Ancient Liyuan Opera - one of Quanzhou's cultural treasures

Updated: 2009-08-05
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Liyuan Opera, one of Quanzhou's folk cultures


Quanzhou, the largest city in the Minnan area, is a prefecture-level city covering an area of 11,244 square kilometres, administering 4 districts, 3 county-level cities and 5 counties. It is a historical city with famous natural or cultural scenic spots. Every year, thousands of visitors travel to Quanzhou for its temples, Chongwu Ancient City, Niumulin Natural Reserve, Hui'an Women and so on. However, Quanzhou also has unique folk culture worth appriciating, Liyuan Opera.

The Liyuan Opera, literally known as Pear Orchard Opera, has a longer history than Peking Opera. It is popular in Quanzhou, Zhangzhou and Xiamen in coastal Fujian, and has spread to Chaozhou and Swatow in Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as the Southeast Asian countries where the overseas Chinese who speak Minnanhua (the South Fujian dialect) live.

The Pear Orchard Opera originated in the 11th century in Quanzhou. In terms of its language, music, history, tone, and aesthetic presentation, the Pear Orchard Opera with a history of more than 800 years is considered a living fossil of the ancient Southern Opera for its preservation of many time-honored dramas, music and stage idioms of Southern Local Operas from the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties (960-1644).


Liyuan Opera with music of sweet Quanzhou accent

The Pear Orchard Opera is an ancient theatrical genre employing the vocal style of the Quanzhou region. It is one of the ancient dramas to have survived into present-day China. Its performance is particular and exquisite. Music with a Quanzhou accent sounds very sweet. Judging by surviving play scripts, instrumental and vocal music, role categories, acting techniques, and performance forms, it preserved a special style of ancient simplicity, as well as a varied and colorful repertoire of artistic techniques.

About Pear Orchard

This allusion "Pear Orchard" is taken from the New History of the Tang Dynasty. Emperor Li Longji (685-762) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), also known as Tang Ming Huang, loved music very much. He himself could play several types of musical instruments and compose music as well. He selected hundreds of young men and maids, and settled them in a pear orchard in the capital, Chang'an (present-day Xi'an). The Emperor taught them in person to sing and play musical instruments. They were called "the emperor's pear orchard pupils." Writers of that period, such as Li Bai, all wrote plays for the pear orchard pupils.


Later, the term "Pear Orchard" came to refer to operatic circles, and opera performers were called "Pear Orchard pupils". If several generations in a family were opera performers, then the family was called Pear Orchard Family, such as Maestro Mei Lanfang's family -- the family was famous for playing Dan roles and Mei Lanfang was the third generation of this family.


For one who would like to watch pear orchard opera, they can go to the Liyuan Opera Theatrical Troupe in Quanzhou which was founded in 1953. At present, it is the only troupe performing Liyuan Opera in China. Every year, the troupe goes to other countries for cultural exchange and communication such as Japan, Italy, and Singapore.


How to get there:


Click map to enlarge


1) Take coach to Quanzhou at Songbai Coach Station and then take bus to get to Liyuan Opera Theatrical Troupe.


2) Use a travel agent:


Renting a van packaged with driver is the next best alternative. Call Apple Travel to organize a group tour. If you've a small group, The ideal number in the group is 5 or 6.




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