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Beijing Opera (or Peking Opera) has existed for over 200 years. It is widely regarded as the highest expression of the Chinese culture. It is known as one of the three main theatrical systems in the world. Artistically, Beijing Opera is perhaps the most refined form of opera in the world. It has deeply influenced the hearts of the Chinese people. Although it is called Beijing Opera, its origins are not in Beijing but in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei. Beijing Opera got its two main melodies, Xi_Pi and Er_Huang, from Anhui and Hubei operas. It then incorporated music and arias from other operas and musical arts in China. It is thought that Beijing Opera was born when the Four Great Anhui troupes came to Beijing in 1790. Beijing Opera was originally staged for the royal family.
There are as many kinds of Chinese opera as there are dialects. It has been estimated that there are a thousands branches of Chinese opera. Most of them are local, dominating a region within a province and its surrounding area. However, Beijing Opera is the national standard, and has a higher reputation than any of the other branches of Chinese opera.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Beijing Opera suffered along with other kinds of theatrical arts in China. Traditional Beijing Opera was allowed to be shown again in 1978. But its out-of-date styles and the lack of historical and theatrical knowledge of the young, this art had lost a lot of its audiences. Most of the audiences are old people, who were children when Beijing Opera was at its peak. The art is dying, but there are campaigns and efforts being made to introduce younger Chinese to this cultural treasure and bring it back to its former popularity.
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