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Chinese 674

C H I N E S E   O P E R A

Professor Marjorie K.M. Chan
Dept. of E. Asian Lang. & Lit.
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

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CREDITS: 5 credits. U G
PREREQUISITES: No prerequisites
CALL NUMBER: 04765-9
TIME: F    1:30-5:00 p.m.
PLACE: 071 Hagerty Hall (1775 College Road)
(multimedia classroom with internet connection)
OFFICE HOURS: W   2:00-4:00 p.m. (Week 2 onwards), or by appointment
Office:     362 Hagerty Hall   (1775 College Road)
Tel:        292.3619   (292-5816 for messages, 292.3225 for faxes)
E-mail:   chan.9 @osu.edu   (close the gap)
COURSE PAGE: Chinese 674. Chinese Opera.
URL: people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/chan9/c674.htm
MC's Home Page:
MC's ChinaLinks:

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TEXTBOOKS   Available from SBX (1806 N. High Street. 291-9528) unless indicated otherwise.

  1. Siu, Wang-Ngai (with Peter Lovrick). 1997. Chinese Opera: Images and Stories. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press; Seattle: U. of Washington Press. [ISBN: 0-7748-0592-7]
    Optional. For reading and reference (stage craft and synopses of regional operas). To be available from SBX.

  2. Xiao, Xiaoming (chief editor). 2002. Fascinating Stage Arts. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. [Paperback; ISBN: 7-119-03053-1]
    Required. To be available from SBX.
Siu 1997 Xiao 2002
  1. Additional Readings and Other Resources
    . Will be made available during the quarter. (See Readings list.)
Main Library Reserve:
Readings and reference books are placed at Main Library's Closed Reserve. Check OSU Libraries' Course Reserves (by Prof/TA or Course) for an online list of books placed there for Chinese 674. More books and other readings will be added during the quarter as needed. (Note: Reserved materials for a given course are listed online for the current quarter only.)

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An introduction to Chinese opera as traditional culture, dramatic literature, and performing art; study of select plays and recorded stage performances; multimedia-based, illustrated discussions of various aspects of the theatre.

This culture course, taught in English with no prerequisites, is an introduction to China's long and rich operatic tradition. While the most famous, and preeminent, form of Chinese opera today is Peking opera (Beijing opera), other forms -- including Kunqu and various regional operas -- will also be introduced for comparison and analysis. The course will explore Chinese opera and its historical roots -- in both popular and elite culture -- as well as various aspects of stagecraft (including music, singing, face-painting, gestures, props, etc.) through reading and examination of some representative operas and their performances.

This course studies the origins of Chinese opera, its historical importance in Chinese society and popular culture, well-known plots and their literary and historical (or semi-historical and folk legend) sources, famous dramatists and their scripts, well-known performers, some local traditions among the nearly 400 different regional operas sung in local dialects, and last but not least, the stage arts -- role types, training for those roles (including acrobatics and martial arts training), costumes appropriate for specific role types, gestures and mime, dance, stage and other props, musical instruments, arias and tunes, etc.

The course will examine Chinese opera using both print media and multimedia resources. Print media materials are readings that include studies on the topic, as well as synopses and select plays translated into English. Multimedia materials consist of documentaries on Chinese opera and opera performers, in addition to excerpts of recorded stage performances (supplemented by film productions). Class discussion covers both print and multimedia resources used in the course. The course takes a theme-based organization of the Chinese opera stories in introducing stage productions not only from Peking opera, but also from Kunqu and some regional varieties (Yue opera (Zhejiang Province), Cantonese opera, huangmei (yellow plum) opera, Ping opera (sung in colloquial Mandarin), Chaozhou opera, etc.). As Chinese opera plots are traditionallly divided into military (battles and other military exploits) and civil (romance, court cases, etc.), representative operas from both types of plots will be studied. The examination of various aspects of Chinese opera -- including role types, make-up, costume and props, color choice in make-up and costumes, gesture and mime, singing, music, instrumentation, scenery, etc. -- will be integrated into the study of the operas introduced in this course. Also available for the course are colorful Chinese opera costumes, accessories, and props, as well as musical instruments, which Professor David Ch'en had kindly donated to our department. (Professor Ch'en had put together these costumes, props, etc., over the years when he taught Chinese 674.)

This course will be conducted through lectures, guest demos and presentations (when they can be arranged), discussion of readings, viewing and discussion of video resources, individual and small-group assignments in class, and students' presentation of their homework assignments and research project. Computer technology will be integrated into the course (demo of frame-capture, digitizing, video-editing, etc.). A mailing list for the class will also be used for dissemination of information and student-initiated discussions concerning topics brought up in class. All class assignments will be placed online and internally-linked for class-viewing and discussion.

