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Xinchang Diaoqiang Troupe of Zhejiang

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The Birthday Celebration

A piece deriving from the Monk Mulian Series and the folk legend Stealing the Peaches the Third Time. The Eight Immortals, the Heavenly Official, the Three Gods – Good Fortune, Prosperity and Longevity – wishing the Queen Mother of Heaven an auspicious birthday. She would reply with auspicious words, which auger well for the well-being and good fortune of the people.

Now that the peaches are ripe, the Queen Mother of Heaven has her personal guard keep watch over them. The guard falls asleep and Dongfang Shuo manages to steal several peaches. The Queen Mother orders General Yue Fei and his son to lead a celestial army to catch the thief. When caught, Dongfang Shuo explains why he has stolen the peaches. Yue Fei takes him back to the celestial court. Once he sees the Queen Mother, Dongfang Shuo uses his eloquence to wish her an auspicious birthday with peach imagery. The Queen Mother’s wrath turns to delight. She exonerates his crime and even endows upon him with gifts.

Cast: Wang Yili, Tian Min, Yu Zhenjie


The Last Emperor of Ming’s Suicide from Tie Guan Tu

Tie Guan Tu is a traditional repertory. Only six episodes are extant, as memorized and written down by Zhao Peisheng, an old artist of the genre. Among the six, Dissolving the Royal Family and On Mei Hill are vastly different from the versions found in the collection of plays from Chinese traditional theatre published in the Qing period. The masterly stunt of ‘rolling over and kicking off the boots’, performed by veteran artists of previous generations and which has almost disappeared from the stage, is revived by Wang Ying on this occasion. The sung passage shows the devastation of the last emperor of Ming in his last moments and is deeply moving.

When Li Zicheng takes the City of Beijing, Ming emperor Chongzhen escapes to Mei Hill. When he reaches the Pavilion of Longevity, he sees he has no route of escape. He writes with his own blood a note which reads “I was blessed with a mandate from heaven which bestowed honour and prosperity for seventeen years. I am not a bad ruler but the villains have betrayed the country. I take off my crown and loosen my hair; I’ll hang myself. My death shall be anonymous, and my people shall not mourn me.” He then takes his own life.

Cast: Wang Ying


Ghost of a Woman Who Hangs Herself, Ghost of a Man Who Hangs Himself, The Righteous Messenger of Death from The Monk Mulian Series

The playlets on the theme of Monk Mulian saving his mother from hell in the diaoqiang repertory number 168. It took three days and nights non-stop to have them all performed in one go. This is a regular choice for performance at temple fairs during the Ghost Festival to appease the spirits. The story of Ghost of a Woman Who Hangs Herself is about a young woman called Jade Hibiscus who killed herself when forced into prostitution, and twenty years later, returning to the mortal world to find a substitute so she can be incarnated. In Ghost of a Man Who Hangs Himself, the actor needs to perform various aerial acrobatics using a length of white silk. The Righteous Messenger of Death can always win the audience’s hearty approval with its dramatic contrasts within one short play.

Cast: Wang Jiayu, Xie Richao, Tian Min, Chen Xudong




Catching Sanlang Alive from The Water Margin

The diaoqiang version contains masterly acts like the ‘chair routine’, ‘swift change of face’ etc., and the singing also involves passages from kunqiang school.

After being killed by Song Jiang, Yan Poxi feels lonely in the netherworld. She blames Zhang Wenyuan (Sanlang) for being fickle and always visiting the brothels. On a dark and eerie night, the spirit of Poxi drifts to Sanlang’s home and knocks on the door. After some probing, she kills him with a length of white silk so they can marry in hell.

Cast: Chen Tao, Wang Jiayu


The Hunt from Liu Zhiyuan

Liu Zhiyuan in the diaoqiang repertory originated from that of old Southern Opera. Three extant playlets were transcribed from the orally transmitted versions of The Hunt, Returning from the Hunt and At the Mill as told by Zhao Peisheng and Pan Linchan. The first two are still popularly staged, and they have retained elements from the ancient genre, such as mixing singing with dialogue etc.

