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Chaozhou Opera and Music
Chaozhou Opera and Music
Date: 2011-09-11      Source: Shantou Daily

Chaozhou opera is one of the ten major operas in China. It originated from a branch of Southern Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties, and formed in the Ming Dynasty. Historical data compiled after the liberation show that there are more than 1,000 traditional plays. Chaozhou opera is a local opera in Chaoshan area, which is one of the three major local operas in Guangdong and one of the ten major operas in China. It has a history of over 500 years. Chaozhou opera is an amazing art form in China, enjoying high reputation and popularity both at home and abroad. It features graceful and lyrical tunes, demonstrates Chaoshan local characteristics, and appeals to both refined and popular tastes. There are a lot of excellent plays staged by famous performers in unique performing arts. Chaozhou opera is well received by the mass. A number of Chaozhou operas were made into movies and issued at home and abroad. Chaozhou opera troupes have been invited to perform across China and the world for many times. The performance art of the role of Chou is especially enjoyable.

http://english.shantou.gov.cn/Files/image/20051013214958866.jpg  http://english.shantou.gov.cn/Files/image/20051013215014669.jpg    http://english.shantou.gov.cn/Files/image/2005101321506176.jpg    http://english.shantou.gov.cn/Files/image/20051013215058141.jpg    http://english.shantou.gov.cn/Files/image/2005101321517213.jpg  

The charms of Chaozhou opera are its crystal clear arias and exquisite tunes, which appeal to people in East Guangdong, South Fujian and countries in Southeast Asia.

The arias of Chaozhou opera include Tune, Dual Tune and Minor Tune.

Assistant chanting is one of the characteristics of the arias of Chaozhou opera.

Musical instruments used for Chaozhou opera include two-stringed fiddle, Yehu (two-stringed fiddle with coconut body), flute, drum, Shenbo (a deep, flat gong), gong and so on.


In ancient times, Chaozhou opera had 7 roles, namely, the roles of Shen, Dan, Jing, Mo, Chou, Wai and Tie. Today, these roles have further developed into 10 types of Chou roles, 7 types of Dan roles, 5 types of Shen roles and 3 types of Jing roles. The most famous roles in Chaozhou opera are the so-called "Triple Xiaos", including Xiaosheng (a young male character), Xiaodan (a young female character) and Xiaochou (a young clown character), which are collectively called the "Flowers of South China".

The everlasting Chaozhou opera is not only an amazing art form in Chaoshan culture, but also the essence of Chaoshan folk arts.


The primitive and elegant Chaozhou music is a local music system formed as a result of interaction between ancient central Chinese music and Chaoshan folk melodies. It is characterized with enrich, exuberant and complete tunes. Its performance forms include chord music, refined music, temple music, ancient flute music, as well as gong and drum music. There are over 1,000 Chaozhou music varieties, which are highly appreciated both at home and abroad.

Chaozhou music is primitive and elegant. It dates back to the Tang and Song Dynasties. Originating from ancient Chinese music in the Tang and Song Dynasties, Chaozhou music also inherits and absorbs local folk melodies and such music varieties as "Zhengzi", "Kunqiang", "Xiqing" and "Waijiang". In the mid Ming Dynasty, Chaozhou music had become a systematic folk music art form with rich contents and diverse performances.


Chaozhou music is written in Ersipu notation, Gongchi notation and simplified notation. The Ersipu notation is the oldest notation style of Chaozhou music and a rare music notation in China. Study on the Ersipu notation and the special rhythms of Chaozhou music reveal the influences of Tang and Song music culture on Chaozhou music. 

Chaozhou music can be played in various forms and with various musical instruments, which make it an art form appealing to both refined and popular tastes. Chaozhou music has 5 basic tunes, namely, the light-six tune, heavy-six tune, active-five tune, reverse tune, and light-three-and-heavy-six tune. The most prominent musical instruments are two-stringed fiddles and percussion instruments. Two-stringed fiddles are the leading instruments in most Chaozhou music performances, except for those featuring gongs and drums music.

Chaozhou music features flexible and diverse performance forms. It can be a performance involving dozens of or hundreds of players of gongs and drums, or a string music performance staging by only 2 to 5 performers. So Chaozhou music is an art form for refined taste, popular taste and self entertainment at the same time, demonstrating strong vitality and attractiveness.

The Chaozhou Drum Performance was awarded the Gold Prize in the World Youth Union Party. Yingge dance is a folk dancing art popular in the Chaozhou area in East Guangdong. It is an expressive Han dance performed by 107 male dancers in legendary colorful costumes on the plaza. It is called the "Root of Chinese National Dance". Yingge dance is a prevailing art form in Chaoyang. In November 1996, Chaoyang City was awarded the title of "Village of Chinese Folk Art (Yingge Dance)" by the Ministry of Culture of China. In 1956 and 1988, the Yingge Dancing Team performed in Beijing and amazed the audience. In 2005, the Chaozhou opera titled the Appointing of Grand Councilor by the Six Kingdoms was awarded the Shanhua Prize in the 7th Chinese Folk Art Awards, and the opera named Dongwu Princess won six First Prizes in the 9th Guangdong Art Festival. Chaozhou opera, Chaozhou music, Yingge dance and paper–cutting art are on the first list of "National Intangible Cultural Heritages". In the Lantern Festival Party on CCTV in 2006, the amazing performance of Shantou Chaozhou Drum Art Troupe demonstrated the unique charms of Chaoshan culture to audience from China and the world.

Source: Shantou Almanac 2008, Shantou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV, Press and Publication



  潮剧的角色行当古时分为生、旦、净、未、丑、外、贴等7角,现发展成为10种丑 、7种旦、5种生和3种净。其中,以“三小”(小生、小旦、小丑)知名,有“南国鲜花”之称。
  潮州音乐传谱,用“二四谱”、“工尺谱”以及简谱。 其中“二四谱”系潮州音乐最古老谱式,也是中国稀有的乐谱。从“二四谱”及潮州音乐特殊音律进行研究,均可见唐、宋音乐文化对潮州音乐的影响。


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