An Innovative Journey into the Tradition of Peking Opera

We kicked off our 2022 Worldwise Events with practitioners from Yuyin Society, one of the most prestigious Peking Opera companies in China, visiting our schools.
Yuyin Society joined us for a second time as part of our Diversity Arts Series, now in its 10th year, where we invite world-renowned artists in theatre, music, poetry and various other types of art to engage with our students and faculty. 
This year, we planned and coordinated three different activities that could be customised for our schools – a day tour of Yuyinge, a theatre built in the Qing Dynasty; a two-day in-person Peking Opera workshop; and an online Peking Opera event. These events brought a rich, interdisciplinary learning experience to our students: music, art, drama, Mandarin and, of course, an awareness of Chinese cultural history. 

Online Peking Opera experience

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make travel and in-person events unfeasible, true to our pioneering spirit we collaborated with Yuyin Society to develop the theatre company’s first-ever online offering to bring this learning experience to our Singapore school. Yuyin Society recorded a video to immerse them in Peking Opera, just in time for their Chinese Culture Day. In addition to classic Peking Opera performances, the video included an exclusive backstage view of what professional actors do behind the scenes, especially how they did their facial make-up and wore costume headpieces. Students learned about how different make-up and costumes would represent and reflect characters’ different personalities and status.

The video also introduced musical instruments and props, the two other important components of Peking Opera. The teacher explained and demonstrated the three basic instruments in Peking Opera – the jinghu, a two-stringed instrument played with a bow; the yueqin, a four-stringed instrument that is plucked; and gongs.

We are excited for Yuyin Society to continue their tour throughout China, visiting our schools and Dehong sister schools in the coming months.

Day Tour of Yuyinge

The Yuyinge tour offered students from Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong a deeper dive into the unique art of Peking Opera and broader Chinese culture, through various forms of immersive experience. Inside the theatre, students were able to touch and feel the history of Peking Opera through the beautiful ancient architecture.

In addition to the tour, students were able to explore Peking Opera through a mix of activities, including a crash course on Peking Opera, a costume dress rehearsal, a lesson on how to do the stage movements, and appreciating an actual play. The students walked away with knowledge of the five major roles in Peking Opera and a keen aesthetic sense of the art.

In-person Peking Opera Workshop

Our students at Dulwich College Suzhou come from over 30 different countries and regions, each carrying a unique cultural background. Although most of the students had been exposed to Peking Opera to some extent, few had actually engaged with the art closely until they joined our two-day hands-on workshop.

Teachers from Yuyin Society shared with students the various roles and techniques of Peking Opera and guided them through interactive activities, where our students learned to draw mask paintings, sing famous arias like Song of Pear Flower (Lihua Song) and practice stage poses from The Young Cowherd (Xiaofangniu). They also learned about martial arts and Chinese cultural etiquette in Peking Opera.


Thoughts from Our Teacher

Dulwich College (Singapore) Teacher Jenny Zhang: On January 28, 2022, our students were given a vibrant virtual tour of Peking Opera, from the mysterious backstage to the stage where the charm of Peking Opera is performed. The 45-minute Peking Opera workshop visit was held by Yuyin Society and Dulwich. Professional opera teachers taught our students about facial makeup, costume culture, the use and meaning of props and the past and present of Chinese Peking Opera. During the visit, students actively engaged with the opera teachers, even imitating the classic movements of Peking Opera characters! We were very happy to see Dulwich students immersed in Peking Opera, and we are very much looking forward to having more students join us to appreciate the beauty of this quintessential Chinese art.

Do you like Peking Opera? Do you have anything about Peking Opera want to share with us? You are welcome to make a comment!

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