Archives for posts with tag: beijing opera

cardW110xH150mm, Hong Kong

The scene of the paper cutout card is taken from Beijing Opera – Wen Zhao Guan.

The story is set in the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (485BC), due to political slander Chu State offical Wu was under warrant while his father and brother was being executed.  Wu was hoping to escape to the neighbour Wu State but at the check point (Zhao Guan) he saw his arrest warrant on the wall.  Hermit Dong met him in the mountain and recognize that he was the wanted man but felt the unjust upon Wu and hid him in his home.  For 7 days, Dong entertainment him talking about all sorts but not a word about the escape, Wu lost patient as he had planned to rebuild his power and revenge for his family and hanging around is like torture.  Dong calm him down and said it was all planned out and that they were just waiting for a person.  That night Wu was restless, he had the urge to leave and to move on  but he was worry for his arrest at the gate.  After a night of anxious tournament all his hair has turned grey, his was even more trouble but Dong was happy that his planned has worked out.  Dong has a royalty friend Huang, who looked very much like Wu, Huang would pretend to be Wu and when the 3 of them cross the gate, the guard will only concentrate on Huang, now that Wu has a whole head of grey hair he was disregarded.

 

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lacquer trayDIA330xH80mm, China

A lacquer tray decorated with picture of a scene from the Beijing opera “Tai Jun Ci Cao”.  The story is about the famous Yang family of warriors.

First some background to the story; Commander Lord Yang,  his wife She Sai Hua and their 7 sons was defending the North Han country against the Sung.  Though the Sung army is the stronger one, the Yang’s family out smarted them, the Sung General Pan was shot by Lady’s She’s arrow and had to retreat.  Failing with the attack, the Sung emperor spread rumors about Lord Yang which had the suspicious North Han emperor distrust Yang’s advice and was defeated utterly.  After the victory, the Sung emperor took Lord Yang under his wing and made him a trusted official, General Pan was very jealous of this promotion.

The Liao country start attacking Sung, Lord Yang and his sons was defending Sung at the border.  Yang’s army was out numbered, 3 of his sons were killed in action, he send his 7th son to get reinforcement but was secretly killed by Pan.  Lord Yang was captured and one of his son was captured, Lord Yong committed suicide to avoid being used as a hostage while his son was selected by the Liao Princess to be her husband.  The 5th son was tired of all the fighting and the politics became a monk.  The 6th son managed to escape and returned to the Sung capital and became the commander in place of his father but was later killed in action.

The opera story on the lacquer dish appear at this point, the Sung emperor asked the Yang family to led the fight with the Liao.  With all the males gone, here is only Lady She (now in her 70s), 2 daughters, the daughter in laws and young grandson left in the family.  Lady She, the commander with the female warriors led the army to victory.  When they return safety home, Lady She after losing all her sons fearing that her only grandson too would eventually die in battle ask the Emperor to allow the family to leave their duty as the commanders.

 

drinkerW150xD100xH150mm, China

Li Bai, the famous Romanticist poet of the Tang dynasty which brought poetry to a new height during his time.  In the “300 Tang Poems”, now seen as the canon of poetry, Li Bai had 34 entries.  Equally famous was his enjoyment of the Chinese wine.  He enjoyed a carefree life in youth, worked briefly for the court he was cast away for being out spoken, in later years he came a Taoist and continue a life of wandering.  He wrote over a thousand poems, on the subjects of nature, solitude, friendship and drinking.

Li Bai’s character was portrayed in a Beijing opera “Tai Bai Zeoi Se”

The story begins with the 2 corrupted generals, Yang and Gao who are in charged of the court examination, both were hoping to make some money out of it.  Li Bai had been recommended by the court scholar He to enter the exam.  Upon seeing the scruffy clothes Li Bai was wearing, sensing there would be no money out of him, the examiners gave him a hard time.  Without looking at his paper, he was teased and mocked; feeling unjust Li Bai vowed to give equal humiliation to the two and walked out of the examination hall.

Then one day, the Tang Emperor received a letter from the neighboring country, the letter was written in their own language and nobody in court could read it.  Feeling embarrassed by their own failure, the officials wanted to take the blame out on the messenger.  The messenger replied, if the Emperor wanted to be friend with their country, he should seek a way to read the letter, then the two countries could become friends, otherwise they would be at war.  Among the hundred scholars at court, nobody could read a word of it and Li Bai was recommended by scholar He.  “But Li Bai was not an official.”, said Yang, “and he drinks too!”.  The Emperor said he himself drinks as well and award Li a grand title so he can help out in the palace.  Li finding his new earned power, took his chance to played tricks on the two.  Here is what happened.

felt hat

RIM DIA220mm, China

This felt hat is part of the Beijing Opera costume, it is one that is worn by the Chou (clown) character.  Within the clown category, it is separated into the fighters and the intellectuals (I guess for clowns, this would mean the non-fighters).  This hat is used by a type of  intellectual clowns known as the Towel Clown (Jin Zi Chou) in the role of an old and amusing man.  The most famous of the Towel Clown is Chong Gung Dou, the old guard who helped the loyal prostitute Su San to escape.

