During the Song Dynasty (960-1279),
urban life became very active. In the flourishing night markets permanent arenas
for performances, known as Wapeng, appeared and it was here that the Zaju
Documents surviving from the Song Dynasty
described how a Zaju drama had one scene and two or three parts. The
first part, or Yanduan, was the prelude, the content of which was
predictable; the second part was the main play, telling a story with intricate
contents; and the third part, or Sanduan (the loose part), was a comical
ending. A Zaju drama was usually performed by four to five players. The
roles are Moni, Yingxi, Zhuangdan (for all female roles),
and Gu (for officials).
Clashes between the Song and Kin Dynasties
(960-1234) resulted in the introduction of Zaju to the area of north
China under the rule of Kin.
There they became known as Kin Yuanben or Kin Zaju. The drama of
the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) is called Yuan Zaju.
No scripts of the Song or Kin Zaju
have survived, but we do know the titles of 280 Zaju of the Song, and 690
Yuanben of the Kin. The Zaju dramas of the Song and Kin were still
narrative songs and dances, plus dramatic performance, and they provided the
groundwork for the birth of the Southern Drama and the Northern Zaju.
2. Southern Drama
During the Song Dynasty, Wenzhou was an important trading port in
Zhejiang Province, south of China. It was in Wenzhou that a fully developed Chinese
theater sprang to life, in the form of the Southern Drama.
Though comparatively unsophisticated, the
Southern Drama had the basic characteristics of Chinese theater. First of all,
it presented a complete story through singing, recitation, actions and other
means. The narration of the story occupied an important position in the Southern
Drama, and each drama had a beginning and an end. The length of these dramas
varied from 20 programs to 50 or more, thus providing flexibility to reflect
wide and complicated social issues.
The tunes of the Southern Drama came mainly
from folk music, and the Ci poetry tonal patterns and rhyme schemes, as
well as Zhugongdiao in various tempos. The songs could be solos,
antiphonal or choral, and were interspersed with recitation, either monologues
or dialogues. The combination of singing and recitation is characteristic of the
Southern Drama. Bodily movements were called Ke and Jie, symbolic
and exaggerated actions, in the Southern Drama.
In the Southern Drama there were five
stereotyped characters: Sheng (male characters), Dan (female
characters), Jing (or fujing, painted face), Mo (or fumo) and
Chou (male clowns).
The representative works are: The Story
of the Pipa, Top Scholar Zhang Xie, Zhu Wen and the Taiping
Coins, The Story of the Hairpin, The Story of the White
Rabbit, The Two Moon Prayer and The Story of killing the Dog,
As compared with the performances of former
ages, focusing on comic gestures and remarks, the Southern Drama marked great
artistic progress, with impromptu comic gestures and remarks by the Chou,
Jing and Mo being used for defusing tension.
3. Poetic Drama
During the Jiajing reign period (1522-1566)
of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) the Southern Drama developed into another
theatrical form -- Poetic Drama. Chinese theater entered its second golden era.
As Poetic Dramas extended from the
Ming Dynasty into the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), they carried on and improved the
tradition of the Southern Drama. A script generally consisted of two parts and
40-50 programs. Playwrights paid particular attention to well-knit composition,
and the use of comic gestures and remarks. The tunes of poetic dramas developed
on the basis of that for the Southern Drama, Northern Drama as well as Yuan
Zaju. One program might use more than one musical mode, depending on the
demands of the plot. All the characters might sing.
included numerous local tunes, of which Kunshanqiang, Yiyangqiang
and Gaoqiang tunes were the most popular.
of the Sword, The Story of Mingteng and Washing Gauze
were the three most important poetic dramas created during the reign of
Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty.