Chu Opera "Fish Hanging Satrap": Singing the Anti-Corruption Melody with Traditional Opera, Unlocking New Ways of Cultural Communication

Published on : 23 November 2018

Recently, a large-scale live broadcast event titled “Hello, New Era – Chinese Opera, Pick Me” was held by the Mobile Network Administration of the Central Network Office, Xiuyi Entertainment and It paid a visit to Wuhan, Hubei Province, and the charm of local drama mesmerized the viewers.

"The story told by this repertoire is actually derived from the idiom of 'Yang Hanging Fish'. It is said that when the Han Dynasty official continued to be the Nanyang Taishou of Henan Province, the elite was a fish sent to his house. He hung the fish up in the house. After initial refusal, the people praised it. They then called it the 'hanging fish who guards'.”  Wuhan Xinzhou District Chu Opera Troupe along with famous actor, Tong Wenchun, introduced it to hundreds of thousands of netizens in the live broadcast of Xiuyin Entertainment. This time a history was remade through script. 

A scene from "The Hanging Fish" opera

Chu Opera's "Hanging Fish " is in the list of the National Art Foundation's 2018 annual communication and promotion project. From conception to creation, Zhu Yongshan, the screenwriter of the play stated that the process was not easy. As the national screenwriter of the Hubei Academy of Arts, he argued that in making a Chu opera script you must first understand the origin itself while at the same time understanding the actors. 

"Not all idioms are suitable to be portrayed in a stage performance. People can't just watch a show. You can't just watch a show. What you can harvest is something that the creators of the play need to think about. Different actors are good at certain performance, hence casting for the right roles is also critical."

Zhu Yongshan said that anti-corruption is a popular subject from ancient times up until today. In the story of "The Hanging Fish", there are several parts that showcase this theme such as the continued rejection of the wife and bribery. "Fish" is also closely related to the daily life and aesthetics of the people. In the subsequent writing process, it is necessary to improve the story according to the basic requirements of stage play creation; such as adding negative characters and increasing the conflict of drama. After the script is completed, it needs to be rehearsed over and over again on the stage, and then repeatedly adjusted and revised. The whole process lasted for nearly two years.

Yang continued to play the role of Tong Wenchun. The Chu Opera Troupe of the Xinzhou District of Wuhan, who play the show, is a district-level theater group. The troupe itself has only a simple rehearsal area of 80 square meters. The actual number of actors in the team is only 27, but the total of main characters of "The Hanging Fish" supporting roles and extras are 40. 

Tong Wenchun said that the gap of more than a dozen people could not be filled in a flash. "Recruiting so many new temporary employees is difficult, so I thought of playing recorded music to vacate the band members and utilize them to fill the empty roles. We will integrate fans of the theater into the cast to stand in as extras. "These fans are elementary school teachers, bosses who open clothing stores, and social freelancers. Although some had a stage fright as they were not professionally trained actors, but their performance was great, the audience really liked it."

Tong Wenchun tolf netizens about the rehearsal of the show in the live broadcast. Since June 12 this year, "The Hanging Fish" has toured across the country. It has had 10 performances in Wuhan, Changsha, Nanchang, Shantou, and Yichang. Tong Wenchun said dialogue can strengthen the communication between local operas. By sharing about the creation process of drama, the audience can learn more about Chu opera. 

A scene from "The Hanging Fish" opera

The live broadcast also coincided with Wuhan City’s 40th anniversary of the reformation. Tong Wenchun said that for the district and county-level troupe actors, it is a great opportunity for them to showcase their craftsmanship to and spread Chu opera. "I also hope that more netizens can pay attention to Chu opera and support it." The live broadcast was successful, gathering more than 1 million viewers.

"Hello, the new era - Chinese drama, Pick Me" event will also go to other places, bringing more interesting and traditional cultural content to the users of Xiuying Entertainment!