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5. Three Famous Song-and-Dance Dramas of the Tang Dynasty

The Chinese nation had experienced many wars and social turbulence before entering the period of the Sui (581 -618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties. During these two dynasties, contacts and conflicts among various ethnic groups promoted the mixture of various Cultures. The Sui Dynasty gave birth to the "Nine-Part Music," including both Chinese and foreign music and dances, to which one more part was added in the Tang Dynasty. Under the influence of folk arts, songs and dances came one step closer to theater

The drama Botou (Moving the Head)originated in the Western Regions. Its story goes as follows: One day a tiger killed the father of a young northern tribesman. The young man went to the mountain to look for his father's corpse, and killed the tiger. The mountain had eight ranges, and he heard eight songs. With his hair in disarray, the performer, dressed in white mourning clothes, wept over his fathers corpse. Lord Huang of the East China Sea, mentioned above, does not include songs, but Moving the Head has songs. Lady Tayao describes a man by the name of Su Zhonglang, who, whenever he got drunk, would beat his wife. His beautiful wife was good at singing. She often recounted her Sufferings in song to her neighbors, the onlookers singing in harmony.

Each of the three famous song-and-dance dramas of the Tang Dynasty (King Lanling, Botou and Lady Tayao)has a simple story, characters, conflicts, plots and an ending. In Lady Tayao, singing, recitation and action are all vehicles for the plot (including the wife's singing and the couple's fighting). Formalism was a feature of these dramas:for instance, Su Zhonglang always wore a black hat, a red robe and a red mask, and Su's wife was played by an actor in women's clothes. This is similar to the jing(painted face)and dan(female) characters in modern operas.(Fig.2-6)


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