The Opera of Buyi Ethnic Minority with Nuo (a kind of drama) Flavor

The operas played by the Buyi people include the Buyi Opera, the Ground Opera, the Stool Opera and so on, among which the Buyi Opera spreads most widely with a history of more than 200 years. The Buyi Opera is the generic term for Buyi native opera and Buyi decorated tones. The Buyi native opera originated from eight-tone sitting singing (also called Stool Opera). It took its shape in the reign of Qian Long, Qing Dynasty (1736~1795), and nowadays it is inherited by amateur folk craftsmen who divide themselves into groups. Each group has about 30 people, and the actors are divided into main actors, main actresses, minor roles, kings and warriors and so on.

The accompanying instruments involve the pan, the drum, the urheen, the yu-kin (a stringed instrument), bamboo flute, tube, wooden fish etc. They use the Buyi language to sing, to perform monologue and dialogue, to satire, but use Chinese to make a prologue, the final poem and self-introductions. The plays could be classified into traditional stories about the Buyi people’s legends a Ground Opera’ maskand transplanted stories from the Han people’s history. They usually stage those plays during Spring Festivals or the seasons free of agricultural work. Before the opera, there is a Jumping as Promoting ceremony to honor the God of Opera, and after that sweeping the stage is necessary. These are all set rules. “Civil officials swing the fan while warriors carry sword”. The make-up is simple and the theatrical costumes are decided according to the contents of the plays. The traditional folk play will use traditional fold costume while transplanted play imitates Chinese dresses.

The Ground Opera got its name for the fact that it is performed on the ground and there is no stage and backdrop. Tradition has it that the Ground Opera was learned from other nearby peoples. The performing groups are all composed of amateur farmers who usually belong to the same village. They organize in groups and perform in villages one after another during the season when the agricultural work is not busy. It is a sign of rich and prosperous life, and therefore, it is fully supported by common villagers. When performing, the actors are dressed up in theatrical costumes, wearing masks on the forehead with a piece of black gauze covering the face.

The warriors will wear chicken feather on the head and small flags on the back. a Ground Opera’ maskThe masks are carved out of the wood of aspen. Various kinds of people’s face are painted on it with beards, which are extremely vivid. The plays are accompanied by orchestral music and percussions, and the stories are mainly adapted from historical fictions such as Talking a Ground opera’ maskabout Tang Dynasty, Biography of Yue Fei, and Warriors in Yang Family. The Opera is sung in the Buyi language. Some experts believe that Ground Opera originated from Nuo in old times and it is the “living fossil” of opera art.

Each time when the Buyi Opera and the Ground Opera are in performance, all the vacant areas and hillsides around are crowded with audience, which fully demonstrates their popularity.