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Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang and Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai


Xinchang Diaoqiang and Ninghai Pingdiao Operas are ancient genres of Chinese opera and were both inscribed in the first listing of National Intangible Cultural Heritage of China. Won applause when it debuted in Hong Kong during the Chinese Opera Festival in 2013, the troupe will meticulously recur the battlefield at Jiujiang during late Yuan dynasty this year in Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera. National class performers proudly present one of the genres’ classics, The Battle at Jiujiang, by vividly enacting the ingenious Zhang Dingbian and the eloquent Hua Yunlong in chains of stratagems and plots with the presentation of Northern Opera sang in Southern singing style. Following the beacon at the battleground, the light-hearted The Old Water-carrier is introduced amid the dynamic percussion of Diaoqiang Opera. Though being aged and underprivileged, the old water-carrier has no fear towards jurisdiction and insists in pursuing justice, and eventually proves the innocence of the misjudged murderer.

Believed to be originated from the ‘Four Major Ancient Singing Styles’, Ninghai Pingdiao Opera is relatively circumlocutory and subtle when comparing with Diaoqiang Opera. Pingdiao Opera features countless exclusive stunts, especially the most illustrious shuaya (tusk stunt). Performers have to hold pairs of buckteeth in their mouths and at the same time sing, read, beat, etc. as the plot progresses and shuaya instead shares the same standing with bian lian, the face-changing stunt of Sichuan. The successor of shuaya, Xue Qiaoping, will unveil to our audience the rough, yet delicate, fill with wildness but also acuity national-class artistry.

Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang and Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai

Programme Details

22/6 (Fri)23/6 (Sat) 24/6 (Sun)

22/6 (Fri) 7:30pm

Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera The Battle at Jiujiang

The Battle at Jiujiang is an epic of Diaoqiang Opera. This contemporary version stresses on the battle of wits between Generals Zhang Dingbian and Hua Yunlong. The play is specially arranged in order to constitute the new angle thrown on the new adaptation of the old story by winning the sympathy from audience towards Zhang’s helplessness, while at the same time do not repel the devious Hua.

The story takes place during the last years of the Yuan dynasty when there are uprisings everywhere. Chen Youliang of Jiujiang and Zhang Shicheng of Gusu form an alliance in a bid to take over the regime by having their children enter into marriage. Chen sends his officer, Hu Lan, to Gusu in order to escort Zhang’s son, Ren, to Jiujiang to hold the wedding and to discuss how to join forces in fighting Zhu Yuanzhang of Jinling. However, Hu Lan is waylaid by the soldiers deployed by Liu Bowen, strategist and adviser to Zhu. Liu orders General Hua Yunlong to go in place of Ren to Jiujiang as the new son-in-law. At the banquet, Chen’s General, Zhang Dingbian, sees through Hua’s guise and Liu’s scheme, and strongly advises Chen not to fall into the trap, but the sweet taste of success has made Chen blind to his advice. With Hua urging him on with his oiled tongue, Chen decides to remove Zhang from his position as marshal of the upcoming expedition and recklessly leads his army to attack Lishan. Seeing that the lives of the hundred-thousand-strong army are at stake, Zhang throws himself in Chen’s track as the latter sets off to beg him to change his mind, yet Chen insists on charging to Lishan and meets a total loss in a fire. Chen is stricken with guilt and regret and has no way to escape. Zhang sends a fast boat to rescue him in the nick of time and brings Chen back to the safety of his camp.

Main Cast: Wang Ying, Pan Yuejun, Yu Zhenjie, Wang Jiayu

The running time of the performance is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including an intermission of 15 minutes.

23/6 (Sat) 7:30pm

Ninghai Pingdiao Opera Excerpt Meeting the Judge from Li Huiniang

In the role of the Judge of Hell, Xue Qiaoping demonstrates shuaya (tusk stunt) with 8 boar’s fangs. Each with 8 cm long, Xue is still able to move, flip and spin the fangs with ease and speed in her mouth while Lu Yanuo (as Li Huiniang) flicks her sleeves of 4 metres with ethereal grace and at the same time walking on sloped shoes that simulate the ‘small bound feet’ of ancient Chinese women. Lu will show the audience how she retains the graceful gait of walking without swinging the skirt at all and moving as if she is floating in the air, staging to the audience series of masterly skills.

