The Teochew Store Blog / Teochew opera

Teochew Sentimental Song: "Dream of Cung Hiang" 潮州-情感歌曲: 《春香夢》

A delightful modern remake of the classic Teochew opera duet "Love Song" 《愛歌》 sang by the characters Mang Leng (夢龍) and Cung Hiang (春香)
Performer 演唱: 李緒傑
Lyrics 作詞:口袋易百
Music 作曲:李緒傑
(Click for full lyrics)
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Teochew Short Film 潮语微电影: Love in Teoswa 《缘来潮汕》

A story about a girl from Singapore who goes Swatow to learn to sing Teochew opera. Dialogues in Teochew and Mandarin language. A students' production by 汕頭職業技術學院 (Shantou Technical Vocational College).
Listen out also for a number of original Teochew songs!
 
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Teochew Short Film 潮語微電影: A Short Summer Evening Dream (Teochew Puppetry) 蟬聲幾度

A warm summer evening, and the puppets came alive!

 

編劇: 李銳通
木偶導演: 陳培森

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A Brief Introduction to Tradition Teochew Music

Music expresses the soul of a people. Since the Song dynasty (960-1279), the Teochew people have had our own music tradition that is distinct from other  Chinese regional music. Shaped by Teochew folk sensibilities, it is characterised by an intense concern with melodic variation. There are seven main genres of traditional Teochew music...

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Teochew Documentary: Town, Country & Seaside Life Round about Swatow, Chaochowfu and Swabue (1935)

Watch this fascinating silent film Town, Country & Seaside Life Round about Swatow, Chaochowfu* and Swabue, and gaze into how people back in 1935 loaded salt on the beach, set up stage for a Teochew opera, built boats, made ropes, bring in their catch from the sea, chopped wood, sold prawns and fish, carry pigs, made bricks, plaster wall, forge metal, clean oyster and spin fishing net.
There are also rare glimpses into the old Teo-Swa railway, and not to forget images of how our grandparents were dressed back then! 
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Teochew Documentary: Teochew Opera 潮劇紀錄片

A documentary retelling the 400-year history of the Teochew Opera - the finest representation of Teochew performing arts. This production is worthwhile watching not only because of its subject, but also because it is the fruit of the personal efforts of a young Teochew, Tan Tek Meng 陳迪鳴 to keep alive a tradition close to the heart of himself and his people. 

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Making Sense of Teochew Opera: From Makeshift Stages to the Silver Screen

The demise of old art forms following the appearance of new technology is now an all familiar story. However when a Hong Kong company made a novel experiment to produce the classical Teochew opera play “Fire at the Riverside Pavilion”《火燒臨江樓》in cinematic form in 1958, the magic of the silver screen instantly ignited the imagination of audiences in Swatow, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.

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Teochew Short Film 潮语微电影: “Yeo Bhue Eng"《杨梅英》

“Yeo Bhue Eng"《杨梅英》is a film about the life of a former Teochew opera adolescent actress who performed by the same name (real name Ang Hui Eng 洪惠英). Sold to an opera troupe at the age of 7, she became famous by 15 and was married to a man she loved five years later. However when she was 37, her husband became a victim of the Cultural Revolution and she was left to bring up their five children alone.

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Making Sense of Teochew Opera - the Young Shoulders that bore a 500-year-old Tradition

Teochew opera is said to have over 1200 traditional plays that fall into two broad categories - those adapted from the 12th century nanxi 南戲 from Southeast China as well as chuanqi 傳奇, and others derived popular local lores including romance tales and ghost stories... The most dramatic episodes however were the ones played out behind the scenes that were summed up by this Qing Qianlong era (1736 to 1796) saying:

"父母無修飾,賣仔去做戲。鼓樂聲聲響,目汁垂垂滴。" 
“Parents uneducated in morals, sell their children to act in shows. The sounds of music ring aloud, the tears drip one by one.”
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Making Sense of Teochew Opera - origin, history & performance 160 years ago

