New Exhibition Combines Peking Opera and Picture Stories

ByZhang Kun August 14, 2020
New Exhibition Combines Peking Opera and Picture Stories
Peony Pavilion's protagonist Du Liniang is featured in both a picture story book and a Peking Opera performance. An ongoing exhibition at the Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House brings together the two unique cultural phenomena of China. [For China Daily]

 

An exhibition at the Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House has brought together two unique cultural phenomena of China — Peking Opera and lianhuanhua, a Chinese form of picture-story books.

Situated in a refurbished vintage garden house on Changle Road in downtown Shanghai, the publishing house is recognized as "the cradle of Chinese lianhuanhua," as many renowned artists used to work there.

The new exhibition consists of manuscripts, prototype pages and vintage editions from the publisher's collection that feature popular stories in Chinese opera art. The other part of the exhibition is presented by Shi Yihong, a leading Shanghai-based Peking Opera singer who specializes in female roles in the Mei Lanfang school.

"When I was little, my parents used to bring home many of these picture books. I actually grew up reading these. I learned many historical tales from such picture books," says Shi, who attended the opening of the exhibition.

Her contribution to the exhibition includes costumes, photographs and historical documents about the heritage of the Mei Lanfang school of Peking Opera.

"Some of the costumes and facial expressions in the books are even more intricate than what we have on the stage," she says. "I am thinking we could borrow their ideas. I believe these artists must have been dedicated lovers of China's opera art."

New Exhibition Combines Peking Opera and Picture Stories
Peony Pavilion's protagonist Du Liniang is featured in both a picture story book and a Peking Opera performance. An ongoing exhibition at the Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House brings together the two unique cultural phenomena of China. [For China Daily]

 

The traditional practice of telling stories in a series of images can be traced back to ancient civilizations. In China, serial paintings depicting stories about Buddhism were found in the Dunhuang frescos of the Mogao Grottoes, which were produced between the fourth and 14th centuries, in Gansu Province.

From the 19th to early 20th century, a large number of picture-story books were published in Shanghai, which as an open harbor had the most advanced printing technologies in China, according to Xu Mingsong, a Shanghai-based scholar of art history and curator of the show.

These publications, with black-and-white drawings of diverse styles and compositions, featured social events that took place at home and abroad, as well as literary and theatrical subjects. In the early 1900s, these serial picture-story books became extremely popular with the masses.

In 1952, the East China People's Arts Publishing House was founded. It changed its name to Shanghai People's Arts Publishing House in 1955.

Studios and editorial teams were later established to create lianhuanhua, and artists such as He Youzhi, Cheng Shifa and Zheng Jiasheng joined the institution. Known as the"108 generals," these artists joined hands to push lianhuanhua to its golden age, which spanned the 1960s to the early 1980s, when television and new forms of entertainment overshadowed the art.

Because of the municipal epidemic-containment protocols, visitors have to make online reservations before coming to the exhibition. Visits can be booked through the WeChat account, "Yihong talks about Opera."

If you go

Peking Opera and Lianhuanhua

10 am-5 pm, through September 20. 33, Lane 672, Changle Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai.

 

(Source: China Daily)

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