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Yangge-xi (Yangge Opera) in Shanxi

Yangge-xi (Yangge Opera) in Shanxi

Yangge-xi is a folk drama popular in the northern areas, covering the provinces of Shanxi, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shandong. Derived from the songs singed by farmers working on the fields, Yangge-xi combines the folk art, acrobatics and martial art in its later development and performs as entertainment during Spring Festival and then it gradually forming itself into one type of Chinese opera. By the Mi-Qing Dynasty (1644 to1911) when Bangzi (Chinese local operas performed to the accompaniment of wooden clappers) was popular, the Yangge-xi in Shanxi, Hebei and Shannxi provinces draw lessons from popular operas and developed a form of stage performance.

Shuozhou City, prefecture level city in Shanxi, is also famous for its Yangge-xi.  Shuozhou Yangge-xi is a folk art form combining martial art, dance and Chinese operas which is popular in Shuozhou City and other southern cities of Inner Mongolia such as Jining, Hohhot, Baotou and Hetao, as well as Zhangjiakou City of Hebei Province. With a long history, originally performed by troupes in public areas, it integrated Kungfu the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and storytelling in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Today, it is popular in both the dance and drama form.

The Yangge-xi which focuses on dance is called "tigu (kick drum) yangge", mainly performed in the folk activities for festivals, birthdays, and celebration of bringing a son-in-law into the family and so on. There are 108 performers in the Shuozhou Yangge show. On some occasions, 30 or 50 performers can also present the Yangge show. The male performers are called "tiguzi (kick drum)" and females called "lahua(a kind of dance movement)," and often act as characters from China's classic novels like Water Margin and Journey to the West. The performance has a series of programs, for example, visiting others for a happy New Year call, performing at public squares among others. Grand Yangge refers to the focus on acting rather than dancing that combines the local popular folk songs and draws lessons from other operas to form a unique style. The contents include stories influenced by Chinese Taoism and other folk legends.

Shuozhou Yangge developed various forms with a living fossil studying the history of China's folk arts. However, due to the impact of modern multi-cultures and the time limitation of the performance, Shuozhou Yangge, similar to other folk arts, often disappeared.