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Wu Opera Museum: A Wonderland
Post Time: 11/12/2018



Wu Opera, as a national intangible cultural heritage and a representative of Jinhua’s traditional culture, enjoys wide popularity in the general public. A newly opened Wu Opera Museum in the Wu Opera Theater of Jinhua offers more tangible opportunities for people to appreciate the beauty of the art.

The museum features seven different themes: Wu Opera history, unique characteristics, outstanding achievements, development, inheritance, stage and props, and troupes. Altogether, covering an area of 900m2, it houses more than 1000 objects, vividly displaying the stage art that has a history of over 500 years.

For appeal to both professionals and amateurs, theater lovers and general public, the curation team took two years to design the overall arrangement before opening, and after the opening, the museum is continuing to innovate to attract a broad range of visitors. In the near future, people will be able to watch plays in the museum’s mini-theater, take pictures dressed up in Wu Opera style, and take cultural souvenirs with them.

The completion of the museum is attributed to generations of professionals and enthusiasts. The collections in the museum are treasures coming from different origins: some were donated by senior artists, some collected by museum staff, and some handmade by craftsmen.

The most valued is a costume worn by famous opera artist Mei Lanfang. It has been kept in good condition for nearly a century: it is still intact and maintains its bright colors.

The most historical is a hu (笏), a ritual tablet held by officials at court meetings with the emperor. It was found in an old prop box. Its craftsmanship and inscribed text indicate its age at no less than a hundred years old.

The most exquisite: an ancient stage. It is located in the heart of the museum, hand-carved by skilled craftsmen from the troupe that used it.

The museum also displays a wide variety of costumes, which are visually enjoyable. The common colors for traditional costume garments are black, green, white, red, and yellow, representing the five elements of water, wood, metal, fire, and earth, respectively. They contribute to a perfect stage effect as the colors provide strong contrasts and exert an impressive visual impact on the audience.

Among the many costumes, a special one for an operatic martial arts performer is worth mentioning. It is from Chen Meilan, a first-class actress, who played Mu Guiying as one of the most famous female warriors in Wu Opera, and in Chinese history as well. The attire was skillfully handmade. Carefully stitched with gold thread, a five-clawed golden dragon glitters on it. Such exquisite workmanship is rarely seen nowadays.

The headdresses of the female characters are also inviting. Tian-tsui is one of the most sophisticated types. The intricate technique endows the hairpins with iridescent, illuminating blue, made from the beautiful feathers of a palm-sized kingfisher.The museum presents a colorful wonderland of culture and plays, awaiting people’s exploration of the unique beauty of the stage art of Wu Opera. (By Yu Han, translated by Lin Yuqin, edited by Kendra Fiddler)

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