Mulian Opera Series 3

Qimen Mulian Opera Troupe of Anhui

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Mulian Opera Series 3

Qimen Mulian Opera Troupe of Anhui

Mulian opera originated from folk culture.  The Festival specially invited residents of the villages of Limu and Lixi of Qimen County of Anhui to put aside their farm work, and come to Hong Kong to recreate performances that they would put up in ancestral halls.

The Mulian plays of Qimen have a history of over 400 years, with the earliest opera troupe formed in Limu Village.  The script is traced to Zheng Zhizhen’s version of the Ming Dynasty, with various troupes following their own adaptations of the original script.  Its libretti do not shy away from slangs and colloquial usages though the underlying meaning may be deep.  They are characterised by the general use of local vernaculars and idioms, which reflect the common folks’ honest and direct understanding and interpretation of the moral and edifying nature of Mulian plays.  The music’s rhythm and pace are set by the drum with accompaniment by the gong and cymbals; no strings are used.  For birthday celebrations, the suona is used.  The plays can be given in village ancestral halls, in the fields, on woodland paths and even in nunneries and temples, and usually coincide with temple fairs, god-welcoming ceremonies and sacrificial offerings.  Also, villagers would use opera performances to ward off disasters and invite good fortune when they encounter a summer leap month or disasters natural or human.  The opening playlet, Five Celestials Pacifying the Land, is traditionally taken to have the effect of invoking blessings for the rest of the show and warding off evil for the locals.  The symbolic props, costumes, accessories and make-up are all done by the villagers themselves.  For our audience members who are accustomed to professional performances, this may appear rather primitive and coarse.  Yet it is this honest, unpretentious quality, with the genuine, heartfelt warmth, that set them interestingly apart from the urbanized versions we are so used to.



Coordination of the Mulian Opera Series is assisted by the Ministry of Culture of China.

Qimen Mulian Opera

Located at the border of one district and six counties, Qimen County is hemmed in by soaring mountains and dense wood and thus rarely in touch with the outside world.  It is a place where precious historical theatre materials are kept such as the most famous and influential Mulian opera script by Zheng Zhizhen in Ming Dynasty.  Qimen Mulian opera can be performed almost anywhere, from village ancestral hall, nunnery and temple, to even wild field and footpath in the wood.  They are usually performed during religious festivals or rituals and in time of a lunar leap year or natural disasters, villagers would stage it to expel evil spirits and pray for good blessings.  Traditional Qimen Mulian opera troupe is formed within the family clan with strict rules such as it can only be passed on to members within the clan and to male members only.  As such troupe members almost always take after their fathers or uncles, some roles are even hereditary.  The situation only changed towards late Qing and early Republic when more exchanges between troupes finally took place.



Each Qimen Mulian opera troupe carries its own hereditary script.  Some troupes still preserve the original hand-written manuscript.  There are two types of performances; Ritual Mulian and Perform Mulian with the former being ceremonial with a purpose to expel evil spirits and pray for good fortunes while the latter mostly for entertainment.  The sets, props, costumes and make-up are all handled by the villagers.  The lyrics are mostly inspired by Buddhist sutras while the language varies according to the different dialects in different villages within the county.  Drums and percussions as well as gong and cymbals are used as music accompaniment with no string instruments and in case of birthday celebrations, suona will also be used.  Roll-on singing and roll-on dialogue are maintained in its vocal style.  The libretto does not shy away from the use of vulgarities and folkloric slang.  It is easy to understand and reflects the villagers’ appreciation and interpretation of the moral lessons in the play.

Programme Details

2/7 (Thu) 7:30 pm

Theatre, Yau Ma Tei Theatre


Lixi Village
Mulian Opera Excerpts


Five Celestials Pacifying the Land

Chang is one of the important deities in folk belief in the Jiangnan region and is usually in group of five.  There is a saying that goes, “The upper five are the nation, the middle five are the masses and the lower five are the ruffians.” The Ritual Mulian piece is about the upper five which are gods of mountain beasts capable of keeping the land safe from their attacks.  This excerpt is the opening item for Mulian opera where the five celestials are invited to expel the evil beasts and pacify the land.

Esquire Fu Gives Alms

This excerpt tells of the story about the rich and kind philanthropist, Esquire Fu, who gives alms to the poor and needy every year and is thus deeply loved and respected by the people.  

Liu Breaks the Meat Fast

Since Esquire Fu’s wife Liu is unwilling to be a vegetarian and coupled with the servant’s instigation, the celestials are disturbed.  They disguise as mortals to come to test Liu, but Liu refuses to listen and continues to indulge in wine and meat and hence offends the celestials.

The Kitchen God, Land God and Door God Meet

Knowing about Liu’s misdemeanors of eating meat and beating monks, the three deities Kitchen God, Land God and Door God decide to report the matter to the celestial court to have Liu arrested.  

Messengers of Death Coming for Liu

The King of Hell issues an order for the arrest of Liu and sends the messenger of death to call upon all lonely ghosts to go capture Liu and bring her to the netherworld.

