The Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing will be the setting tonight for a grand show featuring the cream of Chinese and Japanese performing arts, fascinating hundreds of distinguished guests.
Renowned Japanese Noh artist Sakai Shinoge will perform with top Chinese Peking Opera actor Mei Baojiu and Kuqu Opera artist Cai Yaoxian.
This high-level performance is part of a series of cultural exchange activities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the normalization of the Sino-Japanese relationship, said Liu Shusheng, vice-chairman of the Beijing Overseas Friendship Association which is organizing the event.
The art of Noh is deeply connected with China. According to Sakai, folk entertaining arts of the Chinese Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) entered Japan in the seventh century. By the 14th century, more cultural and trade exchanges between the two countries further enriched Noh until it became a unique Japanese performing art.
To most people unfamiliar with Noh, the mask worn by the main actor is extremely eye-catching. With little or no expression, the mask is seen as the symbol of the Noh play, which relates daily life.
Tonight's highlights will include master Sakai dressed as a white lion, making his way on to the square stage.
In this show known as Syakkyou oojishi (Stone Bridge Lions), a monk expects something auspicious will happen at a stone bridge. In a burst of music accompaniments involving flutes and drums, several lions appear and play around the peonies blooming on the cliffs.
In both Japan and China, lions are seen as sacred animals that can bring good luck. The dazzling fast moves of the lions are in strong contrast to the slow pace of most Noh plays, which are normally staged on festive occasions in Japan.
Another play to be performed tonight, Tenko (Heavenly Drum), is rather solemn and somewhat tragic. A Peking Opera show will also be staged with Mei Baojiu, son of the great Peking Opera master, Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), acting Tang Dynasty imperial concubine Yang Yuhuan.
Outstanding Kunqu Opera actress Cai Yaoxian will perform the famous Peony Pavilion.
(China Daily September 26, 2002)