilled at martial arts, etc.).
2) Dan. Other examples of the Dan include Qingyi (civilian woman, can be poor or higher), Guimendan – only used in kunqu – (a young unmarried woman), Huashan (a mix between a vivacious maid and a virtuous woman), Huadan (maid), Wudan (military woman), Laodan (old woman), Caiden (clown woman, like a female chou
3) Jing. The Jing is a painted face role (hualian). Other examples of the Jing include Zao Gao (rich bad-guy with a long grey full beard), Judge Bao Cheng (good guy, his painted face is more black than white, but only black and white), Yao Qi (an old good guy), Ma wu (he is never the protagonist, often the antagonist as he is very irrational, violent and brusque man. He is usually the leader of an army), Li Jing (He has ascended to the heavens, shown by the gold marking on his nose. He is a ghostly or heavenly character), Cao Cao (the stock bad guy, not to be confused with the Zao Gao. His face has more white on than the Zao Gao, as he is evil, and his full beard can be grey or black).
4)Chou. Known as the ‘painted face’ character’ or xiao hualian. Wenchou (civilian clown), Wu chou (military clown), Sun wukong (monkey king)
This is not particularly a correction, but more of a clarification and addition. In the article it was put that “This post will be mainly about what colours symbolize in Chinese opera” and “White (what is used for purity in British theatre) and yellow (usually a neutral colour) mean hypocritical elements, cruelty and evil. yellow also means ambitious or sly.” Both of these need clarification, along with many other parts. What I meant to say in the first part was ‘This post will be mainly about what colours symbolize on Chinese opera painted faces (as they should not be referred to as masks).’ This already says what clarification the second part also needs. This is because, in costumes, pastel colours such as (pale) yellow, light blue, lilac and pink show that a man/woman is young and a yellow/gold robe (especially with dragons) shows that a man is royalty, not evil or mischievious as that colour means in a mask or on a painted face. Also, white (along with blue) shows that a man (in the army) is young (yet well-skilled) or a woman is dignified or virtuous. Other colours include black means a poor man, and poor women often have black with blue edgings, and a woman wears red, gold and blue when she is royalty. Maids, unlike in western theatre where they wear dull boring clothes, wear colourful clothing and old ladies wear dark, dull and boring clothes, including browns, beiges and other shades of browns. A light pink (as in their cheeks) for old men means they were courageous men (as red means courageous and pink is just a faded red. The colour of the beards also reflect age, as a black beard means younger than a white and grey is in the morning and a long, full beard means rich. A three strand beard (such as the one in the picture) shows a civilian or scholarly old man. For a baddie, red hair means evil and irrational, especially tufts of red hair coming out of the ears. Reds, blues and whites also show his evilness/irrationality in his costume if they are jagged colours, although this fact is more important than the actual colours. When the heavenly are on stage, they have silver painted onto their face if they are just spirits or gold if they are gods, or just higher than normal spirits, to show the heavenly hierachy. When they wear red, it also means they were good guys in their lives. Red costumes generally mean high ranking, as in princes, high generals, prince consorts prime ministers and emperors/ kings wear red (although kings/emperors usually have it gilded with dragons). Clowns (the Chou) wear no face makeup other than a white spot of makeup on their nose and surrounding face, including around the eye level and the cheeks (as seen in the picture). When an animals face is painted onto the actor’s full face, this means that they are a monkey, whereas a monkey’s face on the forehead (for example) means they just have the essence or spirit of the monkey, i.e. supernatural powers.
4) Corrections on puppetry:
In post, I said we went into most detail on the subject of shadow puppetry for “this is the main use of puppetry in Chinese theatre.” This is, however, undeveloped and inaccurate. ‘Shadow puppetry is a widely appreciated form of theatre in China’ is what I should have said, for this is true – whereas Beijing theatre/Shanghai theatre and shadow puppetry are completely different forms of theatre completely. This doesn’t, however, halt our idea to incorporate it into our performance as, by Chinese theatre, we do not just want to do Beijing or Shanghai theatre, we want to encompass as much of the Chinese culture through theatre as possible.
I hope these changes helped, and I am also going to create a new addition for Chinese Theatre Lesson 4, for this can also do with extra detail on the costumes used by each of the stock characters, but all these additions would make this post a lot longer, so I am going to leave that to another post.