Early in the Ming Dyansty, in the late 14th century, some military units from the area of Nanjing were sent to Guizhou, bringing their families. Their descendants still form a distinct group known as the "Old Han," and preserve some elements of 14th century Nanjing-area culture. We visited the Old Han village of Jichang, a couple of miles from (I think northeast from) the town of Pingba, in Pingba xian, Guizhou.
There was an opera performance in the street ("ground opera") in front of the village Communist Party office. It was primarily for our benefit, but the locals also attended and seemed to enjoy it.
The opera occurred during the lunch break of the local primary school, so quite a few children were present.
The musicians getting ready.
The actors wore black cloth hoods over their heads, and masks mounted high enough on their foreheads so they could see through the cloth below the bottoms of their masks.
The man in blue, apparently the manager and/or director, occasionally walked through the action, straightening costumes, giving instructions, and controlling stray children.
Closeup of the painted panel that the actor above wore on the small of his back.
This boy, apparently considered a promising performer, was given a sword and encouraged to join the action.
Opera masks for sale. One way we could tell that this village is only beginning to be a regular tourist attraction is that there was no aggressive effort to get us to buy these masks.
Jichang: An Old Han village
Return to Table of Contents
Copyright © 2005, Edwin E. Moïse. Revised June 17, 2005.