"Wang Zhihe" Opera: of modesty, hard work and tofu


"Wang Zhihe" Opera: of modesty, hard work and tofu

Today's presentation from our Chinese twin-city is dedicated to the opera "Wang Zhihe". It will be told to us by Zhang Yutong, a senior student at the School of Drama, Sichuan Conservatory of Music.

Hello everyone!

My name is Zhang Yutong. You can also call me Bridget. I studied in Sichuan Conservatory of Music, majored in musicals. Today I would like to introduce to you my favorite opera, Wang Zhihe.

In fact, as a young person in contemporary China, I am ashamed to say that most of us have little contact with traditional Chinese opera, including myself. I can say that the play "Wang Zhihe" has narrowed the distance between me and traditional culture.

But before we get to the point, I have to tell you about the origin of Chinese opera.

Chinese opera is mainly composed of three different art forms: folk song and dance, Chinese folk rap and farce. Originating from the original song and dance, it is a comprehensive stage art style with a long history. Through the Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Song Dynasty and Jin Dynasty, a relatively complete opera art was formed. It is composed of literature, music, dance, fine arts, martial arts, acrobatics and performing arts. There are about 360 kinds of opera arts. It is characterized by the aggregation of many art forms in a standard, reflecting their respective personalities in the common properties. Chinese opera, Greek tragedy and comedy, and Indian Sanskrit Opera are known as the world's three ancient drama cultures. The QUJU introduced today is a kind of Chinese opera.

Quju, opera derived from ballad singing, is a type of traditional Chinese opera developed from the popular one-stringed Pai Zi Qu in Beijing. It was originally called Quyi Ju and was renamed Quju in 1952. Single string Paiziqu, also known as "Octagonal Drum", is a kind of rap art that uses Paiziqu couplet, three strings accompaniment and octagonal drum percussion to sing stories. It has rich tunes and various forms. When Beijing Quju gradually developing into stage performance art, it had absorbed and borrowed from traditional Chinese opera, drama and other forms as the basis for creating Quju.

Back to the story itself, we have to talk about a traditional Chinese food – TOFU.

TOFU is a kind of food material with rich nutrition and a long history. Soybean is its main production material, so there are a lot of trace elements and protein needed by human body in TOFU. The main production process of TOFU: cleaning - soaking - pulping - filtering - boiling - solidification - molding - final product.

Tofu is a common ingredient in people's daily life. Later, as time went by, we also developed a by-product of tofu, FURU. It is fermented from tofu and tastes salty and fresh. FURU is also known as "Chinese cheese". It helps to reduce blood lipids and blood pressure, and can play an anti-cancer role. Different tastes are produced through different processes, which are mainly divided into three categories: green, white and red, it is a daily food for people. Our story also revolves around the FURU of "Wang Zhihe" brand.

The story of Wang Zhihe starts from the Qing Dynasty (1669), the 8th year of the Emperor Kangxi's reign and the 6th year of the Russian Emperor Peter the Great's reign. At that time, the system of selecting officials was prevalent in the Chinese imperial court, and the emperor would select his own officials through some examinations.

Wang Zhihe is one of the many examinees. He gave up making tofu and confidently came to Beijing for the exam from his hometown in Anhui Province. Unexpectedly, he not only failed the exam but also owed the hotel room money. Having no face to go home to see his wife, he had to go back to business and sell tofu to earn money for his second exam. Although he did not succeed in the final exam and experienced the ridicule of other examinees and many hardships, he fermented tofu in a jar, invented FURU by mistake, and established his own brand, which has been popular for Over 350 years.

In my opinion, Wang Zhihe has a lot to learn from.

Wang Zhihe was humble and friendly, and treated people kindly. In the face of others' praise, he always said that he was undeserving and need to improve.

He worked hard when facing difficulties. In the face of failure in the exam and no livelihood, he made money to take the second exam. Under the pressure of being ridiculed by many students, he returned to the business of selling tofu.

He remained optimistic in the face of criticism. Many scholars and students at that time held a contemptuous attitude towards people who did business, so whenever they saw Wang Zhihe selling tofu to survive, they would laugh at him. In the face of public ridicule, Wang Zhihe is not distracted but concentrates on preparing for the examination.

He did not pursue fame and wealth, but had a warm heart to serve the people. He happened to share his FURU and steamed bread with the prince in the same examination room. He refused the promotion offered by the prince, and turned to an industry which could really help people live.

Wang's experience reminds me of what German writer Hermann Hesse recently read in his book Steppenwolf: "Human beings should be proud of pain. Every pain is an important memory.

Why I chose this play?

First of all, the subject is chosen from daily life. FURU is the most common food on our table. The audience will have a certain familiarity with this theme and curiosity about its story.

Secondly, the expression is easy to understand. The new type of opera integrated with the drama is more popular and easier for young audiences to accept.

In addition, it integrates more diversified art forms, with the blessing of music, dance and even some traditional culture, the audio-visual effect is better.

Last but not least, this work not only absorbs the advantages of other art forms, but also promotes the culture of traditional Chinese opera and traditional Chinese food culture.

The place where this work is staged.

The opera Wang Zhihe opened its first performance on the stage of Beijing Tianqiao performing Arts Center on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the brand in October 2019 and received favorable comments from audience and artists.

Personal feelings

At the end of the speech, I would like to try to talk about this drama with my professional knowledge of musical theater, because I find that the actors' lines, stage actions and singing (not to mention the use of the opening body) in this work coincide with western musical works, and the actors' every move is all living in the rhythm of the music. Most of the lines in the play have also been reduced to ordinary form, and in rare cases there are some words and phrases. In addition, the costumes of the actors are also simple and close to contemporary life. Different from the luxurious jewelry with silks and satins in traditional operas, the makeup is also weakened a lot, and the whole is easier to understand.

After watching this play, I have a new understanding of the traditional opera culture of the motherland, and get to know that there are many artistic workers in order to inherit the traditional culture and struggle.

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