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  1. Read and reflect on all assigned readings prior to class lectures and discussion.
  2. Attend class regularly, and participate actively in class discussions of readings and videorecorded materials.
  3. Submit three homework assignments (each about 3-4 double-spaced pages, including references) and a research project.[1]

  4. For the research project:
    1. Turn in a one-page, double-spaced, research proposal with select references in Week 6.
    2. Present an oral version of the research project at the end of the quarter.[2]
    3. Submit a final research project in digital format (about 10-12 pages, double-spaced if it is a traditional paper, or equivalent if it is a multimedia project).
[1]   The homework assignments are based primarily on the textbooks, readings, and videorecordings. The assignments should be submitted in hardcopy format and in digital format (RTF, PDF, HTML, or some other format) that will be internally-linked for class use. Files are to be uploaded by the students to their personal web subdirectory if they have one; otherwise submitted to the instructor for uploading.

[2]   Prepare a digital presentation (e.g., PowerPoint presentation)

      Note: A production of one or more scenes from a Chinese opera may be presented as an alternative. The final written project will then address matters pertaining to that production.

Students are advised to adhere to The Ohio State University's Code of Student Conduct, with particular reference here to "Academic misconduct," defined as "[a]ny activity that tends to compromise the academic integrity of the university, or subvert the educational process." (See section 3335-23-04 Prohibited conduct.) The University's policy on academic misconduct will be enforced in accordance with Faculty Rule 3335-5-54.

Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. The Office for Disability Services is located in 150 Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Avenue (Tel: 292.3307. TDD: 292.0901).

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There will be no midterm or final examination. Grading will be based on:

Class discussions/participation 30%
Homework assignments (3) 30%
Research project (all phases) 40%

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Classes are held on Fridays, with class time divided into Part A and Part B.

This is a preliminary schedule. Activities, readings, and opera selections may be modified when the quarter begins.

Jan. 07
  Part A
Orientation and Introduction

  • What is Chinese "opera"?
  • How are Chinese operas similar to western operas?
        How are they different?
  • The Chinese stage, entrances and exits, etc.
  • Pantomime, dance, acrobatics, martial arts skills, etc. in Chinese opera

  • Video & Discussion:
        · What is Chinese Opera?
        · A Primer to Peking Opera

  • Note: Read ahead for Week 2.

  • Jan. 07
      Part B
    Video & Discussion:

  • "The Perfumed Handkerchief"
        . Excerpts from Peking and Chaozhou operas

  • "Picking Up the Jade Bracelet"
        . Excerpts from Peking and Cantonese operas

  • Viewing and Discussion:
    • Stage performances versus off-stage film productions of Chinese opera; "The Perfumed Handkerchief" and role types, costumes, scenery, props, social and cultural themes, etc.

    • Opera synopses & video snippets on pantomime and acrobatics in fighting scenes --
      e.g., "Autumn River", "Uproar at the Yan Mansion", "The Crossroads", "Wu Song's Fight at Lion Tower", etc.

    Jan. 14
      Part A
  • Xiao (2002), Ch. I & II
  • Mackerras (1990), Ch. I & II

  • Jan. 14
      Part B
  • Mackerras (1990), Ch. III, IV & V

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

    Jan. 21
      Part A
  • Mackerras (1975), Ch. 3
  • Xiao (2002), Ch. III & IV (1st half)

  • Video excerpts: Documentaries on the training of performers and their lives (e.g., Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, etc.)

        Due: Homework 1

  • Jan. 21
      Part B
  • Mackerras (1975), Ch. 4-5 (ignore spoken drama)

  • Discussion: Cross-dressing in Chinese opera

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

    Jan. 28
      Part A
  • Scott (1983)
  • Xiao (2002), Ch. V & VI

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion
  • Jan. 28
      Part B
  • Xiao (2002), Ch. IV (2nd half)
  • Siu (1997), Ch. 1 & 2
  • Duchesne (2000) (skim)

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

    Feb. 04
      Part A
  • Scott (1975), "Picking Up the Jade Bracelet"

  • Some synopses from such operas as:
        "Three Smiles" ("The Romantic Scholar", "Tang Bohu Chooses Qiu Xiang"), "Rainbow Pass", "Snatching the Umbrella", "Fan Lihua and Xue Dingshan", etc.