The poverty-stricken Liu Zhiyuan joins the army for a living. The wicked brother and sister-in-law of his wife Li Sanniang try to force her to re-marry, which she resists. Sanniang gives birth to a baby boy in the mill, and names him Yaoqilang (meaning ‘the boy with the umbilical cord cut off with teeth at birth’). Her sister-in-law snatches the baby and throws it into the river. A man named Dou saves the baby and sends it to Zhiyuan’s home at Binzhou. Later, Zhiyuan is promoted to the rank of governor for his military merits. The adult Yaoqilang one day leads a hunting expedition. He is led to a well by a rabbit, where he meets his biological mother. Seeing she is alone and helpless, he offers to act as messenger and deliver her letter on her behalf.

Cast: Wang Saiyi, Wang Xiaoyan




A Visit to the Temple and An Invitation to Zhang the Scholar from The Story of the West Chamber (Northern repertory)

There are two versions of The Story of the West Chamber – the earlier one by Wang Shifu (1260-1336) of the Yuan Dynasty, later referred to as ‘Northern repertory’. Diaoqiang is the only regional genre that has retained four excerpts from Wang’s version. The original manuscripts and scores are extant in the main. The role of Monk Facong gains more significance in the diaoqiang version than in Wang’s original, therefore emphasizing the comic touch. The diaoqiang broke the tradition of zaju of Yuan in that the singing was done by the actors in their respective roles, unlike zaju in which only one actor would sing throughout, which lends reason to the plot development.

In A Visit to the Temple, the scholar Zhang Gong encounters Cui Yingying in Pujiu Temple, where they fall in love at first sight. With the help of Yingying’s maid Hongniang, the couple finds true love. An Invitation to Zhang the Scholar narrates how Hongniang invites Zhang for a visit at the residence on the orders of Lady Cui, portraying Hongniang’s quick wit and liveliness as well as Zhang’s flair and elan.

Cast: Shi Linqin, Zhang Yinping, Chen Xudong

Autumn River from The Story of the Jade Hairpin

One of the zhuanqi plays interpreted in the diaoqiang. In this version the part originally played by the abbess of the nunnery, is played by the boatman, whose comical treatment adds hilarity to the situation. There are over a dozen set tunes in the medley. The overlapping segments during the singing make a unique feature to diaoqiang.

Scholar Pan Bizheng has been unsuccessful in the civil service examination. He goes to visit his aunt and lodges there temporarily. One day, a young nun named Chen Miaochang plays the lute, and Pan seduces her with a response on the same instrument. The two fall in love. The abbess finds out and urges Pan to re-take the examination. Miaochang hurries to the Autumn River, hires a boat and goes after Pan in hot pursuit.

Cast: Ying Yue, Pan Haojun

Killing Yan Poxi from The Water Margin

The Water Margin was first written for the stage by Xu Zichang (1578—1623) of the Ming period. The diaoqiang version that has been passed down has a history of over four hundred years. Killing Yan Poxi is the climax of the entire story. Many performing techniques such as mime and ‘wiping the forehead’ are used for character portrayal.

Chao Gai, one of the sworn brothers of the Water Margin, orders Liu Tang to recruit Song Jiang of Yuncheng with gifts of gold. That night, Song is invited to spend the night with his concubine Yan Poxi at the Black Dragon Residence. The two have no rapport and pretend to be asleep all through the night. The next morning, Song leaves the brothel in haste, and in the confusion leaves behind in the chamber the bag containing Chao’s recruitment letter and the gold ingot. Yan Poxi finds the letter and threatens to expose Song in court. Song is forced into a corner and kills her.

Cast: Wang Ying, Liang Jingna




Yearning for the Secular World from A Sea of Sins

The diaoqiang version of the playlet has been in circulation for over four hundred years. It was passed down orally by the old artist, Zhou Mingli. The style of singing is typified by the undulating melodic line and crisp rhythm. There is also a variety of vocal techniques involved.

Poorly when she was little, the young nun Sekong was abandoned by her parents at the nunnery at a young age. Now having turned sixteen and looking for love, she often exchanges flirtatious glances with young visitors to the nunnery. One day, when the abbess and the other nuns have left for a religious ritual, Sekong is left alone in the nunnery. The yearning she has harboured for so long is let loose, and she sings and dances from the prayer room to the main gate, making her way downhill to find love.

