Modernization of Beijing Opera

Beijing Opera is a gem of Chinese traditional art. However, we have to admit that this form of art is going downward. Highly abstract performance, slow rhythm, consistent melody are less attractive to younger generations. In spite of  the efforts of training new performers from an early age, Chinese operas are losing their audience. Crowded funs gathering in front of stages and watching operas has become the history.

Too much sexy but too little about opera?

Recently a group of pictures named “Who said Beijing Opera is not Sexy” caught my attention. My attention was caught firstly from appeal to the beauty of some pictures (as the one on the left), but then as I moved on to other pictures, I didn’t get it (as the one on the right). It’s hard to tell what makes the differences between the ones that appeal to me with the ones that I feel they are overly sexy. One possible reason is the initial ideas from the artists: whether the artist want to highlight the opera or the sexy models.

My curiosity drove me to do some research about the modernization of traditional arts in China. There are already some criticism towards modernization of traditional operas, questioning that they are distorting and disfiguring the soul of traditional arts. For example, many experts feel upset about an underwear show featuring Beijing Opera. The experts don’t like the idea of showing the beauty of Beijing Opera through nudity. Some critics even stated that national traditions are not supposed to be modernized and distorted. After thinking about the pros and cons, I agree and disagree with the criticism.

The traditional form of arts shows the shining, luxury but distant beauty from old times.

Should Beijing Opera be modernized?




I understand those who criticized the modernization are making their criticism based on the love of Chinese traditions, but we have to admit that simply resisting modern reform might prevent the opera to attracting new fans. I appreciate the creativeness and modern elements added to Beijing Opera. As one of the origins of Chinese arts, it is actually a good thing that Beijing Opera is inspiring contemporary artists, photographers and painters to create. To some extent, good contemporary creations do help to maintain the traditional arts, appealing more people to become interested in the old arts. Therefore, more people would want to watch and learn the opera. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we have to use nudity to attract people to watch operas. Selling products under the name of traditional arts would also be considered distasteful.

So the bottom-line would be it is fine to add modern and sexy elements to traditional arts as long as they are added to demonstrate the traditional arts to today’s audience. However, if these elements are overly added, it would become sensationalism. In this case, it would be adding traditional arts to those pictures for the sake of sexy appeal, rather than arts modernization.


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