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Beijing Opera
Beijing opera, more commonly known as Peking opera to westerners, is deemed as the national opera and national quintessence. The accompanying music, singing and costumes are all fascinating and artistic. Full of Chinese cultural facts, the opera presents audience an encyclopedia of Chinese culture as well as unfolding stories, beautiful paintings, exquisite costumes, graceful gestures and acrobatic fightings. Since it enjoys a higher reputation than other local operas, almost every province of China has more than one Beijing Opera troupe to entertain numerous fans, who are called piaoyou in Chinese. It is so popular in the Chinese people, especially the senior that even an activity called Beijing Opera Month is held.

Beijing opera has a more than 200-year history. It originated from Xipi and Erhuang in Anhui and Hubei respectively, which are the main melodies of Beijing opera, though it is called Beijing Opera. And later along its way, it borrowed techniques from many other local operas to be mature.

It is generally accepted that Beijing opera gradually came into being after 1790 when the famous four Anhui opera troupes came to Beijing. Beijing opera underwent fast development during the reign of Emperor Qianlong and the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi under the imperial patron, and eventually became more accessible to the common people.

In the ancient times, Beijing Opera was performed mostly on open-air stages in markets, streets, teahouses or temple courtyards. The orchestra had to play loudly and the performers had to develop a piercing style of singing, which could be heard over the crowds. The costumes are a garish collection of sharply contrasting colors because the stages were dim, lit only by oil lamps. It is a harmonious combination of Grand Opera, Ballet and acrobatic display, consisting of dancing, dialogue, monologue, acrobatic combat and mime. However emphasis will lie on the stage.

The Beijing opera band mainly consists of orchestra band and percussion band. The former frequently accompanies peaceful scenes while the later often follows scenes of war and fighting. The commonly used percussion instruments include castanets, drums, bells and cymbals. One person usually plays the castanets and the drum simultaneously, which are the conductor of the whole band. The orchestral instruments mainly compose of the Erhu, the Huqin, the Yueqin, the Sheng (reed pipe), the Pipa (lute) and other instruments. The band usually sits at the left side of the exit of the stage.
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