Liyuanxi


Liyuanxi
(Pear Garden Opera)
A significant regional opera tradition originating in Quanzhou, Fujian, Liyuanxi is named after an eighth-century court training school for actors, the Pear Garden. Its scripts have been traced back to the mid sixteenth century, and some of its tunes may well date back even earlier, which makes it one of China’s most long-established drama traditions. The music of Liyuanxi is distinctive in several respects from that of many other regional styles, including the notable use of a small, foot-held drum called nangu and several instruments of the exact design used in Fujian’s mellow Minnan nanyin ensemble tradition: pipa (lute), xiao (endblown flute), erxian (fiddle) and sanxian (lute). A dizi (transverse flute) can also be heard on occasion, and a small amount of other percussion is found. Further melody instruments occur less often.
The tunes of Liyuanxi are also largely shared with Minnan nanyin, although performance practice has now diverged, the operatic performance being generally faster than the ensemble. The movements of Liyuanxi are also unusual, being modelled on those of local puppet theatre.
Like many regional traditions, aspects of Liyuanxi were modernized and reformed from the 1940s on. Some performers transferred to other, more contemporaneous traditions, while specialist directors were brought into Liyuanxi. Today, performance focuses on historical tales, among which the romance Chen San and Wu Niang (Chen San Wu Niang) is considered particularly representative. The opening of Taiwan to touring mainland ensembles has provided a new market for master performers of Liyuanxi.
See also: Wang Renjie
(1986). Liyuanxi zonghengtan. Quanzhou: Fujiansheng liyuanxishi yanjutuan.
(1998). Haixia liang’an liyuanxi xueshu yantao huilun wenji. Taipei: Guoli zhongzheng wenhua zhongxin.
JONATHAN P.J.STOCK

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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