Huaguxi (花鼓戏 pinyin: Huāgǔxì; literally: "flower drum opera") is a form of Chinese opera originating in Hunan province. It is known in China for its earthy quality, and is often referred to as the "spicy" form of Chinese opera. Huaguxi is known to have existed as early as 1695, during the Qing Dynasty. Unlike other forms of Chinese opera, Huaguxi originally had only two roles. These including the xiao chou, a small male clown, and the xiao dan, a vivacious young girl. The female role was played by men until women entered Chinese opera in the early 20th century. In the mid-18th century, a xiao shen role was added. This role refers to handsome young males.
Most Huaguxi plays were originally xiao xi, short plays lasting an hour or less. These plays often dealt with everyday rural life. With the rise of professional Huaguxi performers and performances in the capital city of Changsha, longer plays, daxi began to be performed. These plays dealt with grander themes of social satire and class struggle. Like other forms of Chinese opera, Huaguxi is staged with very few props. Music accompanying Huaguxi reflects the Changsha dialect spoken in Hunan. It is played with instruments like the datong (fiddle), yueqin (moon lute), dizi (bamboo flute), and suona (oboe). Percussion instruments provide the basic tempo for the performance.
Throughout much of its history, Huaguxi could not be performed legally because of the perception that it was an obscene form of opera. It was officially recognized by the People's Republic of China in 1952, but restrictions were placed on the type of material that could be performed.
- Chen, Shi-Zheng (1995). "The Tradition, Reformation, and Innovation of Huaguxi: Hunan Flower Drum Opera". TDR. TDR (1988-), Vol. 39, No. 1. 39 (1): 129–149. doi:10.2307/1146407. JSTOR 1146407.
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