W200xD150xH500mm, China

This figurine was made from the famous Shi Wan pottery town in the Guang Dong region.  Their figurines are typical to have a glazeless delicate facial and hand depiction while contrasting with an expressive and bold glazing on the clothing.  Another example can be seen in an earlier post, “Shi Wan Figurines“.

The general depicted here is one of the “3 good blokes” of the Tang dynasty, Pei Yuan Qing, his weapon is a pair of golden melon hammer.

You will be seen in this clip how the weapon  is being used (well at least in the Beijing opera).  This is a graduation show from the students of the Beijing opera school.

My dog spike has started sighing, ok ok, I promise no more Chinese opera reference for a while.

L1200xH700mm, China

For those of you who has followed the recent historical comedy soap on TVB, here is a new year print from the yang liu qing school depicting the same story (minus the satire).  This story is set in the San Gou period, it was a time when China was divided into 3 separate kingdoms , a time after the corrupted East Han dynasty, warring period that lasted for almost 100 years.

Briefly the 3 kingdoms are;
WEI – led by East Han chancellor Cao Cao, adviser Sima Yi
WU – led by Sun Quan, adviser Zhou Yu
SHU – led by Liu Bei, general Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun, adviser Zhu Ge Liang

The Return to Jing Zhou

Sun Quan and Zhou Yu (WU) set up a plan to get Liu Bei (SHU) to hand over his strong hold Jing Zhou.  Sun Quan has a beautiful sister, he proposed to Liu Bei for a marriage to his sister, a union of the 2 kingdoms. Liu Bei in return would have to go to WU for the wedding.  This is a proposal Liu Bei cannot lightly turn down for the sake of his kingdom.  Sun Quan however has no real intention of marrying his sister to his enemy, he would wanted to capture Liu Bei and and force him to hand over his kingdom.  Luckily before Liu Bei’s departure, his wizard adviser Zhu Ge Liang see through the trick and handed 3 notes to Zhao Yun and asked him to escort Liu Bei to Wu.  When Liu Bei crossed to Wu he opened the first note, it asked Liu Bei to visit the father in law of Sun Quan.  Impressed by Liu Bei and thinking that a union of the 2 kingdoms is a good idea from Sun Quan, the in law asked for Sun Quan’s mother for her approval for the marriage.  The empress dowager agreed and the marriage went ahead.  Sun Quan found out he has lost his sister, set out to detained Liu Bei in Wu.  Liu Bei opened the second note, it asked for a faked report that Jing Zhou was being attacked by now their common enemy Cao Cao (WEI).  Having a great excuse, Liu Bei together with his newly married wife and his men left Wu for Jing Zhou.  Sun Quan found out and had his general went after them.  Liu Bei then opened his third note, in the note it asked him to leave the defense to his wife.  Now in love with Liu Bei, the princess gave the general a hard time and refused to return to Wu.  When Liu Bei returned to Jing Zhou, Sun Quan’s army was confronted by Liu Bei’s general Zhang Fei and badly defeated.

Here goes the idiom, “lost the lady and  the army” (making double lost without any gain)

In this yang liu qing school print, we have from the left Liu Bei, Zhao Yun, maid 1, Princess Quan, maid 2, Guan Yu and lastly Zhang Fei

The story was also a very known script for the Beijing opera, here is a part of the opera.  The opera singers were the master of masters, the leading dan role was performed by Mr. Mei Lan Fang (in the past all roles are played by male artists).

W60xH120mm, China

These opera dolls have been a popular toy in Beijing since the Qing dynasty. The head and the base of the doll is made of clay, the structure with the stem of millet covered with a beautifully painted paper.  However, the most important construction of the dolls are the 2mm tall bristle at the bottom of the base.  They will be played on a bronze tea tray.  By tapping lightly on the tray, the figurines would move in a rhythmic fashion just as they would in the beijing opera.  Apart from being a toy, they are also used for performance, “bronze tea tray opera”; the required characters for the opera would be put on the tray, matched with real life opera singing.