Guizhou is the center of Dixi Opera in Southwestern China. Dixi Opera is one of the oldest operas in the world. The word Dixi means"ground opera". It is called Dixi because the operas are staged on a flat piece of ground. In areas such as Tunbu in Anshun, Dixi Opera is the primary form of entertainment. Dixi Opera can trace its history back to 1382, the 14th year of Emperor Hongwu during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
The size of the piece of vacant land used by the actors depends on the number of performers involved. What makes the opera unique is that the actors do not paint their faces, but wear colorful masks carved of wood. There are five basic types of characters, but the variety of masks used for each type is almost endless. Each opera usually uses 40 to 100 different masks. The masks are very colorful and each face is carved along with its helmet or hat. The audience stands around the area where the performance is being held. The opera is accompanied by a drum and a gong. The drummer is very important to the opera because he sets the tempo. The most popular subject matter for Dixi Opera is battle, the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and the history of the Sui and Tang Dynasties.
Operas are performed twice each year, one is during Spring Festival, and the other in the middle of the 7th lunar month during harvest season. The operas are used to drive away bad luck and bring good harvests. A Dixi Opera can last from several days to more than twelve.
Caiguan Village, near Dragon Palace Cave, is famous for its Dixi Opera performances. There is a Dixi Opera Museum that exhibits many examples of wooden masks used in opera performances.
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