In the Yanhuai area north of the Yangtze River, witchcraft has been very popular since ancient times. Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, there have been many folk cultural activities, such as the incense club, the bow club, the Mars club, and the young people club. People set up flower beds, raised banners, played drums and bells, sang and danced, and held totem rituals to exorcise evil spirits and auspicious spirits, and reward gods and ghosts.
Every festival or market town in Northern Jiangsu, there are folk songs and dances, playing flower drum, lion dance, playing unicorn, dancing dragon lantern, Danghu boat and other folk performances. For the purpose of sharing happiness, entertaining and enlightening the public, some lantern fairs, temple fairs and God fairs gradually have children dressing up as characters, singing stories, etc., and the contents are mostly divinity books, persuading the world, etc., which can be seen as the artistic soil for the germination of Huai opera.
Yanhuai area is Jianghuai dialect area, which belongs to northern language family and is influenced by Wu dialect. Jianhu, in particular, has pure pronunciation, distinct four tones, clear sharp and Tuan characters, with relative stability. It is said that it is called "Zhongzhou rhyme", which is the language basis of Huaiju chanting. After a long period of evolution and improvement, the content of Nuo in the ancient Warring States period was enriched and finally became Xianghuo opera.
The performance of incense opera is mainly attached to the wizard's activities of making incense by the children. It is often performed in God repaying, sacrifice, gathering, temple fair or festive activities. During the reign of Tianqi in Ming Dynasty, there was the custom of acting in the funeral in Yanhuai area. According to the records of Hengji commune in Jianhu County, Jiangsu Province, in the first year of Hongzhi in Ming Dynasty (1488), there was a boy named "Hu Ren" in xiaoyuanzhuang, Jianhu County. This is the first record of Xianghuo opera artists. During the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty, Ming Feng Ji was performed at the heting conference.
After the eleventh year of Qianlong (1764), Emperor Hongli paid a southern tour, and the salt affairs of Huaihe and Huaihe rivers were undertaken by the emperor, "I have two elegant and flowery works to prepare for the grand opera." It is recorded in the genealogy of the Lu family at Qiaotou, shanggangshi, today's Salt City: "in the first year of Jiaqing (1796), the ninth emperor of the Lu family performed the Xianghuo opera." This passage is the earliest historical record of Huai opera performance so far.
The singing style of Xianghuo opera is composed of the East and West tributaries. On the East Road, Yancheng, Funing and other Xiahe areas sing Xianghuo tune, also known as "Xiahe tune", which is derived from mentanci tune and xianghuohuitongzi tune, and its tone combines hardness and softness; on the West Road, Qingjiang, Huai'an, Baoying and other Shanghe areas sing huaidiao, also known as "huaitiaozi", which is developed from Tiange and laolaohaozi, and its tone is high and rough. There is no string accompaniment, only big gong, small Gong, castanet and bamboo drum.
Chinese PinYin : Huai Ju
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