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Art form plays key role at the movies for decades

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2022-10-28 08:41

Zhang performs her water sleeves dance in the movie. [Photo by Yang Shaoduo/China Daily]

Peking Opera is no stranger to the cinema.

In 1905, the first Chinese movie ever made, The Battle of Dingjunshan, featured a recording of a Peking Opera show with the same title performed by the celebrated master Tan Xinpei (1847-1917).

Movies featuring the art form were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Masters of the genre starred in films that have become valuable material for researchers. In the 1960s and 1970s, revolutionary-themed modern Peking Opera theatrical productions became increasingly popular.

In 2011, the government-supported Peking Opera Film Project was launched, bringing together top artists and movie studios to transform classic shows into feature-length movies.

According to a People's Daily report, a total of 16 Peking Opera companies, schools and film studios have joined the project since it started. More than 60 leading artists have starred in the 19 Peking Opera movies that have been shot.

Yin Xiaodong, president of the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, said: "The big screen highlights facial expressions, movements and detailed gestures made by Peking Opera performers, giving audiences a clearer view of the ancient art form. Moreover, as there is only a limited number of seats in traditional theaters, cinematic versions overcome the limitations of time and space — giving classic performances immortality."

In 2015, when Yin was vice-president of the National Peking Opera Company, he helped produce the movie Dragon and the Phoenix Bringing Prosperity, based on the eponymous classic Peking Opera.

The film The Jewelry Purse, based on the classic work performed by Peking Opera master Cheng Yanqiu (1904-1958), is the latest movie listed in the Peking Opera Film Project.

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