Erjiaxian 二夹弦: Bozhou’s regional opera and my first time on stage as a man

Erjiaxian 二夹弦: Bozhou’s regional opera and my first time on stage as a man

China has many different operas. One of the most popular one for sure is the Beijing opera. However, every region in China has its own traditional opera form.

In January 2015 I had the chance to learn more about Bozhou’s regional opera and even take part in one of the shows. The traditional Erjiaxian opera actually originates in an area covering Shandong province, eastern and northern Henan province, northern Jiangsu province and of course northern Anhui province, where we live and the opera is most popular.

Its main musical instrument is the sihu 四胡, a musical instrument with four strings in two pairs, thus the name: er 二 meaning two, xian 弦 meaning string and jia 夹 meaning in between.

In 2007 Erjiaxian was selected as an intangible cultural heritage and later in 2008 it was even inscribed on the list of the National Intangible Cultural Heritages

My first Erjiaxian performance

When they told me we are going to visit Bozhou’s biggest Erjiaxian school, I was really excited… at first. Only when we arrived they told me that I will be performing on stage later that day… with audience!

One of the female teachers, and also experienced Erjiaxian performer, gave me a ten minute quick introduction. She taught me a few movements and the text for the part I was supposed to sing on stage. The problem was that the text was in an obscure Chinese dialect not even my husband could understand. There was no way I could memorize it in time… not mentioning how much I actually hate to sing!

Without more practice they shipped me off to Bozhou’s ancient theatre Hua Xi Lou 花溪楼 to prepare for the daily performance. Together with the professional troupe and my teacher I was supposed to go on stage and perform infront of an audience!

And to make it even more awkward, I was performing the role of a man. After complete make up and putting on clothes, I really didn’t look like myself anymore. The costume didn’t take away my nervousness though… I thought I would die on stage… They promised it’s only going to be five minutes, but it turned out to be twenty, felt like an hour!

It was an interesting experience, but one is for sure, I will never do it again.

Below are a few photos from that day… I think they speak for themselves.

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

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