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Guizhou's Di Opera (Ground Opera)

Di Opera, literally Ground Opera in Chinese, is considered the forebear of many other forms of Chinese opera. It can be traced back to the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the armed forces of North China entered Guizhou. Originally it is a sacrificial ceremony performed by the soldiers in Tunpu area of Anshun, Guizhou, to entertain the gods and ask for victory in battle. With its spreading among the populace, Di Opera has becomes a form of popular entertainment among dwellers around Anshun town, Guizhou.

Di Opera is generally staged twice in a year, during the spring festival and the mid-July harvest season. The stage may be a village square or a vacant ground on the roadside, and the audience usually stands around on the high land for a better view of the performance.

The performers are wielding wood swords and singing the ancient stories to village folks. The unique masks carved from wood would make valuable collected items.

Most of the popular operas are based on historical battle stories, such as Wars between Chu and Han, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the History of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, and Generals of the Yang Family. These stories have been told for hundreds of years but still remain fresh.

The local farmers are the players. They wear fancy wooden masks carved of wood, and dress in cloth shoes, unadorned robes, with banners on their backs and weapons in their hands. Around 40 to more than 100 different masks will be used in each opera. When performing, the players cover their faces with black gauze before placing the masks on their forehead. To the tempos of gongs and drums, the performers wielding wood swords and folding fans, sing the ancient folk stories. Their performance is full of enthusiasm and vibrates with long, loud, resonant voices.

The warriors usually wear chicken feather on the head and small flags on the back. The exquisite masks are lifelike in design.

Di Opera Mask

The masks used in Di Opera are also typical folk arts of Guizhou. They are very refined and full of liveness. With the high aesthetic value, the marks serve as nice souvenirs for tourists. Most of the masks are made of clove or poplar, and carved by the technique combining the bass-relief with hollowed carving. They mainly apply colors as red, green, blue, white, yellow and black, and gold-overlay and silver-blush can both be used to highlight the color. A mask consists of three parts, namely, face, helmet and ear, which is carved into various kinds of heroic figures in a kind of exaggerative style.

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