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

        Due: Homework 2

  • Feb. 04
      Part B
  • Scott (1967), "Ssu Lang Visits His Mother" [Fourth brother of the Yang family visits his Mother]

  • Lecture & Discussion: Saga of the generals and female warriors of the Yang family (N. Song dynasty)

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

        (Feb. 9 -- Happy Chinese New Year!)
                  (Year of the Rooster)

    Feb. 11
      Part A
  • Scott (1974), "A Girl Setting Out for Trial"
  • Hung (1971), "The Faithful Harlot"
        (Yu Tang Chun)

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

        Due: One-page research proposal

  • Feb. 11
      Part B
  • Some synopses from such operas as:
        "Qin Xianglian, the Forsaken Wife" ("The Execution of Chen Shimei"), "A Leopard Cat Substituted for a New-Born Prince"; "Judge Bao and the Black Bowl"; "Fifteen Strings of Cash", etc.

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

    Feb. 18
      Part A
  • Hung (1971), "Two Men On a String"
        (Lü Bu and Diao Chan, Phoenix Pavilion,
        A Stratagem of Interlocking Rings)

  • Lecture and Discussion: Opera plots and stories from the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

        Due: Homework 3

  • Feb. 18
      Part B
  • Some synopses from:
        "Ruse of the Empty City", "Grass Boats Borrowing Arrows", "The Beauty Trap", "Xi Shi, The Eternal Beauty", etc.

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

    Feb. 25
      Part A
  • Mitchell (1973), "The White Snake"

  • One or two synopses from other tales of romance between supernatural beings and young scholars:
        "The Fairy Carp of Azure Lake" ("The Two Miss Peonys and the Two Judge Baos"), "The Dragon King's Daughter", "The Lotus Lamp" ("The Magic Lotus Lantern"), etc.

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion
  • Feb. 25
      Part B
  • Wang (1971), "Snow Elegant"
        (The Phoenix Returns to Its Nest)

  • One or two synopses from:
        "Sister Thirteen", "Hua Mulan", "Mu Guiying, Woman Warrior of the Yang Family", "The Lute", "Romance of the Western Chamber", "Peony Pavilion", "Dream of the Red Chamber", "Peach Blossom Fan", "Beauty Defies Tyranny", "The Hegemon King Bids Farewell to His Concubine", "Meng Lijun", "Legend of the Purple Hairpin", "Moonlight Pavilion", "Wang Baochuan" ("The Red-Mane Steed"), "Princess Changping", "Searching the School-House"; "Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai" ("The Butterfly Lovers"), etc.

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

    Mar. 04
      Part A
  • Mitchell (1973), "The Wild Boar Forest"

  • Opera synopses from "Wu Song Kills a Tiger", etc.

  • Lecture and discussion: Lin Chong, Wu Song, and other heroes in the novel, The Water Margin (a.k.a. Outlaws of the Marsh).

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

  • Mar. 04
      Part B
  • Opera synopses on "The Monkey King Borrows a Fan", "Orphan of the Zhao Family", etc.

  • Lecture and discussion: The adventures of Sun Wukong (Monkey King) in the novel, Journey to the West.

  • General discussion: Integrity, loyalty, revenge, and sacrifice in Chinese culture reflected in Chinese operas.

  • Video excerpts for viewing and discussion

    Mar. 11
      Part A
  • Lecture & Discussion: East Meets West -- Influence of Traditional Chinese Opera on the West and Vice Versa.

  • Discussion: Chinese Opera -- Its Current and Future Status in China and Abroad.

  • Student presentations

  • Mar. 11
      Part B
  • Student presentations (cont'd)

  • Prev WEEK 11.   EXAM WEEK

    Term paper due: Tuesday, 15 March 2005, 12:00 noon

    (Note: Request for extension must be made by the end of Week 10.)

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    1. TEXTBOOKS.   (Available from SBX)

      1. Xiao, Xiaoming (chief editor). 2002. Fascinating Stage Arts. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. [Paperback; ISBN: 7-119-03053-1]

      2. Siu, Wang-Ngai (with Peter Lovrick). 1997. Chinese Opera: Images and Stories. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press; Seattle: U. of Washington Press. [ISBN: 0-7748-0592-7]
        (Excerpts: Chapter 1. "The Dramatic Tradition"; Chapter 2. "Regional Opera Styles". In addition, some synopses will be selected from this textbook.)

