Thursday, October 15, 2009- Marion’s birthday.
Another early morning ride to the airport. The flight from Xi’an to Beijing was delayed for more than an hour, why I am not sure. Most in our group had made plans upon arrival in Beijing to do some last minute shopping before we met in the evening to visit the Chinese folk opera and then dinner. After checking in at our Beijing hotel, each went off into the city.
We all made it back in time to freshen up and gather for our bus ride to take us to the Chinese folk opera. This performance is at a theater in a lovely hotel in the embassy section of Beijing. Before the performance, you are allowed to watch the actors put on their theatrical makeup and prepare for the night’s performance.
We were told to take the stairs to a balcony section; however, we had specifically purchased front section tables. Our tour guide had departed after she obtained the tickets for us. Luckily, she had given me her cell phone number, so I telephoned her and asked her to return to solve our problem. She returned in a few minutes and got our seats corrected, just a miscommunication between the theatre and the tour company.
The Chinese folk opera is an ancient story-telling technique. It is sung and spoken in a very high-pitched voice and accompanied by the clanging of cymbals and drums. While it is a very interesting cultural experience, it can also be very chaotic to the untrained Western ear. To assist non-Chinese language people, there are displays on either side of the stage telling the story line in English. We saw two short Chinese folk opera stories.
The first story was about a young girl who meets a young man outside of her home. He leaves a jade bracelet for her to find, which she does. However, the town’s yentl sees him leave the jade bracelet and sees her find it. The yentl now wants to negotiate the wedding but the young girl is coy and shy. Ultimately, the young girl and the young man decide to get married.
The second story was about a monk who kidnapped a sorcerer’s husband. When the socceror and her sword-swinging sister reproached the monk about her husband’s kidnapping, they decide to battle it out. The socceror calls upon her friends of the sea-shrimp, fish, etc. and the monk calls upon his army. From this point on they, all fight in various ways with swords, rods, kung fu, acrobats, and dancing. It was all very colorful and much choreographed, but no one in our group was able to figure out which side won the fighting.
Another special part of the experience is the tea boys and their tea pouring skills. They pour hot tea from brass teapots with spouts, perhaps 10 feet long. They spin, twirl, and pour the tea from behind their backs, over their shoulders, etc.
After the performance, we went to the hotel’s restaurant for a lovely dinner. In honor of Marion’s birthday, I had a surprise birthday cake made and decorated in fresh fruits and chocolate. The “Happy Birthday” was written in Chinese characters and the “Dear Marion” was written in English. Due to the restaurant’s fire and smoke regulations, we were not able to light all of the candles to celebrate of all of Marion’s years.
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