Li Huiniang, the concubine of the powerful Prime Minister, Jia Sidao, happens to see a highborn young man, Pei Shunqing, from her boat on the West Lake. Pei is picking a stem of flowers on the bank when Li cannot help exclaiming, ‘What a handsome young man!’ Driven by jealousy, Jia kills Li after overhearing the praise and Li turns into a ghost wandering in the dimensions. When Li sees the Judge of Hell, she petitions to avenge her case. The Judge is sympathetic and gives her a magical yin yang fan that can help her shuttle between the worlds of the dead and the living so that she can go back to the mortal world to take revenge on Jia.

Main Cast: Xue Qiaoping, Lu Yanuo

Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera The Old Water-carrier

The Old Water-carrier is originally a solemn tragedy, whilst the mood is offset by the comical portrayal of the water-carrier who is garrulous, nosey, quick-witted and go-getting. With the insightful portrayals of the side characters, the muddle-headed and perfunctory Mayor Hu, the guilt-ridden Zhao Sen, the scaredy-cat but worldly wise mortuary worker Zhang, the shrewish yet funny water-carrier’s wife, and the artful, slick Zhang San, the comedic side of the play is enhanced without dismissing their quick-witted, pragmatic wisdom. In terms of artistic features, the play fully displays the characteristics of vocal delivery and use of set tunes of Diaoqiang Opera. The clever use of the chorus not solely externalising the emotions of the characters and commenting on the main characters, but also give lucidity in the development of the storyline. With the chorus clearly visible to the audience and the ensemble starts the play with percussive gongs-and-drum beats (an ancient practice of Diaoqiang Opera) instead of the more common prelude music, the staging is therefore a fine mix of ancient presentation formats and modern theatrical elements.

An old water-carrier makes his living by selling water. He happens to see a scholar being wrongly sentenced by the local magistrate for a murder he did not commit. Out of his strong sense of justice, the water-carrier speaks up on the scholar’s behalf. As the investigation begins, the case becomes more and more intriguing, the water-carrier suffers a lot during the process and almost loses his life. Fortunately the real culprit is found and the innocent is freed from all charges.

Main Cast: Wang Ying, Wang Yili, Pan Haojun, Shi Linqin, Tang Zhilin

The running time of the performance is approximately 3 hours including an intermission of 15 minutes.

24/6 (Sun) 2:30pm


Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera The Farewell on the Bridge from Autumn in the Han Palace

This play was originally known as Breaking a Troubling Dream: A Lone Goose in Autumn over the Palaces of Han by Ma Zhiyuan (1250-1321), the preeminent poet and playwright of the Yuan dynasty. The two excerpts conserved in the Diaoqiang Opera repertory, Walking Around the Palace Grounds and The Farewell on the Bridge, were manuscript records of an orally told version by Zhu Caixing in the early 20th century. The Farewell on the Bridge features a sung monologue by the actor playing the Han Emperor, which runs throughout the playlet. There is a particularly moving passage in the set tune xinshuiling, so emotionally expressed that it often brings tears to the audience.

Autumn in the Han Palace tells the story of Lady Wang Zhaojun of the Han court who is forced into a political marriage. In the episode, The Farewell on the Bridge, the Xiongnu chieftain is so struck by the beauty of Zhaojun that he stations his army along the border and sends an envoy to ask for her hand, offering a peace pact in return. Faced with the lack of strategic support from his ministers at court and the weak military force on the battlefield, Emperor Yuan of Han cannot but agree to let Zhaojun marry to a faraway land and bids her a sad farewell at the bridge.

Main Cast: Wang Ying, Wang Xiaoyan, Liu Hangjiong, Pan Haojun, Tang Zhilin

Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera Catching Sanlang Alive from The Water Margin

This episode is taken from Resonating in the Netherworld from The Water Margin, written by Xu Zichang (1578-1623) of the Ming period. The staging contains many masterly acts like the ‘chair routine’, ‘swift change of face’ etc. The singing also includes passages from the kunqiang.