    1. ADDITIONAL READINGS. (* Opera scripts translated into English)
      Red Boat

      1. Duchesne, Isabelle (ed.). 2000. Red Boat on the Canal: Cantonese Opera in New York Chinatown. New York, NY: Museum of Chinese in the Americas.
        [Note: An exhibition, A Rare Flower: A Century of Cantonese Opera in Canada, organized by the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia (in Vancouver, Canada), showcased a selection of costume pieces from the Museum's collection of Cantonese opera costumes and accessories, a collection that is one of the largest and oldest in the world. It comprises more than 500 pieces preserved and presented to the Museum by Vancouver's Jin Wah Sing Musical Association.]

      2. * Hung, Josephine Huang. 1971. Classical Chinese Plays. Second edition. Taipei: Mei Ya Publications.
        (Excerpts: "The Faithful Harlot" (Yü T'ang Ch'un) and "Two Men on a String" (Feng Yi T'ing).
        [Note: The first edition, entitled Children of the Pear Garden: Five Plays from the Chinese Opera, was published in 1961 in Taipei by Heritage Press.])

      3. Mackerras, Colin. 1975. The Chinese Theatre in Modern Times: From 1840 to the Present Day. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd.
        (Excerpts: Part One (The Theatre in Peking Until 1949): Chapter 3. "The Peking Theatre of the Republic"; Chapter 4. "Actors in Peking Society"; Chapter 5. "The Theatre in Peking Society".)

      4. Mackerras, Colin. 1990. Chinese Drama: A Historical Survey. Beijing: New World Press. [Paperback; ISBN: 7-80005-096-3]
        (Excerpts: Chapter I. "The Forerunners of Drama in China"; Chapter II. "The Development of Drama in South China, Twelfth-Nineteenth Centuries"; Chapter III. "Forms of North Chinese Drama, Thirteenth-Nineteenth Centuries"; Chapter IV. "ThePihuang System and the Peking Opera, Eighteenth-Nineteenth Centuries".)

      5. * Mitchell, John D. 1973. The Red Pear Garden: Three Great Dramas of Revolutionary China.
        Boston: David R. Godine. (Excerpts: "The White Snake" and "The Wild Boar Forest".)
        Snow Elegant   

      6. * Scott, A. C. 1967. Traditional Chinese Plays. Volume 1. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
        (Excerpt: "Ssu Lang Visits his Mother" (Ssu Lang T'an Mu).)

      7. * Scott, A. C. 1975. Traditional Chinese Plays. Volume 3. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
        (Excerpts: "Picking Up the Jade Bracelet" (Shih yü-cho) and "A Girl Setting Out for Trial" (Nü ch'i-chieh).)

      8. Scott, A. C. 1983. "The Performance of Classical Theater." In: Colin Mackerras (ed.), Chinese Theater: From Its Origins to the Present Day. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (Paperback edition, 1988.) Pages 118-144.

      9. * Wang, Elizabeth Te-Chen. 1971. Snow Elegant. A Chinese Classical Play. Translated and Adapted by Elizabeth Te-Chen Wang from the Opera "Feng Huan Ch'ao" by Chi Yu-shan. Taipei: Mei Ya Publications, Inc.

      10. (Short opera synopses to be selected from online and published sources.)

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      sun 1996
    1. Alley, Rewi. 1984. Peking Opera [Text by Rewi Alley. Pictures by Eva Siao, Weng Naiqiang, Zhang Zudao, Di Xianghua, and Others]. Beijing: New World Press.
      alley 1984

    2. Arlington, L. C. (Lewis Charles). 1930. The Chinese Drama from the Earliest Times Until Today. [A panoramic study of the art in China, tracing its origin and describing its actors (in both male and female roles), their costumes and make-up, superstitions and stage slang, the accompanying music and musical instruments, concluding with synopses of thirty Chinese plays, by L.C. Arlington, with a Pien (匾) by Mei Lan-fang and a foreword by H.A. Giles, Ll.d. (Aberdeen).] Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh. [Re-issued in 1966. Bronx, NY: Benjamin Blom, Inc.]

    3. Dolby, William. 1978. Eight Chinese Plays from the Thirteenth Century to the Present [Translated with an Introduction by William Dolby]. New York: Columbia University Press.

    4. Huang, Shang. 1985. Tales from Peking Opera [Illustrations: Ma De]. Beijing: New World Press.

    5. Johnson, Elizabeth Lominska. 1996. "Cantonese opera in its Canadian context: The contemporary vitality of an old tradition," Theatre Research in Canada / Recherches Théâtrales au Canada 17.1: 24-45.

