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Jingju or Peking Opera
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15:28, January 07, 2008

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As China is quickening its tempo going global, cross-cultural communication has become more important than ever before.

In some cases, however, it seems difficult to find an equivalent in any other culture to convey the true meaning of something unique to one culture. Settling on a perfect English translation for many Chinese terms has long been an issue in terms of gaining a better understanding in cross-cultural communication. For instance there is 'loong' vs. 'Chinese dragon,' 'Qigong' vs. 'breathing exercise,' and 'Taiji,' vs. 'shadow boxing.' And to the same token, there is 'Jingju,' vs. 'Peking Opera.'
Many related experts and scholars insist that Peking Opera is so different from Western opera that it should be transliterated into "Jingju" instead of being translated into "Peking Opera" the way it is now.

"You don't call Kabuki Tokyo Opera, do you?" responded Zhao Qizheng, former Minister of the State Council Information Office, who has repeatedly expressed his ideas to the same effect. In his perspective, Chinese people can become better "world citizens" by improving their communication skills, which is necessary for public diplomacy.

As a form of artistic expression, Peking Opera is not only elegant in its stylistic elements like facial makeup and melodies, but also a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing, all combined to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings of gladness, anger, sorrow, happiness, surprise and fear.

Peking Opera stems from the ancient art of Kunqu which is documented as the oldest operatic form dating back more than two hundred years. Like Peking Opera, Kunqu also calls on the audience's great patience and taste to understand its real charm. You need to watch the performance; savor the delicate yet energetic movements; and listen to the fury within the song—a fury that goes directly into people's hearts.

In its wide range of themes, Peking Opera also dramatically varies from Western opera and any other theatre genre. Behind it is the unshakable back-up of the Chinese culture with its remote origin and broad development, and with Confucianism as the undercurrent philosophy; and the unique aesthetic thinking and views of the Chinese nation left over by the development of culture and history. That can partially explain why Peking Opera has assumed some social responsibility to enlighten people while entertaining them. Many Peking Opera genres boast a theme that persuades people to give up evils and return to virtue.

In contrast to Western opera and drama, Peking Opera can not be simply defined as pure comedy or pure tragedy as it normally incorporates the two into one performance; and in the battle between virtue and evil, virtue always prevails against evil.

In today's globalizing world, even cultures around the globe tend to integrate. On the one hand, this is a constructive trend on the one hand for it enhances intercultural communication. On the other hand, cultural diversity needs to be retained to keep the world colorful.
On this basis, the writer here is appealing for renaming Peking Opera its Chinese Pinyin form of "Jingju," not because of narrowed-minded nationalism or an extreme cultural inferiority complex, but in an effort to restore the oral, intangible heritage of Peking Opera and its original Chinese characteristics.

"The translated terms also need a cultural touch," Zhao Qizheng was quoted as saying.

By People's Daily Online



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