Four Famous Anhui Opera Troupes


Peking Opera has a history of over 200 years. The main melodies originated from Xipi and Erhuang, in Anhui and Hubei respectively. It is generally accepted that Peking Opera gradually came into being after 1790 when the famous Four Anhui Opera Troupes came to Beijing. Peking Opera underwent fast development under the imperial patron during the reign of Emperor Qianlong and the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi, and eventually became more accessible by the common people.

The famous Four Anhui Opera Troupes are Sanqing Troupe, Sixi Troupe, Chuntai Troupe and Hechun Troupe. In 1790, the salt commissioner of Zhejiang Province took the Sanqing Opera Troupe to Beijing to perform for Emperor Qianlong on the occasion of his birthday. The troupe consisted of actors and actress from Anhui Province. Before long, three other leading Anhui troupes followed suit. This was the first time that Anhui Opera had been performed in Beijing, and after the birthday celebrations, the four troupes remained in the capital and began to perform for ordinary audiences.

In order to suit their repertoire and tunes to the taste of cosmopolitan Beijing audiences, the performers of Anhui opera adopted elements from other types of opera, notably Hubei Opera and its typical Pihuang music. Eventually, a new kind of opera music emerged, called Jingdiao (capital melody). And Peking Opera (or Jingdiao Pihuang Opera) came into being.

The Four Anhui Opera Troupes each has its characteristics: The Sanqing Troupe is good at complex and complete plays, the Sixi Troupe is best at Kunqiang, the Chuntai Troupe features young actors, and the Hechun Troupe is famous for fighting performance.

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