    6. Johnson, Elizabeth Lominska. 1997. "Cantonese opera costumes in Canada." Arts of Asia 27.1: 112-125.
      Pan 1995

    7. Li, Siu Leung [Edward Siu-leung]. 2003. Cross-Dressing in Chinese Opera. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

    8. Lowe, H. Y. 1942. Stories from Chinese Drama. Peking (Beijing): Peking Chronicle Press.

    9. Mackerras, Colin. 1975. The Chinese Theatre in Modern Times: From 1840 to the Present Day. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd.
      (Excerpts: Part Two (The Theatre Outside Peking Until 1949): Chapter 6. "The Theatre in Chinese Society"; Chapter 7. "Shanghai and the Lower Yangtze Valley"; Chapter 8. "The South-Eastern Provinces: Fukien and Kwangtung"; Chapter 9. "The Middle Yangtze Region: Hupeh and Szechwan".)

    10. Pan, Xiafeng. 1995. The Stagecraft of Peking Opera: From Its Origins to the Present Day. Beijing: New World Press.

    11. Scott, A.C. The Classical Theatre of China. 1957. New York: Macmillan Company. [Republished in 2001. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.]
      Yim 1989

    12. Sun, Jie. 1996. Peking Opera Painted Faces -- With Notes on 200 Operas [Text by Zhao Menglin and Yan Jiqing. Drawings by Zhao Menglin]. Third edition. Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers.

    13. Tan Gudnason, Jessica and Li Gong. 2001. Chinese Opera. New York: Abbeville Press. (Photographs by Jessica Tan Gudnason; text by Li Gong (the actress in such well-known films as Farewell My Concubine and The Emperor and the Assassin). This is mainly a "coffee-table" book that consists of illustrations -- mostly close-ups (for a detailed look at the make-up and headdress) and portraits of performers in their colorful and elaborate costumes; performers are from Peking and Cantonese opera troupes as well as all-female, Wu-dialect Yue opera troupes from Shanghai.)

    14. Wu, Zuguang, Zuolin Huang, and Shaowu Mei. 1981. Peking Opera and Mei Lanfang: A Guide to China's Traditional Theatre and the Art of its Great Master. Beijing: New World Press.

    15. Yim, Shui-yuen (ed.). 1989. Yue Ju Bai Nian Tui Bian [粵劇百年蜕變] (= A Century of Cantonese Opera). Hong Kong: Regional Council, Hong Kong. (Exhibition catalogue with Chinese-English bilingual text.)

    16. Yue Ju Fu Shi [粵劇服飾]. (= Costumes of Cantonese Opera). 1988. Hong Kong: Regional Council, Hong Kong. (Exhibition catalogue with Chinese-English bilingual text; preface by the Curator, Regional Council Museums, Hong Kong.)

    17. Yung, Bell. 1989. Cantonese Opera: Performance as Creative Process. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    18. Zung, Cecilia S. L. 1937. Secrets of the Chinese Drama: A Complete Explanatory Guide to Actions and Symbols as Seen in the Performance of Chinese Dramas [With Synopses of Fifty Popular Chinese Plays and 240 Illustrations]. Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh. [Re-issued in 1964. New York: Benjamin Blom.]

    19. (more to be added later ...)

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    1. Ohio State University:

    2. RedLightGreen.com. (RedLightGreen.com delivers information from members of the Research Libraries Group (RLG) concerning more than 130 million books for education and research; and it links students back to their campus libraries for the books they select. Founded in 1974, RLG is a nonprofit membership corporation of universities, national libraries, archives, and other memory institutions with remarkable collections for research and learning.)

    3. (more to be added later ...)

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    cardinal To cite this page:
    Marjorie Chan's Chinese 674: Chinese Opera (Winter 2005)
    <http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/chan9/c674.htm> [Accessed   <DATE> ]
    visitors since 28 October 2004.
    Created: 23 October 2004. Last update: 4 January 2005.

    The Chinese 674 logo at the top of this course syllabus shows a young scholar walking up an imaginary flight of stairs to his awaiting wife standing at the top of the stairs. [Source: Cantonese opera (粵劇), "Nao Yan Fu" 鬧嚴府 (Uproar at the Yan Mansion).] The small brush painting on this webpage by Ma De, depicting a scene from "Qiu Jiang" 秋江 (Autumn River), is scanned from Peking Opera (1984), published by New World Press, Beijing, China. The jacket covers for the textbooks and for other books on this page are images scanned for this course syllabus. The costume on the cover of Red Boat on the Canal is a reversible robe for an immortal, on which is embroidered a bat, symbol of fortune.

    Copyright © 200x Marjorie K.M. Chan. All rights reserved on course syllabus and on-line materials developed for the course.

    URL:     http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/chan9/c674.htm