iChongqing Title

Audible | Yang Opera from Youyang County

By YAN DENG|May 14,2024

Editor's Note: This article is produced in collaboration with the Chongqing Institute of Foreign Studies as part of a series of ongoing reports exploring the city's abundant resources in intangible cultural heritages.

Yang Opera from Youyang County.

Shaowei Village is situated in the mountains of Youyang County, Chongqing. The villagers are not well off, but it's home to Yang Opera, which has thrived for over 3,000 years. The opera troupes, usually scattered, always get together on celebrations for performances.

At first, Yang Opera was performed to memorize Guan Yu (a legendary military general during the late Eastern Han Dynasty, 184-220) and promote the ideology of loyalty, righteousness, filial piety, and fraternal duty. Later on, it was primarily viewed as a prayer for blessings.

It is not only a play to pray for good luck and to drive away the plague, but also a play to celebrate the birth of children, the completion of new houses, the birthdays of the elderly, weddings and funerals, festivals and holidays, in the form of charity performances by individuals or public performances by folk artists.

During the performance, performers would wear colorful costumes and masks of various characters, including red-face shells, black-face shells, cowhead shells, horse-face shells, etc. They held props and sang along with musical instruments such as huqin, bamboo clappers, gongs, and drums, all of which were in harmony with the stage, pace, figure, and so on.

All performers are males, even for those female roles like "young lady" or "servant girl."

They farm during the busy season and perform during the slack season. They played various roles on stage in ancient and modern times, guarding villagers' vision of life.

Yang Xiuqin, the head of Yang Opera Troupe in Shaowei Village, has said, "I perform not to make money, but to promote loyalty and filial piety and to pass on our local traditional opera."

Performing is dedication.

As the days of prosperity are gone, folk activity faces the plight of lacking successors.

Folk opera troupes are now in decline, with the number of once-varied genres dwindling and performance opportunities diminishing.

Apart from that, performing Yang Opera is an uphill task. During it, performers have to wear masks for as long as three hours, which requires perseverance and fortitude.

Local young people are no longer willing to inherit this unprofitable and arduous profession, as they are inclined to work to support their families.

This is a significant loss for Yang Opera and a new challenge for the inheritance of traditional Chinese culture.


Chinese script: Yang Chuanjiang

Tutored by:  Yang Xiao

Translation: Wu Liang

Tutored by: Lu Siying  Li Jie  Hu Wei

Voice-over: Wang Hao

Tutored by: Ren Yi


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