China’s Ancient Opera still Alive with Mao Wei Tao

December 1, 2015

Mao Wei Tao is considered a living treasure in China—she has an estimated 20 million fans. She imitates men in the opera roles she plays—a reversal from Imperial China when women were not allowed on stage so men played female roles.

“In 1923, the training of female actors for this art form was set up. Since 1928, the Shaoxing opera troupes, consisting of solely female actors, began their performances in Shanghai. In a few years, females impersonating males had become the most important feature of this opera form, and at the same time the Yue opera became well known all over China.”

East China’s Zhejiang province gave China’s Shaoxing Opera Mao Wei Tao, who in her decades long career on the stage is best known as an outstanding male impersonator with a cult following of women.

I was introduced to Yue Opera in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province more than a decade ago.

Mao Wei Tao and her husband have a theater company near the shores of the famous Westlake. My wife translated while I watched the live-opera performance in fascination.

The costumes were lavish and the acting and opera was dramatic while classical Chinese music played in the background.

The challenge today is to keep this form of Chinese opera alive, because the audience for opera is shrinking dramatically in China while remaining popular with the older generation.

Television, movies and the Internet are claiming the shorter attention spans of younger Chinese.

Mao Wei Tao, considered an innovative genius on stage, adapts and works to keep the art form alive. According to her husband, no two performances are exactly alike.

In November 2010, she performed in Taiwan as a cultural ambassador from the mainland. Today, “the company continues to tour and has staged productions in Paris, Hong Kong, Korea, Macau, Taiwan, the United States, Singapore, Spain, Holland, France, Belgium and Japan.”  – bangkokfestivals.com

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

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New Year’s Recap

January 1, 2011

There’s much about China that I did not know when we started this journey on January 28, 2010. 

We visited China’s early dynasties (the Xia, Shang and Zhou) before Qin Shi Huangdi became the first emperor and unified China.

Then we visited the Han, Tang, Sung, Ming and Qing Dynasties while learning of the chaos and anarchy between the dynasties.

We met Confucius and Wu Zetian, China’s only woman emperor during the Tang Dynasty.

We discovered China’s music, art and opera while meeting one of China’s national treasures, Mao Wei-Tao.

Learning about the 19th century Opium Wars started by the British and French opened my eyes to evils I had not known of.

What shocked me most was how the West forced China to allow Christian missionaries into China along with opium.

One reader challenged me in a comment saying that couldn’t be true then didn’t respond when I provided links to the evidence that missionaries and opium were included in the same treaty, which forced the emperor to accept against his will.

Then I sat spellbound as I joined Mao and the Communists on the Long March where more than 80,000 started out and about 6,000 survived — the only choice was to fight or die.

Along the way, I learned that Sun Yat-sen was the father of China’s republic and how Chiang Kai-shek started the Civil War in 1925 when he ordered his army to slaughter the Chinese Communists.

I didn’t know that the Communist and Nationalist Parties were the two political parties of China’s first republic and how it was the US supported Nationalists that fired the first shot that shattered Sun Yat-sen’s dream for China.

After the Communists won the Civil War in 1949, I saw the suffering and death from Mao’s mistakes during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution that ended in 1976.

Then we learned how Deng Xiaoping saved China from the Revolutionary Maoists and launched the Capitalist Revolution, which led to the Tiananmen Square incident then China’s Sexual Revolution.

And there was my continued attempt to explain China’s Collective Culture. One comment basically said, “Yea, sure!” as if there were no such thing as cultural differences such as this.

We also were introduced to other Blogs about China such as the China Law Blog.

Of course, with more than a thousand posts in a year, what I have mentioned here is but a small part of the 2010 journey of China.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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Peking Opera

April 1, 2010

Peking Opera is a combination of several styles of Chinese opera.

The metamorphosis started during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), about two hundred years ago.

Peking Opera focuses on historical events, legends about emperors, ministers, generals, geniuses and great beauties.

Performances are a combination of singing, dialogue, pantomime and acrobatic fighting and dancing.

Today, Peking Opera is considered the highest expression of Chinese culture.

The origins of Peking Opera did not begin in Peking (Beijing).  The opera had its start in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei.

Experts say the opera was born in 1790 and was originally staged for the royal family and then the public.

There are thousands of these operas that cover the history and literature of China. Peking operas can be divided into two categories.

“Civil” operas focus on singing while “Martial” operas feature acrobatics and stunts.  Some are a combination of both.

If Peking Opera interests you, see Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Erhu

March 22, 2010

An erhu is a Chinese two-stringed instrument similar to a fiddle. The erhu has a thin, slightly reedy sound. Since the erhu is so widely used, foreigners see it as an example of Chinese music.

The erhu

However, once you recognize the sound of an erhu, it can usually be readily picked out from other musical instruments, because it is unique. The history of the erhu spans thousands of years. The first erhus were heard during the Tang Dynasty. Since the traditional Chinese character for “erhu” indicates it has two strings, the erhu has probably changed little over the centuries. Alternate names for the erhu include huqin or hu, and Westerners sometimes call the instrument a “Chinese violin”. 

If you enjoyed learning about and listening to the erhu, you may enjoy Mao Wei-Tao’s Chinese Yu Opera

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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