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Preserving the Lüju Opera in Shandong

Author  :  ZHANG PENG     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-05-04

In Dongying, Shandong Province, the introduction of Lüju Opera to local elementary school classes has been welcomed by students.

Lüju Opera originates from the regions of the Yellow River Delta, in the north of Shandong Province. It is one of the eight major forms of traditional opera in China and has been classified as a national intangible cultural heritage. Also, it best represents the local style of Shandong opera.

Dongying City, Shandong Province, is among the most famous homes of this traditional opera. Here, performances of Lüju Opera are easy to find, due to the local government’s efforts and support of artists.

In recent years, the introduction of Lüju Opera to elementary and middle schools has helped foster enthusiasm for learning this traditional style of performance. A series of measures aim to help Lüju Opera in Dongying to continuously grow and carry forward.

Throughout history, Lüju Opera has been closely connected with Dongying. During the reign of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty there was a local folk art known as Shandong Storytelling Opera. Found in Dongying, this artistic form mainly involved talking and singing with musical accompaniment. It gradually evolved and began to incorporate the Chinese bass drum and the essences of Shandong Pentameter Opera, before finally becoming Lüju Opera.

After the founding of PRC, literature and art embraced new opportunities, and Lüju Opera further transformed. In the 1950s, the opera Widow Li to Remarry gained popularity throughout the country, which established Lüju Opera’s significant position among local forms of Chinese opera.

Shi Yuliang, one of the fifth generation of inheritors of Lüju Opera in Dongying, recalled that when he was a teenager, he performed on the stage with other artists. At that time, Lüju Opera was merely part of their local routine. But, as people’s living conditions improved, Lüju Opera gradually became a favored form of entertainment and enriched people’s spiritual and cultural life.

In 2008, Lüju Opera was classified as a national intangible cultural heritage. Both the public and the government made great progress in preserving Lüju Opera, and then a number of excellent performers and plays emerged. Through the government’s efforts, more than 60 rural opera troupes were established, which strived to create plays themed on real persons and stories around villagers.

Du Ruijie, another inheritor of Lüju Opera, started to learn the opera at the age of 8, and he first performed on stage at 16. Du said that since the reform and opening-up, the rise of various activities of entertainment impacted the traditional local opera’s development. Since 1983, Du has been managing a rural opera troupe of Lüju Opera amateurs in order to preserve and pass down this cultural tradition.

“I cannot allow the legacy of Lüju Opera to vanish in my hands,” Du said. This is his biggest dream and responsibility.

In 2006, Du and other artists helped introduce Lüju Opera to local elementary school classes. Du and Shi volunteer as instructors. Every summer holiday, their Lüju Opera workshop is open to students for free in order to cultivate inheritors.

Shi even raised funds to hold a gala for Lüju Opera during the Spring Festival in his village. In 2003, the first local opera gala kicked off and rapidly gained local fans’ support. Since then, the gala has become quite popular among villagers.

In addition, in the summer of 2016, the government of Dongying invested in and built the Lüju Opera Museum. The museum aims to better protect the significant relics and materials of the Lüju Opera, and to provide a place for amateurs and visitors to better understand the opera’s cultural meaning.

Editor: Yu Hui

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