Chang Xiangyu, formerly known as Zhang Miaoling, was born poor in Gongyi, Henan Province in September, 1923. She died at 81.
In order to avoid her probable fate of becoming a child bride, Chang learned the art of singing from her father. Chang's articulation was heavy but not lifeless, light but not floating. It was euphonious. She was open-minded and willing to learn from others. Thus, she made herself a master of Henan Opera, which is also called Yuju Opera.
That "Operas should be the reflection of the contemporary society and should be produced for the people" served as Chang's working guideline. Together with her husband, Chang not only reformed the traditional operas, but struck out for new land of the modern ones.
Life is short, but art is long. In Chang's more than 70 year artistic career, she developed the Yuju Opera from a countryside opera into China's biggest regional opera style, which is now sang both in China and abroad. Chang left many masterpieces including, 'Interrogating Hong Niang', 'Legend of the White Snake', 'Female Soldier Hua Mu Lan', to name some.
In the summer of 1951, the war to resist US aggression and aid Korea began. As an artist, Chang showed a strong sense of responsibility. Intending to donate a fighter plane to the nation, she began to collect money through benefit performances. At that time, a fighter plane cost more than one billion yuan, an enormous figure for Chang. She sold nearly all her possessions and sent her three children to a child-care center. Chang, with the others in the opera troupe, traveled Kaifeng, Zhengzhou, Changsha, Guangzhou and other parts of China. In the end, they were able to raise 1.52 billion yuan, enough to buy the fighter. This deeply inspired the people all across the nation, and for the first time the Yuju Opera was brought to the whole country.
Morality should come beforehand one becomes an artist. Chang showed deep sympathy to farmers, workers and soldiers. Inclined to entertain common people, Chang and her coworkers stuck to the principle that three months should be spent in countryside, three in mining areas and three in military camps. At the same time, the performers can learn from those they are performing for.
In 1952, together with Mei Lanfang, Zhou Xinfang and some other artists, Chang was awarded a prize of honor by the Ministry of Culture. And she was the annual model labor and model artist in 1955.
Chang also financed the establishment of "Xiangyu Cup" award, which was set up to boost the further development of Yuju Opera.
Chang Xiangyu still lives in the hearts of millions of opera fans.