A classic piece of Peking opera to grace the big screen

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Zhang Huoding, one of China’s most famous Peking opera performers, stars as Xue Xiangling in the film version of
The jewelry market. [Photo by Yang Shaoduo/China Daily]

Cinema audience ready to watch The jewelry market.

It has been more than 82 years since the classical Peking Opera The jewelry market created.

Written by famous playwright Weng Ouhong (1908-94), the work is one of the best known performed by Cheng Yanqiu (1904-58), a master of the art form.

The public will soon be able to watch The jewelry market in cinemas, as it has been made into a movie with the same title, which should be shown next year.

Zhang Huoding, one of the most famous Chinese actresses in modern Peking opera, plays the lead role of Xue Xiangling in the film.

Also known as jingju, Peking opera is a lively and highly stylized form of the genre, combining acrobatics, martial arts, music, theater and dance. With a history of over 200 years, it was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010.

The art form is passed down from generation to generation largely through master-student training, with trainees learning basic skills through oral instruction, observation, and imitation.

Zhang was trained by Beijing opera master Zhao Rongchen (1916-1996) and Zhao was trained by Cheng.

Cheng and three other Beijing opera masters, Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), Shang Xiaoyun (1900-1976) and Xun Huisheng (1900-1968), were hailed as the “Four Great Dan” when this form of art had its heyday during the first half of the 20th century.

Dan” refers to “nah dan“(a man playing a female role), a practice that emerged when women were forbidden from performing on stage. These masters established the four”Dan“styles, which have been learned and worn by other artists over the years.

Cheng’s style of performance is known as the Cheng School, which counts Zhao and Zhang among its students.

Cheng was not only responsible for the singing style of The jewelry marketbut also played the lead role of Xue, a wealthy bride.

On her way to her wedding, Xue helps a poor woman, Zhao Shouzhen, by giving her an embroidered pouch containing some of Xue’s precious jewelry. Years later, when Xue – separated from her husband and child by a destructive flood – is penniless, hungry and grieving, she finds work as a maid, where she meets Zhao, who has become wealthy and receives Xue as a guest of honor. Zhao takes care of Xue until Xue’s family finds her, and Xue’s original act of kindness is fully rewarded.

Yin Xiaodong, president of the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts, a leading institution for traditional Chinese opera and the main driving force behind the film, said: “The jewelry market is extremely well known to Peking opera fans. Like many of these pieces, it tells a story that reflects traditional Chinese values, such as kindness and gratitude. It’s a great way to promote and preserve the ancient art form by making it into a movie.” Zhang has been teaching at the academy since 2008.

It took about eight years to complete filming on the film, which is now in post-production.

Yin said the project to turn The Jewelry Purse into a movie was launched in 2015, with the collaboration of the Chinese National Academy of Theater Arts, Shanghai Jingju Theater Company, National Peking Opera Company and Shanghai Film. Group. Peking Opera experts and a number of artists worked together for years to prepare the film.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, filming plans for the film have been frequently postponed.

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