Wu Opera

Author: Dustin Van Sloten

The Jinhua Homestay Program participants were given a special performance by the Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe. The participants viewed seven different performances by the troupe. All were spectacular. Before arriving in China, I had never heard of Wu Opera. However, in the few weeks that I have been here, I have learned many things about this great art.

Wu opera actress. Source: Riccardo Giorgini

Wu Opera has a history spanning more than four centuries. It originated in Wuzhou, now Jinhua, in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province. It is popular in the catchment of Jinhua district, which is why locals call it Jinhua Opera.  Wu Opera is a hybrid of six singing styles from different traditional genres:  gaoqiangkunqiangluantanhuixitanhuang and shidiao.

Martial arts are often included in Chinese Opera. Source: Riccardo Giorgini

These performers are full of glitz and glamor with their delicate make-up, extravagant costumes, elaborate sets, and well-choreographed performances. These performers also display amazing agility with their acrobatics, and their intense facial expressions really capture the audience.

Dragon Dance. Source: Riccardo Giorgini

Two of my favorite performances were the Dragon Dance and the Sedan Chair. The performers in the Dragon Dance were amazing. The timing and synchronous movements of this performance had me jumping out of my seat. The Sedan Chair performance was an entertaining and artistic way to tell a beautiful story. I really enjoyed all the performances and I would recommend anyone visiting Jinhua to check them out.

Experiences

Throughout my life, I have watched various art performances from Europe, Asia, America and even from my home continent, Africa. Most of the performances I have ever seen is a musical, drama or comedy. And among all, the Wu Opera from Zhejiang Province in China was one of the best performance in my opinion. I have only watched it on television but not live performance. But I was glad we had the chance to watch it with the best performers on stage. It was just so beautiful and attractive that I could not get enough of it.

The beauty of Wu Opera is based on the various popular stories in the past that provide the current young generation the knowledge on how the past generations lived. The best story I saw was the performance named “Broken Bridge” where it is a classic Chinese love story of characters Xu xian and Lady White Snake.

Not only does Wu Opera provides entertainment, it also teaches us the Chinese language and culture. Through Wu Opera, I feel really interested to learn more about the language and culture as I find it beautiful and not too difficult to learn.
– Nassor, Tanzania

I was entralled by the performances of artists and the voice of the artists just left me amazed. I learn Indian classical music so i was just able to connect myself in some or the other way with the artists and their performances. I would definitely love to learn this piece of art in my near future.
– Gauri, India

Woodblock Printing

Author: Shivani Talati

When it comes to grinding tofu or making tea, the Chinese always have their own unique way to do it. Likewise, they have an exclusive method of creating their artwork, which is woodblock printing. It is a delicate and meticulous process to attain a detailed piece.

After, each wood will be painted with a single colour – which only 5 different ones are available. Source: Claire Chen

To achieve that, you will need a soft block of wood that has been carved into the various designs. After, each wood will be painted with a single colour – which only 5 different ones are available. Of which, the artist will use accordingly depending on the colour preferred and the design desired. The final step will be to stamp it on a sheet of paper and let it set dry.

After a demonstration by the master at the Museum of New Years Wood Painting, it was finally our turn to try it. However, our way of doing it was slightly different. All we needed was to brush black ink over the wood carving, and stamp it on the paper. To give it some life, we painted it with water colours. Even though it sounds like an activity for children, our participants still enjoyed it nevertheless! Using the same technique, we also brought back a souvenir – a T-shirt with Chinese characters imprinted on it. It was indeed a unique experience for many of us as it was the first time being exposed to this form of art.

The Master observes Thabile inking the wood block. Source: Dustin Van Sloten
Finished painting. Source: Claire Chen

Experiences

Like the others, i received a peace of paper made of Chinese wood and with water colours I painted a draw of a Chinese warrior. I learned through this experience that i am pretty talented in painting. i mix a fix colours together i as managed to create a nice piece of work and as an ending suprise all of the participants had the chance to frame word their painting. Everybody but especially me were very happy to get such amazing souvenir to take it home and show the friends and family what i achieved in homestay project in China!
– Yona Shay, Israel

The visit to the Museum of New Year’s Wood painting was a great experience! We were introduced with a brief knowledge about the wood painting and later had a hands-on session. This session took me back to my old days as I picked up a paintbrush after four years! I also experienced printing my own shirt with Chinese characters which was something new for me. This session was full of fun and I really cherish these moments!
– Aman, India

Dragon Lantern Dance

Author: Lovely Mehrotra

Dragons hold special significance in Chinese culture. They are believed to bring good luck as representations of power, dignity and wisdom. Thus Chinese people love to perform a dance called ‘Dragon Dance’ during Chinese New Year. Tourists from all around the globe come to China to see this special dance. Special arrangements were made by the residents of Suoyuan village so the participants of the fifth session of Jinhua Homestay Plus can experience their version of the dance.

Villagers participating in the Dragon Lantern Dance. Source: Riccardo Giorgini

The huge dragon was made from wooden planks with poles placed at equal intervals to act both as joints and as handles to hold the dragon. Over 50 paper lanterns decorated with flowers lined the body, as Chinese believe that longer the dragon, more good luck it is suppose to bring to the people. The dragon is lead by a man twirling a fabric umbrella who leads the beast around the village.

Holding the dragon and dancing with the village children in the Dragon Lantern Dance is an experience that will surely be etched in your minds.

Villager admiring the lights. Source: Riccardo Giorgini

Experiences

My favourite activity by far was taking part in the dragon light parade. It was such a special experience, chasing the dragon lights through the village with the villagers and their families, and not something I’ve experienced before in China. The sight of the orange lights dancing through the black of the night will stay with me long after the homestay has finished.
– Tess, Britain

It was a really magical night. There was something mesmerising about how the lanterns moved through the night. It was also so delightful to see the villagers all getting involved, the children included. I loved the way the beams creaked, and how the whole group ran excitedly out of the way as the dragon buckled in and out of its concentric circles.
– Reade, Australia

Dragon light dance was pretty amazing , so energetic and fun. It was great to see that the people of Suoyuan unites on such events, it was a great experience as it involves the tourists, the community, even the children of the village to partake in this dragon light dance. I actually enjoyed it as we were also pretending to be part of this dancing dragon. I loved it. The lights and everything were just spectacular!
– Ntando, South Africa

Folk Culture Traditions

Author: Shivani Talati

The best way to know a culture is by experiencing their folk traditions. For a country as large as China it can take a whole lifetime to know and experience their culture, but through excellent arrangements and planning this program provides with everything a person would want to know about China and its folklore. This program arranges a variety of folklore activities like tea making, paper cutting, shoe weaving, flower arrangement, grinding tofu, calligraphy, Wu opera and much more.

If you are a fan of tea drinking China is heaven for you, the masters will give you detailed information about the types of tea and also show you the Chinese etiquette one must observe in making of the tea.

Thabile participating at a tea ceremony. Source: Vicki Hung

The flower arrangement activity may look very simple but once you sit to make it you will understand about how imagination and observance of small details can produce beautiful results.

A flower arrangement. Source: Vicki Hung

You will be grinding tofu using the traditional way which requires some muscular strength but it’s still fun to know how the delicious tofu you eat at your host family’s home is prepared. All these activities are conducted in its most traditional form and by the masters themselves. If you want to know the authentic Chinese culture this place is for you.