China's dramatic literature mainly includes opera, a Chinese traditional form, and drama, a Western one that was introduced in the 20th century.
As an important part of Chinese culture, China's classic opera has been for centuries well accepted by audiences of all ages thanks to its fascinatingly artistic performance. Honored as one of three ancient play styles together with tragicomedy in ancient Greece and the Indian opera, classic Chinese opera is of great significance in the world theater community.
Chinese opera covers a long history. There were already songs and dances reflecting the life of the people in the primitive age.
According to Shangshu Shun, under the rule of Emperor Shun of theShang Dynasty(16-11th century BC), the primitive people, dressed in animal skin, danced while beating stones before and after hunting to worship or thank God. Meanwhile they also danced to celebrate harvests.
Another tale was about Getianshi, one of the tribes in the primitive age. With the creation of a musical instrument made from an ox's tail, a kind of music to which people in the tribe sang and danced came into being.
Although the above two examples are just a mirror of the ways the primitives hunted and lived and are far away from the form of opera, they can be considered as the very beginning of plays because songs and dances are important parts of an play.
The formation of operas can be dated back to Qin (221-206BC) and Han (206BC-220AD) dynasties. After a time, it became fully developed by the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties. The peak period of China's opera covers around 800 years and about 360 different categories.
Mixed Opera in theYuan Dynastywas regarded as the first full-blown form of opera, and has seen great achievements with the gradual development through the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties to even today.
Five basic forms have appeared: Southern Opera in the Song and Yuan dynasties, Mixed Opera in the Yuan Dynasty, Legend in the Ming and Qing dynasties, the local operas in theQing Dynasty, and contemporary and modern operas.