Northwest China Moves to Preserve Ancient Opera
    2010-01-22 16:04:15     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang Jin
A museum to showcase an ancient Chinese opera form that is the forerunner of all Chinese operas is set to open Monday in northwest China's Gansu Province.

China Qinqiang Opera Museum covers at least 2,000 square meters on the northern bank of the Yellow River that flows across downtown Lanzhou, the provincial capital.

A visit to the museum costs 10 yuan (1.5 U.S. dollars).

"It's not a big place, but is rich in content," said Fan Wen, a city government official in charge of cultural affairs.

The museum has a huge collection of musical scores, facial masks, scripts, costumes and historical photos donated by private collectors across the country, said Fan.

Zhang Hanhu, an opera fan in Lanzhou, has donated 40 puppets and 50 costumes he inherited from his father and grandfather, who were renowned opera performers.

The museum also uses state-of-the-art optical and acoustic technologies to replay leading artists' singing and dancing performances.

Construction of the museum began in June 2008 and cost at least 10 million yuan, said Fan Wen.

"Gansu Province is the origin of Qinqiang Opera," he said. "We hope the museum will enable opera fans to closely study this ancient artistic form and save it from extinction."

Qinqiang is a local opera that thrives in northwest China's Gansu, Shaanxi, Qinghai, Ningxia and Xinjiang. It is known as the "First Emperor's Opera," indicating it was popular during the reign of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China in the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.- 207 B.C.).

Today, however, the opera is popular mainly among elderly people. "The young are more interested in pop songs and rock'n'roll rather than Qinqiang, which they think belongs to the bumpkins," said Li Zhi, head of the museum.

Neighboring Shaanxi Province is home to China's first Qinqiang museum, which opened in September.

The Shaanxi Qinqiang Opera Museum, located on the campus of Xi'an Jiaotong University, housed centuries-old scripts and costumes, said Li Chunli, an official with the provincial cultural department.

The opera, featuring folk songs and dances, arrived in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and was believed to be a catalyst to the formation of the Beijing Opera, a 200-year-old opera form that is better known worldwide.

Qinqiang Opera was listed on China's list of intangible heritage in 2006.

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