Cast: Yu Jiahui

Appearing in the Dream, Looking for Her Dream and Wreaking Havoc in Hell from The Peony Pavilion

The Peony Pavilion is a magnum opus by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) of the Ming period. The three excerpts here are the most significant among the repertoire in the diaoqiang version. For Appearing in the Dream, the actor in the role of Du Liniang does not use the folding fan, nor gives ‘rippling’ effects with the ‘flowing sleeves’. As for the flower nymph, the original concept of using one actor as in Tang’s work is adopted. The actor also plays the chorus by doing the Tang Dynasty ballad-singing and dancing styles to accompany the two main protagonists. Wreaking Havoc in Hell in this version stands out with the rousing noisiness of the scene, the singing, the gongs and drums, and the exaggerated actions.

In Appearing in the Dream, Chunxiang the maid and Du Liniang take in the sights in the back garden. In her dream, the flower god guides Liniang to a tryst with scholar Liu Mengmei. In Looking for Her Dream, Liniang wakes from the dream and becomes lovelorn. The next day, she returns to the garden to look for the dream to no avail. She dies later from the sorrow. In Wreaking Havoc in Hell, Liniang’s spirit remains intact and arrives in hell. Magistrate Hu, a previous labourer in hell who has leapfrogged to his present position, probes the cause of her death. He sympathises with Liniang and gives her a resurrection joss stick so she can be re-united with Liu.

Cast: Wang Jiayu, Yu Zhenjie, Tang Dongdong



The Farewell on the Bridge from Autumn in the Han Palace

This play was written by Ma Zhiyuan (1250-1321), the preeminent poet and playwright of the Yuan Dynasty. The two excerpts conserved in the diaoqiang repertory were manuscript records of an orally told version by Zhu Caixing in the early 20th Century. A Farewell Banquet features a sung monologue by the actor playing the Han Emperor which runs throughout the playlet, with a particularly moving passage.

Autumn in the Palace tells the story of Lady Wang Zhaojun who is forced by circumstances to enter into a political marriage with the Xiongnu prince, Chanyu, to maintain peace between the two nations. In The Farewell on the Bridge, the Chanyu chief of Xiongnu, intoxicated by Zhaojun’s beauty, stations his army along the border and sends an envoy to ask for Zhaojun’s hand. With the courtiers at a loss and a weak military, Emperor Yuan of Han cannot but agree to marry his beloved Zhaojun off and bids a farewell at the bridge.

Cast: Wang Ying

Stealing the Poem from The Story of the Jade Hairpin

The first libretto of this excerpt was by Gao Lian (1573-1620) of Ming, which consisted of dialogues between the two protagonists during the probing and testing process of a budding amour. Later a lot of lines and repeated sung passages were added to Chen’s part before returning to the main sung passage. Such a mixture exemplifies the uniqueness of the Yuyaoqiang in Southern Theatre.

Taoist nun Chen Miaochang is moved by scholar Pan Bizheng’s music on the lute. But being a nun, she dares not make known her true feeling, and so writes a poem to speak her mind. While she is dozing off, Pan steals a look at the poem. Miaochang thus opens up her heart and the two tie the knot.

Cast: Zhang Yinping, Shi Linqin

Turning Down the Offer of Gold and Resigning from His Position, Taking the Robe with His Spear on the Bridge and The Killing of Bian Xi from Guan Yu Travelling Alone for Thousands of Miles

This is taken from the traditional repertory of diaoqiang, and its history can be traced back to more than five centuries. Typical of the forthright, robust and masculine charm of theatre of northern China, the work was orally passed down by old artists. In traditional Chinese theatre, Cao Cao is often depicted as an evil man and the actor needs to paint his face white to suggest this. But the diaoqiang version has the actor in a handsome old man look. In The Killing of Bian Xi, this becomes a monologue conducted by Monk Pujing, who sings, dances, and plays the duo role of Guan Yu on horseback and the monk walking on firm ground. The comic touch is reminiscent of the ‘army plays’ of the Tang and Song period.

