In Chinese, the character for the concept “theatre” (“spectacle game”), consists of two parts. Left (“Xu”) means “emptiness”, understood as the center of a huge internal energy, which is the beginning of all things on earth. The right part (“GE”) “battle axe”.
In the same way as the theatres of other countries, China theater originated from religious cults and rituals, but his birth took place much earlier than in most other States. The formation of the Chinese theatre there were a number of ways. First mystery carnival, part of which were processions of maskers. They wore animal skins with the appropriate masks. Second the mystery drama, which depicted various episodes in the life of gods and mythical characters. Today, elements of Chinese ancient theatre can be found in folk dancing.
As in the theatre of Ancient Greece, the mysteries included interactive part and choral accompaniment. During the reign of the ancient Shang dynasty, these mysteries came to the Palace. Thus, along with religious celebrations in the settlements originated the temple and court theatrical performances. At this time, heard the actors singing and dancing (Chan-Yu) and the comic (Pai-Yu).
One of the oldest in China was a puppet theater. They emerged at sunset slave system, that is, during the “Spring and Autumn” (770-475 BCE). The earliest dolls were wooden, they were replaced by living people slaves, who were buried with their owners. It was much cheaper. Instead of dolls made of wood came fashioned out of clay, which was also easier and cheaper. So there were statues of warriors, guardians, animals in natural size. How did any theater, where the role played dolls?
In China there are many traditions on every occasion. There is a tradition on this score. In the reign of Emperor Han Gozzo (Liu, 247-195 BC) was an Emperor with an army to get into the environment. It happened somewhere in the area of Datong (now in Shanxi province). To break through a tight encirclement had no chance. In such a situation there was intelligent Advisor by the name of Chen Ping. He resorted to a trick: he ordered to make a wooden doll in the natural growth, to decorate and to dress in elegant clothes. Under the skillful hands of the people, hidden from prying eyes, “beauty” began to appear on the ramparts before the enemy camp.
A Belle walked, freely waving his arms, turned her head. Her movements were smooth and rhythmic. In the enemy camp did not know what happened, what it means: after all, a formidable military position and suddenly strolling under the cheerful music for all to see “beauty”! Smart Chen Ping didn’t waste any time. At the same time he sent to the camp of the enemies of his people: one to negotiate a truce, the other for the dissolution of the false rumors that “beauty” is coming to them and takes rightful place as first wife… the Wife of an enemy leader, for fear of losing his power, was able to persuade the Archbishop to return home. So the doll won the battle.
Upon returning to the Palace, fashioned a small doll and for leisure, fun ideas entertained of the Emperor and the nobles. These figures gradually took images of theatrical characters, and plots views were primarily derived from folk tales and legends.
In the historical sources have records of the existence in the period of “Spring and Autumn” (772-481 BC) artists, who knew how to sing, dance, copy, appearance and habits of the people. Written records of subsequent eras often the terms “Chan-Yu” (singer, the singing actor) and “Pai-Yu” (comedian, clown, actor). From the views of these actors later was born a new form of ideas “baisi” (one hundred performances) or “Jia Odishi” (the butting). These views were held in the open air on great holidays. They included a variety of circus acrobatics, fencing, tightrope, competition, dancing with giant models of animal figures.
Theatre han epoch
Secular theater of China began in the Han era. Already at that time there were special facilities for the presentation of “a hundred games” (spectacle, involving musicians, dancers, acrobats, tightrope walkers, etc.), and a spacious arena. These arenas had three seats. Despite great technical ability, in fact drama and clear forms of theatre in that era did not exist.
Professional actors in the implementation of song and dance performances and comic sketches, appeared in the era of the Six dynasties.
Theater of the era of tan
During the tan period (618-907), street performances firmly rooted in the urban culture. Their stories mostly borrowed from the famous novels of the time. A special role was played puppet theatre. He has ceased to be exclusively a court phenomenon and came from the palaces of the Emperor in the area. Moreover, it quickly spread in many provinces of the country, where he acquired local features. This was reflected in the names. Somewhere it was called “moutou” and in some provinces “mu naoka or Kula si”, which means “view of wooden men”.
Era tan contributed to the rapid flourishing of culture in the country. It refers to painting, sculpture, architecture. The blossoming of the arts was not spared and theatre arts. As already noted, this period has been the development of puppet theatre. At the same time was born another kind of art the theatre of shadows, which for many centuries remained one of the symbols of China. Apparently the theatre of shadows was originally a kind of modification of the puppet theater.