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Liyuan Opera


Stage photos of Chen San Wu Niang. (Su Wushi acts as Huang Wu Niang )
(c) Traditional Opera Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Arts

In some particular performances of Liyuanxi, the elements include some puppet actions.

Reasons for selection


Area where performed

Liyuanxi is popular in the areas of Quanzhou, Jinjiang, Longxi, Xiamen in Fujian province and in the areas of Minnan dialects in Taiwan.

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance, Puppet Theatre
Some performances include some puppet actions.

Detailed explanation

Liyuanxi originated at Quanzhou in Fujian province and it has a long history. At present, it still reserves a lot of Nanxi repertoires and music. During the forty fifth year of Jiajin emperor's reign (1566)in Ming Dynasty, Liyuanxi was popular at the time, this is proved by the appearance of the script Lijingji of Chaoquanerbu. Liyuanxi is divided into daliyuan and xiaoliyuan. The daliyuanxi has two branches: shanglu and xianan. Each of the three schools has its own shibapengtou (repertoires)and particular changqiangqudiao (music for different voices). The repertoires of shanglu are older and kept a lot of Nanxi scripts, such as cai baijie, wang kui, wang shipeng, zhu maichen, liu wenlong, and zhu wen etc. Xianan became a kind of local opera in the area of Zhangzhou and Quangzhou. The repertoires of Nanxi have the rich flavour of life, though less complete and exquisite and more impromptu comic gestures and remarks than the shanglu. The repertoires of Nanxi are Lu Mengzheng, Chen Zhouzhen, Zheng Yuanhe, etc.

The Xiaoliyuanxi is good at sheng (male character)and dan (female character)characters. It is mostly about love stories and folk legends, such as Guo Hua, Jiang Shilong, Dong Yong, etc.
Liyuanxi is simple and exquisite. The rhythm scheme belongs to Nanqu, and it is accompanied with the instruments of xiao (vertical bamboo flute)and strings. The music is mostly of one note fitting one word. Owing to use of Quanzhou dialect mingling with some folk music, it became a special kind of Nanqu music of Liyuanxi. Many ancient qupai names remained in the music.

Publication and textual documentation

WU Jiequi
1996 Liyuanxi Yishushilun [History and Commentary on Liyuanxi Opera].
Beijing: Theatrical Publishing House of China. In Chinese.

Audio documentation

already available

Visual documentation

After 1949, the senior artist Cai Youben orally accounted many xiaoliyuanxi traditional theatrical pieces and personally instructed the singing and acting. He made a great contribution for preserving the wonderful traditional art of Liyuanxi.

Pieces like Chensanwuniang and Yianzhiji were shot to the films.

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion


Data provider

Mr. Wang Ankui
Traditional Opera Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Arts
Address: 17 Qianhai Xijie, Beijing 100009, China