Guilin Opera is a beloved artform throughout southern China and is one of country’s ten major forms of opera. This kind of opera utilizes 桂林话 (Guìlín huà, Guilin dialect) and various regional 方言 (fāngyán, dialects) to tell stories of tragedy and comedy. Guilin Opera originated during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) when the traditional artform spread to Guilin from northern China. Once in Guilin, it was adapted by local people and took on a life of its own.



Guilin Opera is deeply related to Qi opera traditions of southern Hunan Province. In the past, artists from these two regions worked and studied together, so their theatrical traditions have similar names and singing styles. Many Guilin Opera scripts are borrowed from Beijing Opera; only 40 original scripts are performed exclusively in Guilin Opera. Most Guilin Opera shows are presented at temple fairs where actors give uninhibited, simple performances that tell historical stories. In cities, where opera tends to be a bit more sophisticated, performances often center on stories about young men and women.


Guilin Opera actor on stage during a show


Caidiao is another kind of theater in Guangxi Province that originates from singing and dancing traditions of the Guilin countryside. It is livelier and easy to follow compared with Guilin Opera. Stories in Caidio are lifelike and express the traditions of local ethnic minority groups. Actors generally speak and sing at the same time. Caidiao stories usually center around romance between men and women, or the admiration of nature. Fans and handkerchiefs are common stage props. Actors will often use these items to imitate other materials, bringing a greater sense of fantasy to the audience.


Guilin Opera musicians performing


Want to learn even more about the diverse, fascinating traditions of Chinese opera? Find out how CLI’s program options can greatly enhance your understanding of Chinese language and culture, and check out the following photos of a Guilin Opera performance we held at The Chinese Language Institute in June 2019! We look forward to enjoying a night out at the opera in Guilin with you soon.


CLI students perform Guilin opera



CLI students perform Guilin opera



CLI students perform Guilin opera



CLI students perform Guilin opera


Chinese Vocabulary Related to Guilin Opera:

HànzìpīnyīnDefinition
1.中国戏曲zhōngguó xìqǔChinese opera
2.桂剧guìjùGuangxi Opera
3.舞台wǔtáistage
4.演出yǎnchūperformance
5.表演biǎoyǎnshow
6.演员yǎnyuánactors
7.歌手gēshǒusinger
8.戏剧xìjùdrama
9.音乐yīnyuèmusic
10.戏服xì fúclothing (only used for theatre)
11.戏妆xì zhuāngmakeup (only used for theatre)
12.音乐剧yīnyuè jùmusical theater
13.剧院jùyuàntheater
14.艺术yìshù art
15.歌剧院gē jùyuànOpera house
16.后台hòutáibackstage
17.舞台艺术wǔtái yìshùstage arts
18.观众guānzhòngaudience
19.头饰tóushìhead ornament
20.传统乐器chuántǒng yuèqìtraditional music instrument
21.二胡èrhúerhu (two-stringed bowed musical instrument)
22.drum
23.月琴yuèqínzither
24.luógong (musical percussion instrument)