Buddhist Scriptures and the Picture of His Mother on His Shoulder

Esquire Fu’s son Luobu decides to convert to Buddhism after learning his mother has been captured and is suffering in hell.  With Buddhist scriptures on one shoulder and his mother’s ashes and portrait on the other shoulder, Luobu journeys to the west trying to rescue his mother while chanting desolately on the way.  Touched by his filial act, the Bodhisattva of Compassion sends the monkey genie to help him.

Mulian in Transcendental Meditation

Mulian meets his master, the old monk in the west.  At night, he sits in meditation chanting Buddhist sutras and visualizes his parents; his father Esquire Fu is enjoying happily in heaven while his mother is suffering painfully in hell.  

Reunion in the Sixth Level of Hell

Mulian searches at length and at the Sixth Level of Hell finally reunites with his mother.  Laden with sins, his mother suffers a lot in Hell and on seeing his son, she pours out her heart to him.  

Cast Wang Qiulai, Wang Buhe, Chu Shuimin, Wang Daozhao, Wang Xincheng, Wang Qier, Wang Xishu, Wang Shengmin, Zhang Zemin, Wang Qunfang, Wang Guinü, Wang Cuihong, Wang Guizhen

3/7 (Fri) 7:30 pm

Theatre, Yau Ma Tei Theatre


Limu Village
Mulian Opera Excerpts


Praying for His Parents’ Longevity

It is New Year time, Esquire Fu’s son Luobu asks the servants to clean up the house to prepare to pray for his parents’ longevity.

A Lesson on Karma

Esquire Fu is a charitable man who gives alms generously.  He invites the Buddhist and Taoist monks to pray and impart a lesson on karma about the three different types of people in the society.

Trial at Purgatory

Liu is brought to trial at the Hall of Hell where she explains to the King of Hell her three difficulties.  The King is moved and releases her from the hall.

The Little Cowherd

A naughty cowherd takes his black buffalo to eat the wheat of another farm but the buffalo refuses.  At last he brings it home helplessly.

Ditty: What Good Deeds Can Do

As the Fu family is giving alms, beggars come to the house to sing ditties on good deeds the other way round and get rewards from Luobu.

Ditty: The Ten Sins of Mortals

After settling the fight among the beggars on the bridge, the head beggar arrives at the Fu mansion to join the celebration and offers to sing a ditty, The Ten Sins of Mortals.  He returns to the temple happily after collecting the reward.  

Alms for a Disabled Couple

A short man and his crazy wife come to the Fu mansion to beg for alms by singing a ditty on filial piety.

The Miracle in the Bitter Bamboo Grove

Twenty-four robbers rob the Fu family and pass by the bitter bamboo grove.  The white horse they stole carrying gold and silver suddenly refuses to proceed and starts to talk miraculously.  The robbers are deeply touched.  The ringleader asks his men to repent and beg for forgiveness from the Fu family and lead a proper life thereafter.

Cast Wang Hanmin, Wang Xihe, Wang Zijun, Wang Jianwu, Wang Shezhao, Wang Xinlong, Chen Huali, Wang Henü, Wang Anmin, Wang Huijun, Wang Jianmin

打城」原是僧道法事的儀式,約於清道光年間被搬上舞台,發展成中國為數極少的宗教劇種之一,故名「打城戲」(又名「法事戲」、「師公戲」等)。從最初的科儀表演,打城戲不斷吸收各種元素以豐富演出法,如技巧之一「耍鐃鈸」本為法事雜技、科步是仿羅漢型態而衍化、武打源於南少林拳技、音樂由道情佛曲融合南音和傀儡曲調,而逐漸形成了打城戲技藝出眾而不脫宗教色彩的獨特藝術風格,演出別開生面。

打城戲傳統劇目多以神話宗教為主,其祖傳《目連救母》本有七十四齣,可連演四天四夜,情節與明代鄭之珍版本頗有不同,表演運用獨有技巧如「吃火吐火」、「破肚拉腸」、「刀劈臉」、「叉刺肚」、「耍鐃鈸」、「吃紙拉腸」等,演出驚險精彩。現時打城戲演出已瀕臨滅絕,碩果僅存的福建泉州市吳天乙打城戲傳承中心由打城戲唯一國家級傳承人吳天乙重組帶領,排除萬難首度來港,特地為戲曲節精選傳統目連折子戲作三晚連本演出,實屬難能可貴!

打城」原是僧道法事的儀式,約於清道光年間被搬上舞台,發展成中國為數極少的宗教劇種之一,故名「打城戲」(又名「法事戲」、「師公戲」等)。從最初的科儀表演,打城戲不斷吸收各種元素以豐富演出法,如技巧之一「耍鐃鈸」本為法事雜技、科步是仿羅漢型態而衍化、武打源於南少林拳技、音樂由道情佛曲融合南音和傀儡曲調,而逐漸形成了打城戲技藝出眾而不脫宗教色彩的獨特藝術風格,演出別開生面。

打城戲傳統劇目多以神話宗教為主,其祖傳《目連救母》本有七十四齣,可連演四天四夜,情節與明代鄭之珍版本頗有不同,表演運用獨有技巧如「吃火吐火」、「破肚拉腸」、「刀劈臉」、「叉刺肚」、「耍鐃鈸」、「吃紙拉腸」等,演出驚險精彩。現時打城戲演出已瀕臨滅絕,碩果僅存的福建泉州市吳天乙打城戲傳承中心由打城戲唯一國家級傳承人吳天乙重組帶領,排除萬難首度來港,特地為戲曲節精選傳統目連折子戲作三晚連本演出,實屬難能可貴!

