Originated in Henan Province, Yuju Opera is one of China’s famous national opera forms. This opera is called Yuju Opera because Henan’s one-character abbreviation is “Yu”, so it is officially named “Yuju” after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The Yuju opera is basically performed in the Yellow River and Huai River Area. According to the statistics, Yuju Opera is the leading opera genre in terms of the number of performers and troupes. Besides Henan, the provinces like Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu, Shandong, Hebei, Beijing, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, and Taiwan all have professional Yuju opera troupes.
It is believed that the Yuju Opera was first performed during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. At the beginning, it had mainly song arias without any make-up, which catered for different tastes of ordinary people. As a result, it developed rapidly.
There are four styles in Yu Opera: Xiangfu (from Xiangfu County), Yudong (East Henan), Yuxi (West Henan), and Shahe (Shahe County). It is noted for its skill-demanding melodies, strong rhythms, and intensive use of spoken language. Yu Opera is popular among the local people and then becomes a major local opera in Henan Province because of its local features and rich flavor of life. Besides, there are more than 600 traditional plays in the repertoire of Yu Opera, among all the most well-known repertoires are Chang Xiangyu’s Kao Hong, White Snake Story, Hua Mu Lan, Ma Jinfeng’s Mu Guiying Assumes Command, and Chaoyanggou.
Here is a list of representative Yu opera repertoires :
Arranged Marriage (Qin Xuemei in Chinese): During the Ming Dynasty, Qin Xuemei and Shang Lin are engaged as children. Later, when Shang’s family is persecuted by malicious ministers, he goes to live with the Qin family. But Qin’s father no longer agrees on his daughter’s marriage to Shang and drives him out. When Shang returns to his own home, he becomes seriously ill and soon dies. Overwhelmed with sorrow, Qin goes to the Shang family for the funeral.
Chaoyanggou Village (Chaoyanggou in Chinese): Yinhuan, a high school graduate, comes to her fiancé’s home village, Chaoyanggou, to take part in agricultural production. Meeting a lot of difficulties, she wavers between two choices: settling down in the backward village or returning to the city for a comfortable life. After getting along with the local for a period of time, she begins to understand the local people and is determined to devote her youth to the construction of a new rich village.
Modern Woman, (Fuliu Nvren in Chinese): In the midst of China’s urban and rural economic reforms in the 1980s, Yang Hua, a young pretty widow, decides to open a village clothing factory. But the villagers live with her criticizes her ambitious plan. Even her father-in-law opposes her, but Yang does not give in. With her labor, the factory opens and brings a direct challenge to the village’s traditional agrarian values.
Romantic Scholar (Fengliu Caizi in Chinese): The opera vividly describes the beautiful romance between Tang Bohu and Qiu Xiang. Tang was a romantic scholar chased by dozens of charming women. He resists them all, including his cousin Feng Yulan, a beautiful lady from a rich family. One spring day, Tang goes sightseeing on Suzhou’s Huqiu Hill and encounters Qiu Xiang, a maidservant in a high-ranking official’s family. Tang falls in love with Qiu. Giving up the opportunity of being an official post and ignoring views of others, he disguises himself as a servant to get close to Qiu Xiang. After experiencing countless troubles, he achieves what he wishes.