After being killed by Song Jiang, Yan Poxi feels lonely in the netherworld. She blames her former lover, Zhang Wenyuan (Sanlang), for having totally forgotten her, so on a dark and eerie night, her spirit drifts to Sanlang’s home, strangles him, and leads him on the leash to hell so they can be together again.

Main Cast: Wang Jiayu, Chen Tao

Ninghai Pingdiao Opera Jinlian Killing the Bandit Lijiao

The excerpt is a fine example of Pingdiao Opera in terms of vocal music and gongs-and-drums ensemble music. The stage has a unique setting that vocalist will be in the front-most part of the stage, and the actors and the ensemble are placed upstage towards the back. The accompanying ensemble is made up of ‘three big and one small’ percussive instruments, the big gong, the big drum, the big cymbals and a small gong, as well as the strings, so the set-up is highly impressive by itself. Solely on the performing skills, there are also unique features like the Unicorn Demon’s shuaya (tusk stunt), the alluring gait of Jinlian the bride, and the fox demon which struts along bolstered by the powerful monster behind it.

There is a Unicorn Demon living on the Fiery Dragon Mountain, every year, in the third lunar month, it would demand to have a maiden as wife. The people in the villages along the mountain range are scared and troubled by this fatal tribute. Now a thousand miles away in the Frosty Lotus Cave, there lives the Lotus Fairy Jinlian who has been practicing magic and making her ambrosia. She loathes the demon so much that she pledges to accomplish making the magic potion in order to get rid of it. Another third lunar month comes, the demon is having another round of picking its bride among the pretty maidens. Jinlian transforms herself into a bride candidate and succeeds in catching the attention of the demon. The demon takes Jinlian to its hideout on the mountain and conducts a wedding right away. At the bridal chamber, Jinlian finds out the demon’s weakest point on its body by pretending to hold a match between them to see who is more powerful. When the demon is drunk, Jinlian strikes at its weakest point and succeeds in getting rid of this monster. The people of the land rejoice and it’s a happy spring again.

Main Cast: Xue Qiaoping, Lu Yanuo, Hu Qiongqiong

Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera Autumn River from The Story of the Jade Hairpin

This is one of the Ming chuanqi plays interpreted in Diaoqiang Opera. Today only the manuscript versions of Stealing the Poem, Jealousy, Autumn River and Chasing after the Boat are still extant. The version of Diaoqiang Opera of the episode of Autumn River begins not with the aunt (who is the abbess of the nunnery) but with the boatman whose comical ad lib adds hilarity to the situation. In terms of music, it is a medley of many set tunes, after Miaochang has finished singing The Red Quilted Coat, the overlapping segments come in and the addition of a song cycle to the set tunes is a unique feature in Diaoqiang Opera.

Scholar Pan Bizheng of Luoyang has failed the civil service examination in Lin’an. Since his aunt is the abbess of a Taoist nunnery, he goes to visit her and lodges there temporarily. Bizheng admires the talent of a nun, Miaochang, and tries to show his love with his lute. The seduction works and the two fall in love. The abbess urges Pan to re-take the examination when she finds out the love affairs. Miaochang then hurries to the Autumn River, hires a boat and goes after Pan in hot pursuit.

Main Cast: Zhang Tingfang, Zhao Linhui

Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera Ghost of a Woman who Hangs Herself of Mulian Opera

The Ghost of a Woman who Hangs Herself won the appreciation of the iconoclastic Chinese writer, Lu Xun. According to Lu, ‘The Ghost’ is both the goddess of vengeance, fury, and goodness. This makes the character one of its kind in the genre series of Mulian Opera.

Yu Furong had suffered all kinds of devastation and ravage before she died with unmitigated grief, even after death, she fails to find a replacement and becomes a lost soul dwelling in hell for more than twenty years. Finally a possible replacement comes, the wife of Squire Dong. The ghost is ecstatic over this and does all she can to lure Madam Dong to hang herself, but when she sees Squire Dong wailing over his wife’s body, the ghost realises that the two are actually very much in love and thus decides to let Madam Dong returns the man’s world.

