In October 2005, walking as an ignorant turist through the huge complex of the Summer Palace in Beijing, among its fantastic imperial buildings, I found one of the most beautiful chinese structures I’ve ever seen, the Grand Stage or Daxi lou.
I’d rather more than talk about my experience watching it, to share the information I found about it. At the end (I know it) my experience is felt with my photographs and videos.
This is the first ocassion I made use of scanned photographs besides those of my own, but it worths.

Court Theaters in the Qing Dynasty.

In the period of Emperor Kangxi, an administrative structure called the “Southern Repository” was set up to administer court theatrical performances and training, in order to serve various royal celebrations and festivals. In 1827, the Southern Repository was hanged to the Shengping Office, In the palace and royal gardens, stages were built especially for performances. All these stages boasted elegant and exquisite architectural styles. (1)


Stage complex at Tangle Garden in Old Summer Garden.


This first theatrical complex was a three-storey stage and was located at Tangle Garden in Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Garden), but was destroyed by fire. (2)






The Southern Repository Stage (3)


The Southern Repository Stage was built in the 18th century and used for rehearsals. There was an entrance and an exit at the back of the stage. The entrance resembled the gate of a temple which symbolized a general going out of the city for battle and a minister coming back to court through the temple gate. (4)
(Foto)






Stage at the Imperial Mountain Estate in Chengde




This three-storey satge was located in the Fushou Garden at the Imperial Mountain Estate, but was destroyed by fire. (5)




Deheyuan Theater in the Summer palace. The Grand Stage. (6)


Deheyuan Theater in the Summer Palace is located in Deheyuan (the Garden of Virtue and Harmony) of the Summer Palace. It was the largest theater in Qing Dynasty and it is also the best’preserved and largest-scale palace theater of ancient times in China.

Deheyuan Theater, also know as the “cradle of Beijing Opera”, was originaly built in 1891 and completed in 1895 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. It cost 700,000 taels of silver. It is a complex structure comprising a three storey building for performances and two-storey make-up building. It is a theater where Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi watched dramas. The Empress, a lover of opera, would on occasions dress as a member of the troupe, her interest in Beijing Opera promoted the development of Beijing Opera to some extent.

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/EkPRtRknJXg&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/EkPRtRknJXg&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

The Grand stage (Daxi lou) is 21 meters in height and 17 meters wide. It consists of three storey, each having its own entrance and exit. The top storey is called Futai, the middle Lutai and the bottom Shoutai, where differents operas and plays could be peformed at the same time (7).

The theater was designed to expand acoustic resonance and to facilitate performance of immortals and ghost dramas. The small building on The Shoutai was were the band accompanied. There were also performance props such as seven “suspending well” on the ceiling of Shoutai, one “water well” and fice ponds, spinning board, a windlass and a high-pressure water machine which made it possible to enact scenes of gods coming down to earth, apparitions fleeing underground and water spewing forth. The “immortals” could descend from above and “ghost” turn up from under the ground.

Distinguished Beijing Opera actors of the Qing Dynasty, like Yang Xiaolou (8) and Tan Xinpei (9), performed here for the Empress Dowager.

This Gran Stage (Daxi lou) in the Summer Palace, the Free Tones Pavillion in the Forbidden City and the Clear Voice pavillion in Chengde Summer resort, Hebei Province, were renowed as the three great stages during the Qing Dynasty (10). The Summer palace Grand Stage is the largest of all them.




(1) Page 192. “Pictorial Handbook of the History of Chinese Drama”. Institute of Chinese Drama, China Academy of Arts. People’s Music Publishing House. Beijing, 2003
(2) Page 193. “Pictorial Handbook of the History of Chinese Drama”. Institute of Chinese Drama, China Academy of Arts. People’s Music Publishing House. Beijing, 2003
(3) I couldn’t find where this place is exactly located, Summer Palace or Forbidden City.
(4) Page 193. “Pictorial Handbook of the History of Chinese Drama”. Institute of Chinese Drama, China Academy of Arts. People’s Music Publishing House. Beijing, 2003
(5) Page 193. “Pictorial Handbook of the History of Chinese Drama”. Institute of Chinese Drama, China Academy of Arts. People’s Music Publishing House. Beijing, 2003
(6) Most of the information about The grand Stage in the Summer Palace come from the sight itself (Information sight); Page 194 of “Pictorial Handbook of the History of Chinese Drama”(Institute of Chinese Drama, China Academy of Arts. People’s Music Publishing House. Beijing, 2003); and Page 66-71 of “Classical dramas and Theaters in Beijing” (Beijing 2005)
(7) “Fortune”, “Salary” and “Longevity” stages.
(8) Yang Xiaolou (left in the picture) (1878-1938) came from an actor’s family and carried on his father’s excellence in the wusheng (warrior) role. Coached by his adopted father Tan Xinpei, yang was called the “Master of Wusheng”. (“Pictorial Handbook of the History of Chinese Drama”… )





(9) Native of Hubei, Tan Xinpei (1847-1917) came from an actor’s family and was first apprenticed to Cheng Changgeng. It was specialized in the laosheng (old soldier) role and is considered “the king of theatre”. His famous performances were done in two important operas: Dingjun Mountain (Dingjun shan) and Yangping Pass (Yangping Guan). He standardized the use of Hubei accent and zhongzhou intonations to form his own singing style. He created the first school for Beijing Opera, the Tan School. He and Wang Yaoqing were innovators and their innovations had vast effects on the development of Chinese drama. (“Pictorial Handbook of the History of Chinese Drama”…; “L’Opéra de Pékin. Quintessence de la culture chinoise.” By Yu Bian. Editions en Langues Étrangères. Beijing, 2005) )

(10) Another three-storey stage; it was located in the Fushou Garden at the Imperial Mountain Estate in Chengde, but was destroyed by fire.