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Guangchang Meng Opera

( chinaculture.org )

Updated: 2011-09-13

Guangchang Meng Opera
Meng Jiangnv Crying Bitterly over the Death of Her Husbandat during the Construction the Great Wall

The Guangchang Meng Opera, dating back to the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), features the legend of Mengjiang Crying at the Great Wall. It was popular in Guangchang county, Jiangxi province and is over 500 years old.

The legend has it that 2,000 years ago, during the construction of the Great Wall, a young man called Fan Xiliang was forced to work on the massive project -- even on his wedding day. Before Fan went away, his bride, a girl named Meng Jiangnu, broke her white jade hair pin in two, giving her husband half as a token of her love.

Meng waited for her husband for five years without a word from him. One night, Meng dreamed that her husband was yelling, "Cold, cold!" Remembering that Fan went away wearing very thin clothes, Meng made some padded clothing and set off alone to look for him.

After crossing many mountains and rivers on foot, Meng finally reached the construction site of the Great Wall where she was told her husband had died and was buried under the Great Wall.

Hearing this, Meng sat at the foot of the Great Wall and started crying. She cried day and night and her wailing finally made the Wall come down, revealing her husband's bones. This made the emperor Qin Shihuang very angry, and he ordered Meng to be punished.

But when he saw the young lady, he was struck by her beauty and asked her to marry him. Having no choice, Meng agreed under the condition that her Fan received a proper burial.

After the funeral, when Meng and the emperor went on a trip to the Bohai Sea, Meng realized that she simply could not marry the tyrant who had killed her beloved husband. Unseen by the guards, Meng jumped into the sea.

The Guangchang Meng Opera had three genres. The Zeng and Liu genres are still performed now. The Meng Opera is now only performed once during the first month of the lunar calendar. The Guangchang Meng Opera aria is in high pitched music, a singing style characterized by the very high, forceful falsetto in which it is sung.

The Zeng and Liu Meng Opera genres provide precious materials for the study of Chinese Opera and folk customs, and are valuable in terms of art and sociology.

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