Teochew opera, or Teochew-hee 潮州戲 –  an amazing synthesis of drama, music, singing, poetics, acrobatics, colourful costumes and folk art, is the highest expression of the Teochew culture. And rightly so, after all it is a show for the deities. Learn about its origin, history and an eye witness account of its performance 160 years ago.
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Teochew Short Film 潮语微电影: My Little Devil in Chaozhou 《缘来潮州》

When an American lost in Chaozhou meets a feisty local girl. Dialogues in English and Teochew language.
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Speaking of Reason, Reasonableness and Romance of the Teochew people

Ask other Chinese of the reputation of the Teochew people and you will probably get descriptions like hard-nosed businessmen, diligent and thrifty workers, and in the case of Hong Kongers, perhaps even unruly members of clannish gangs. These stereotypes were no doubt true to an extent relevant to our forefathers’ struggle for survival in a difficult stretch of time in history. Yet behind these impressions of being calculating pragmatists, Teochews hold above the authority of reason in the regulation of manners and behaviour.


 
In any situation of negotiation or conflict, all parties are always urged toda-dau-li  呾道理, to speak “the immutable law of reason”. As Lin Yutang (in My Country and My People) explains, the correctness of this reason is not based just on logical reasoning, but also reasonableness in touch with the human nature. Being reasonable allows situations to be handled with flexibility, understanding and realism. Being reasonable means matters of business are discussed over sessions of tea, and not thrashed out over endless revisions of lengthy proposals and contracts.

In the belief of Teochew people, knowledge of this eternal reason is assumed to be possessed in any civilised person. It is a universal authority higher even than written law. Laws after all were historically prescribed by emperors in faraway imperial capitals. As a 1868 British publication observed, people from Teochew were “noted for their independent and turbulent spirit” and “rank among those who are sparing in their allegiance to the court of Peking, and seldom yield up the quota of revenue justly due to the emperor”. It is thus this invisible hand of reason that keeps order in the whole Teochew society even when centres of political power rise and fall.

One of the lasting memories almost every visitor takes away from Swatow is the disordered state of its traffic. Especially during peak hours, the main road junctions are choked with taxis, public buses, motorcycles, three-wheelers, bicycles and modern sedans that seem out-of-place in the tired-looking city. However amidst the apparently mad jostles for the right of way that the traffic lights and road lanes barely have power to restrain, we see also the magic of reason at work. Like dancers on a stage, motorists and pedestrians move ahead and step sideways in prefect synchrony to allow the movement of everyone without accident or gridlock. Spend enough time in the city and you will appreciate the beauty of spontaneous order.

 

A society shaped by the reasonableness of its common souls, rather than reasoning from the top, supports the pursuit of happiness for all. True there is no Eiffel Tower and roadside restaurants for dating couples are rare in Swatow, but Teochews are a hopelessly romantic people. This is seen in the love of our older folks for storylines centred on love in the Teochew operas, over plots with patriotic themes that are preferred in northern China. Especially popular are local folktales where the main characters’ true love overcome the rigidities of the ideal Confucian society that stand between them and forever happiness.

Amongst the many Teochew opera plays, none is as well-loved as the tale of Sou Lak-nio  蘇六娘 – the sixth lady of the Sou family – that the troupes also never tire of performing. Set in the Ming dynasty, this equivalent of Romeo and Juliet out of Gek-yor 揭陽 (Jieyang) tells of a love between the young daughter of an esquire and her cousin that was threatened by her father’s agreement to marry her to a scholar from a well-to-do family. Despite his love for his only daughter, Sou Lak-nio’s father refused to heed her protests as the arrangement was made by a senior member of the Sou clan. To allow a girl final say against her family elders’ wishes was considered outrageous and shameful for a respectable family. This forced Sou Lak Nio to attempt to take her own life by jumping into a river on the eve of her wedding. However unlike the Shakespearean version, this story ends on a happy note. Sou Lak-nio’s faithful servant girl Tho-hue桃花 finds her in time and with the aid of an old friendly boatman helped her elope with her cousin. Freedom triumphs in the end over “proper” society with the approving applause of the crowd. 

 

*Read Helga Werle's excellent act by act narration of the Sou Lak-nio plot in English here (opens PDF file).

Or watch the all-time favourite 1957 movie version of  Sou Lak-nio below:

Part 1

Part 2

 

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