Main Cast: Wang Jiayu

Xinchang Diaoqiang Opera Taking the Robe with His Spear on the Bridge from Guan Yu Travelling Alone for Thousands of Miles

This excerpt is taken from the traditional repertory of Diaoqiang Opera 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 Zhao Peisheng, Yang Rongfan, Lou Xiangtang and Pan Linchan and recorded in manuscript form with supplementary parts provided by Huang Xiangcheng and Wang Yikai.

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 Guan with extreme cordiality, offering him gold and silver, and the title of marquis conferred by the Han 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 the escape, Guan has to crash three guarded passes and kill Bian Xi before the three finally manage to escape on their horses.

Main Cast: Pan Yuejun, Wang Ying, Liu Hangjiong, Tang Dongdong, Shi Xiaobang

The running time of the performance is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes including an intermission of 15 minutes.

Information provided by Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang and Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai

Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang and Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai

Performing Group

Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang

The centre was formerly known as the 'Gaoqiang Troupe of Xinchang'. It was founded in 1959 by the teachers and the students of Class of ’57 (the first batch) of the Gaoqiang (Diaoqiang) Training Course. The teachers included Yu Peibiao, Zhao Peisheng, Lou Xiangtang, Pan Lincan, Yang Rongfan, Pan Yongqian and others. The Troupe continued to offer seven courses after that in a bid to train up new blood and ensure continuum of the genre. In 1981, a team of experts from Beijing, led by Gong Hede, came to watch their performance of Diaoqiang Opera. They concluded that the Diaoqiang Opera of Xinchang is definitely different from the others in the gaoqiang system, and should therefore be reinstated to its original name, diaoqiang. The troupe therefore changed its name to Diaoqiang Troupe of Xinchang. To conserve the Diaoqiang Opera repertory, the Troupe published several books covering the repertory, set tunes, music in this subgenre, as well as the comic series, The Investiture of the Gods and The Battle at Jiujiang. In 1986, it revived The Story of the West Chamber – Northern Repertory, with video-recordings put in the archives of the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Culture and Art. The original productions of the Troupe, namely The Battle at Jiujiang, The Messenger of Good News and The Good Official Zhen won respective Repertory Awards at the 10th to 12th Theatre Festival of Zhejiang.

Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai

The Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai was formerly known as the ‘Pingdiao Troupe of Ninghai’ and the ‘Yue Opera Troupe of Ninghai’. It changed to the present name in 2012 after making an application to the government on grounds of streamlining subgenres in accordance with cultural system reform. The Troupe gives more than 200 shows each year, and currently boasts a repertory of more than 30 plays. It has created many original productions in recent years and won many awards. For example, the Pingdiao Opera mythology play, Silver Vase and Celestial Dew and the Yue Opera play, The Grand Red Trousseaux – Love through Thick and Thin won the ‘Five One’ Project Award of Ningbo City; two Yue Opera productions, Nymph of the Azure Pond and The Long Lost Dream on West Lake, won respective Repertory Awards at the 10th and 11th Theatre Festival of Zhejiang, with many of its members also winning Outstanding Awards. In 2011, the production of Ninghai Pingdiao Opera, shuaya (tusk stunt), won a Shanhua Award for Chinese Literature. The Pingdiao Opera excerpt Jinlian Killing the Bandit Lijiao was performed at the Chinese traditional theatre variety show presented by the Chinese Society for Theatre Performance and won the highest commendations from the top artists in Chinese traditional theatre.

Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang and Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai


22-23/6   (Fri-Sat)   7:30pm
24/6   (Sun)   2:30pm

Auditorium, Ko Shan Theatre New Wing
Price:    price 2 $320   price 3 $250   price 4 $150
Internet Booking:
seat plan
  • With Chinese and English surtitles
  • Please refer to the Extension Activities page for details of extension activities
  • The running time of each performance is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including an intermission of 15 minutes.

Programme Enquiries: 2268 7325
Ticketing Enquiries: 3761 6661
Credit Card Telephone Booking: 2111 5999
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Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang and Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai

Programme Trailer

Xinchang Diaoqiang Heritage Protection and Development Centre of Zhejiang and Pingdiao Art Heritage Centre of Ninghai

House Programme

house programme