Huju


Huju
(Shanghai sung-drama, opera)
Huju (Shanghai opera) is the only traditional music drama originating in Shanghai, where several other regional dramas have also been popular. It originated from folk songs popularized during the late Qing period in the rural areas along Wusong and Huangpu rivers, which flow through Shanghai. Influenced by tanci and other forms of musical storytelling (see quyi), these folksongs developed into shentan, the early form of the drama, involving two or a few more actors. Performance of shentan began in the city of Shanghai around 1900. As the theatrical form gradually matured, it was renamed shenqu in 1914 and Huju around 1941. Shanghai was also the heartland of film and spoken drama, which influenced Huju significantly in content and form from the 1920s to the 1940s. Unlike the majority of other regional dramas, Huju has staged many productions of modern and contemporary themes with common people as their leading characters. It adopted divisions of acts and recognized the role of the playwright and director at a much earlier time. In the 1950s and 1960s, Huju was a champion in performing modern plays. The two revolutionary model Jingju (Peking opera), Red Lantern and Shajiabang—the most influential ones among the eight model plays created during the Cultural Revolution—were actually both adapted from Huju plays. Huju has also been popular in southern Jiangsu and the Hangzhou area of Zhejiang province.
Since the late 1970s, Huju classics from its early period to the 1960s have been revived. The representative plays include A Bida Returns to Her Mother’s Home (A Bida hui niangjia), Blue Sky and Yellow Spring (Biluo huangquan), Thunderstorm. (Leiyü), Arhat Money (Luohan qian), Sparks of Prairie Fire (Xingxing zhi huo) and Kindling Fire in Reed Marshes (Ludang huozhong). At the same time, a significant number of new plays have been written and staged, such as Death of Zhang Zhixin (Zhang Zhixin zhi si), The Bitter Experience of an Actor (Yige mingxing de zaoyu), Two Sisters (Jiemei lai), Bright Moon Shines in Mother’s Heart (Mingyue zhao muxin), Grow Together through Thick and Thin (Fengyu tongling ren), Dream Realized Today (Jinri mengyuan), My Heart Holds Your Hand (Wo xin wo ni shou), Shanghai Teacher (Shanghai laoshi) and Song Qingling in Shanghai (Song Qingling zai Shanghai).
Huju has produced three generations of great performers since the 1930s. The first generation is represented by Ding Shi’e, Yang Feifei, Wang Pansheng, Shao Binsun, Shi Xiaoying, Xiao Aiqin and Xie Hongyuan, who had been active on stage until the early 1980s. The second generation is exemplified by Ma Lili, Mao Shanyu, Wang Huazhong, Chen Yu and others who have been prominent actors and actresses in the New Period. Since the late 1990s, a third generation of well-known performers has gradually emerged.
Currently, there are about nine professional Huju troupes and several non-professional troupes performing in the city and its neighbouring regions. Shanghai Huju Troupe, ranked as a national-level troupe, is composed of two performing companies named the No. 1 Huju Company (Huju yituan) and the Youth Huju Company (Qingnian hujutuan). The other seven local professional troupes are Shanghai changning hujutuan, Shanghai Baoshan hujutuan, Shanghai Dashijie hujutuan, Shanghai Chongmingxian hujutuan, Taicangshi hujutuan, Wuxianshi huju tuan and Wujiangshi Wuzhongqu hujutuan.
The performing venues are mainly theatres that sometimes transport suburban audiences into the city, public squares in various communities, and auditoriums in cultural palaces. Some well-known productions have been adapted into Huju opera films and TV series for large audiences (see Xiqu on television).
Stock, Jonathan P.J. (2003). Huju: Traditional Opera in Modern Shanghai. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
DU WENWEI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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