The important role of traditional Chinese opera in cinematic genre

Traditional opera films have played an important role in Chinese cinema. Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang had a strong affinity with the genre.

Tan Xinpei in the first opera film "Dingjun Mountain" (1905)

The first traditional opera film “Dingjun Mountain” was made in 1905. It is also China’s first movie. Since then, traditional opera films have played an important role in Chinese cinema.

At that time Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), the leading performer of classical Chinese Peking and Kunqu operas, had a strong affinity with the genre.

In 1920, two silent films featuring Mei, “Chunxiang Disturbs the Studies” and “Shattering Flowers” were produced by the Commercial Press’s Motion Picture Department.

Mei impressed audiences with his elegant dancing, facial gestures and movements for the depiction of young women.

In Mei’s life, he made 14 traditional opera films and promoted opera to an international audience.

“Sweet Dream In the Garden” (1960) was the master’s last film, in which the artist, in his 60s, played a young girl who dreams of her lover.

From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, China made about 90 traditional opera films.

Opera performers had a large fan base of that time. The Yueju Opera film “A Dream of Red Mansions” (1962) starring Xu Yulan and Wang Wenjuan was a box office sensation.

The popularity of traditional opera films faded in the late 1980s when other entertainment alternatives emerged.

Although a few traditional opera movies have been made in recent years, the audience is shrinking and elderly and middle-aged people still take a large proportion.


“Sweet Dream In the Garden” (1960) 

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