Gezaixi


Gezaixi
regional Xiqu (sung-drama/opera)
Gezaixi is a form of sung-drama or opera (Xiqu) performed in the dialect of the Minnan (southern Fujian), the language of the major Han Chinese ethnic group in Taiwan (see dialects). The Minnan brought the jinge (assorted folksongs) from Fujian to Taiwan and created short musical sketches for the purpose of entertainment. By the early twentieth century, these sketches had developed into the Gezaixi opera form. The hardship of the early settlers’ lives in Taiwan made the crying tunes and the role of the ‘lamenting female’ (kudan) especially popular in Gezaixi. The genre has absorbed performance elements from many Chinese regional operas and ensembles, including Jingju (Peking opera), Minju (Fuzhou opera), nanguan (southern music; see Minnan nanyin), and beiguan (northern music). It was introduced to southern Fujian in the 1920s and has enjoyed considerable popularity there ever since. In Fujian, the form is known as Xiangju (Xiang opera) in Zhangzhou, and Gezaixi in Xiamen.
Since 1949, Gezaixi as a regional opera has developed separately in Taiwan and China, resulting in differences in vocal and acting styles. The music in both areas, however, remains similar, with the qizi (seven-word) tune providing the major rhythmic and melodic structure. However, the performance of Gezaixi in China has been greatly influenced by Jing ju (Peking opera)—actors sing in falsetto and with the natural voice only on occasion, and perform with more stylized movements, emphasizing an aesthetics of beauty and roundedness.
In Taiwan, the performance conventions of those above-mentioned sketches based on rowdy folksongs persist. Performers sing in their natural voice and use less stylized gestures. Most of the leading roles, including the young males, are performed by females.
Chang, Heui-Yuan Belinda (1997). ‘A Theatre of Taiwaneseness: Politics, Ideologies, and Gezaixi’. The Drama Review 41.2 (T154): 111–29.
Tsai, Wen-ting (2001). ‘Long-Lost Relatives—Taiwanese Opera on the Mainland’. Trans. David Mayer. Sinorama Magazine 11: 62–71.
Zeng, Yong-yi (1988). Taiwan gezaixi de fazhan yü bianqian [Development and Change in Taiwanese Opera]. Taipei: Lianjing.
UENG SUE-HAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.