鷓鴣戲 Zhegu Opera
Inscribed list: National List, Third Batch
Inventory no.: IV-146
Nominating unit(s): Shandong Province, Zibo City, Linzi District
Zhegu Opera is a rare Chinese opera genre, popular in the area of Zibo City, Shandong. The province is also known for being the birthplace of many other opera genres, including Taiping Diao and Shandong BangZi.
Zhegu (partridge) is a type of bird that mainly inhabits the southern part of China. They are provincially-protected animals. Their call is melodious and became the inspiration for the singing method in Zhegu Opera, in which singers mimic the call of the Zhegu by holding long pauses in the vocals.
The history of Zhegu Opera can be traced to the Qing Dynasty, during the Qianlong period. According to the information inscribed on a stele on Mount Lao, the basis of Zhegu Opera is originally a local folk tune created by a female Buddhist Monk. She incorporated the singing style of a zhegu bird to her tunes during her journey and invented a unique folk tune that was appreciated by the locals. Later, the folk tune was passed among the locals and eventually became widespread. Zhegu opera was mainly based on folk tunes, before evolving into a type of small, local opera. Under the influence of major operas, they started to perform some major Chinese opera works like Taigong Zhuan in their own performance style.
Later, the nun also started to teach the villagers of Shang He Tou village (located at Zhutai Town, Shandong) the unique folk tune, and thus successfully nurtured the first generation of Zhegu Opera artists.
Their makeup, dialogues, performance mode, and costumes are mainly based on both local cultural characterstics and Peking Opera. Performers mainly use percussion for the instrumental accompaniment, along with Erhu, Sanyan and Yueqin. The social status of each characters is made obvious based on the dialect used for their lines, as the upper-class characters will speak in a fluctuating way, similar to those in Peking Opera. For those who are from the lower class, they will use the local accent to read the lines out. The patterns of each character’s painted faces differ from that in Peking Opera. There are a total 15 Qupai and 50 scripts in Zhegu Opera.
Currently, Zhegu Opera has improved a lot under the influence of other opera genres, and they have some notable works like Rouge (Yanzhi), Nan Beijing, The Pink Lake and Long Bao Zi, However, some of the original manuscripts of the Zhegu productions have been lost, and the opera faces the challenge of attracting new inheritors to continue on the tradition.
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