打城」原是僧道法事的儀式,約於清道光年間被搬上舞台,發展成中國為數極少的宗教劇種之一,故名「打城戲」(又名「法事戲」、「師公戲」等)。從最初的科儀表演,打城戲不斷吸收各種元素以豐富演出法,如技巧之一「耍鐃鈸」本為法事雜技、科步是仿羅漢型態而衍化、武打源於南少林拳技、音樂由道情佛曲融合南音和傀儡曲調,而逐漸形成了打城戲技藝出眾而不脫宗教色彩的獨特藝術風格,演出別開生面。

打城戲傳統劇目多以神話宗教為主,其祖傳《目連救母》本有七十四齣,可連演四天四夜,情節與明代鄭之珍版本頗有不同,表演運用獨有技巧如「吃火吐火」、「破肚拉腸」、「刀劈臉」、「叉刺肚」、「耍鐃鈸」、「吃紙拉腸」等,演出驚險精彩。現時打城戲演出已瀕臨滅絕,碩果僅存的福建泉州市吳天乙打城戲傳承中心由打城戲唯一國家級傳承人吳天乙重組帶領,排除萬難首度來港,特地為戲曲節精選傳統目連折子戲作三晚連本演出,實屬難能可貴!

Ticketing

2–3/7 (Thu–Fri) 7:30pm

Theatre, Yau Ma Tei Theatre


Prices price01$260 price02$180 price03$120
  • With Chinese and English surtitles
  • Please refer to the Extension Activities page for details of extension activities
  • Each performance lasts approx. 2 hours without intermission
seatplan

Genre

Qimen Mulian Opera

Located at the border of one district and six counties, Qimen County is hemmed in by soaring mountains and dense wood and thus rarely in touch with the outside world.  It is a place where precious historical theatre materials are kept such as the most famous and influential Mulian opera script by Zheng Zhizhen in Ming Dynasty.  Qimen Mulian opera can be performed almost anywhere, from village ancestral hall, nunnery and temple, to even wild field and footpath in the wood.  They are usually performed during religious festivals or rituals and in time of a lunar leap year or natural disasters, villagers would stage it to expel evil spirits and pray for good blessings.  Traditional Qimen Mulian opera troupe is formed within the family clan with strict rules such as it can only be passed on to members within the clan and to male members only.  As such troupe members almost always take after their fathers or uncles, some roles are even hereditary.  The situation only changed towards late Qing and early Republic when more exchanges between troupes finally took place.

Each Qimen Mulian opera troupe carries its own hereditary script.  Some troupes still preserve the original hand-written manuscript.  There are two types of performances; Ritual Mulian and Perform Mulian with the former being ceremonial with a purpose to expel evil spirits and pray for good fortunes while the latter mostly for entertainment.  The sets, props, costumes and make-up are all handled by the villagers.  The lyrics are mostly inspired by Buddhist sutras while the language varies according to the different dialects in different villages within the county.  Drums and percussions as well as gong and cymbals are used as music accompaniment with no string instruments and in case of birthday celebrations, suona will also be used.  Roll-on singing and roll-on dialogue are maintained in its vocal style.  The libretto does not shy away from the use of vulgarities and folkloric slang.  It is easy to understand and reflects the villagers’ appreciation and interpretation of the moral lessons in the play.

Information provided by Qimen Mulian Opera Troupe of Anhui

Performing Group

Lixi Village Mulian Opera Troupe

Lixi Village is located at the foot of the Guniujiang Mountain where the streams from the Lishan Mount merge.  The village is inhabited by the Wang family clan of Lang Ya, who are descendants of the early settler in Huizhou, Wang Bi.  The village was built in South Tang Dynasty and has since been culturally prosperous with thriving performances.  The Lixi Village Troupe was formed towards late Ming and early Qing and has since produced many prominent performers, among whom the most famous is Jin Shui under whose influence the troupe has enjoyed great prosperity.


Limu Village Mulian Opera Troupe

Also known as Lili (chestnut lane), Limu (chestnut wood) village acquires its name because it is surrounded by chestnut trees.  It is inhabited by the descendants of the Wang family from Xinan Lang Ya.  Some said soon after Zheng Zhizhen finished the Mulian script, it was passed to the Tianbao Temple beside the Limu Village.  The monks in the temple followed the script to rehearse and gradually emerged into a troupe.  The Limu Village Troupe was formed around the Wanli era in Ming Dynasty and is the first Mulian opera troupe in Huizhou.  Limu Village used to boast of having “Seven ancestral halls, nine temples and thirteen nunneries”.  Now only four ancestral halls are left, each can be used to stage Mulian opera.



Information provided by Qimen Mulian Opera Troupe of Anhui

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