This is a story based on the Three Kingdoms Saga. When Cao Cao attacks Xuzhou, the three sworn brothers Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei lose contact with one another. Guan, who is guarding Liu’s wives Lady Mi and Lady Gan, agrees to serve Cao at Xudu on condition that they will only submit to the Han but not the Cao court, and will leave once news of the others arrives. Cao treats him with extreme cordiality, offering him gold and silver, and the title of marquis conferred by the emperor. Later Guan learns that Liu and Zhang are at the old city. He immediately escorts the two ladies to find Liu, turning down the offer of gold and resigning from his position. Cao, together with Zhang Liao and Xu Zhu, hurry to Baling Bridge to bid him farewell. During his escape, Guan crashes through the three obstacles, kills Bian Xi, and makes his way out.

Cast: Wang Ying, Pan Yuejun


Wang Ying
Wang Ying is a National Class Two Performer specialized in laosheng (old man roles). She starred in many adapted or original productions, such as Suicide on Mei Hill, Cheng Ying Saving the Orphan, The Old Water-carrier etc.. She has performed in many showcases at City, Province and National levels, including Outstanding Performance Award and Outstanding Xiaobaihua Award. She was named the 4th Generation Exponent of the Diaoqiang Art in 2008.

Pan Yuejun
Pan Yuejun is a National Class Two Performer specialized in hualian (painted face roles). His repertoire includes Three Calls to Fan Lihua, Qin Xianglian, The Old Water Carrier and many others. He was the winner of the Xiaobaihua Award of Shaoxing City, a Class One Award – Individual at the 10th Shaoxing Theatre Festival.

Shi Linqin
Shi Linqin is a National Class Two Performer specialized in xiaosheng (young, civil male roles). She has starred in The Old Water Carrier, Tielin Pass etc. and won a Class One Award for Performers at the 5th Shaoxing Theatre Festival, a Shaoxing City Xiaobaihua Award, a Young Actor Performance Award at the Zhejiang Sub-genres Exchange Show and an Outstanding Performance Award at the 10th Zhejiang Theater Festival.

Tian Min
Tian Min is a National Class Two Performer specialized in chou (comic roles). He is solidly trained in the martial arts, and portrays his stage personae with vivacity and humour. He won the Outstanding Performance Award, the Galaxy Award of Zhejiang Province, and the Gold Award at the Mini-theatre Members’ Showcase at the 8th and 11th Shaoxing Theatre Festivals.

Wang Yili
Wang Yili is a National Class Two Performer and was the principal in The Investiture of the Gods, The Mayor’s Verdict etc.. She won a Class One Award for Performance at the 9th Shaoxing City Theatre Festival, Performance Awards at the 8th Zhejiang Theatre Festival and the 11th Shaoxing City Theatre Festival.

Chen Xudong
Chen Xudong specialized in chou (comic roles). He has starred in Waylaying the Horse, At the Crossroad, A Visit to the Temple from The Story of the West Chamber (Northern repertory), and the Monk Mulian Series. He won a Performance Award at the 11th Shaoxing Theatre Festival.

Ying Yue
Ying Yue is a National Class Two Performer specialized in huadan (flirtatious female roles), and has starred in Autumn River, Yearning for the Secular World. She won an Outstanding Xiaobaihua Awards at the Second Xiaobaihua Competition, and a Xiaohaihua Award at Zhejiang of the same competition.

Pan Haojun
Pan Haojun specializes in chou (comic roles), and has starred in The Old Water-carrier, Thee Call to Fan Lihua, Cheng Ying Saving the Orphan etc.. He won a Gold Award with his role as the Judge in Hell in the Monk Mulian Series at the Showcase of Playlets of Zhejiang.

Zhang Yinping
Zhang Yinping is a National Class Two Performer specialized in huadan (flirtatious female roles). Her repertoire includes The Investitures of the Gods, The Old Water-carrier, Finding the Jade Bangle and Invitation to Zhang the Scholar from The Story of the West Chamber (Northern repertory).

26-28/6 Fri-Sun 7:30pm
price280$280 price200$200 price120$120  
Each performance lasts approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
27-28/6 Sat-Sun 2:30pm
price240$240 price180$180 price100$100  
Each performance lasts approx. 1 hour and 20 minutes without intermission.

Theatre, Yau Ma Tei Theatre

• With Chinese and English surtitles.
• Please refer to the ‘Extension Activities’ page for details of other extension activities.

Click here to download the transcript.