The in-depth exploration of Beijing folk styles and red culture: commenting on the adaptation of Ping Opera “Puliu People”


The famous modern writer Liu Shaotang has devoted his whole life to carry forward the tradition of Chinese native literature. He had created the series of Great Canal Native Literature with fine, profound and fresh style to describe the creak of an oar and the hard-working, tenacity and vicissitudes of life of families along the canal. The homonymous Ping Opera adapted from the novell“Puliu People” by Liu Shaotang aims to convey the lyric spirit of the original novel while depicting the historical picture of Chinese people defending their nation and fighting against with Japanese under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, making the audience feel the customs that prospered in the Great Canal and baptized by red culture.

An opera adapted from a classical novel is a double-edged sword, which makes it easy to provide a relatively clear story plot and characters for the stage performance on the basis of the original novel. However, since the classical novel has impressed people before, thus it will be a great test for the creators to maintain and strengthen this original impression. It's a comfort that the Ping Opera has basically commanded the tone of Liu's novel and tries its best to create a life scene from all aspects, including the adaptation, mise en scene, performance and musical style.

The Ping Opera "Puliu People" continues the legendary and folk custom of the original novel, and creates characters, plots and artistic conception following the basic characteristics of "legendary" and  "folk".

In the original work, the writer highlighted the legendary sense of the work by shaping a group of images. However, based on the rules of stage art, the adapted Ping Opera is bound to simplify the main line. While trying to show the images living along the Canal Canal, it is also necessary to outline the story and create suspense through several protagonists. Therefore, the child He Manzi, who interspersed the canal story in the original book, was deleted, and the narrative perspective changed from the child to the writer Liu Shaotang himself. Through the way of jumping out and in, he recalled the love twists and turns of Wangri Lian and Zhou Fu. The protagonists of the story are no longer He Manzi, He Daxue and Yizhang Qing but Wangri Lian and Zhou Fu.

Of course, maintaining the aesthetic style of the original novel while adhering to the characteristics of drama and the basic laws of drama art in the presentation of the Ping Opera stage will inevitably bring some difficulties to the adaptors. At present, in terms of characterization, and plot structure, the Ping Opera "Puliu People" is still confined to the framework of the original work, and it has not completely broken the bonds of the original novel. For example, since the narrative perspective has changed from the child, He Manzi to Liu Shaotang, it is better to simply delete the character He Manzi to make the plot more concise.

As the capital vigorously promotes the construction of the national cultural center, proposes to inherit and protect the historical context, and includes "promoting the protection and utilization of the Great Wall cultural belt, the Xishan cultural belt, and the Grand Canal cultural belt" as the main task of the plan, the creation and rehearsal performance of the drama “Puliu People” is a thorough implementation of this historical task by the Beijing publicity and culture system, demonstrating cultural self-confidence and self-improvement. It is a specific measure to strengthen the people's spiritual strength, give play to the role of the national cultural center in demonstration, guidance, cohesion and radiation. The performance of this opera has made a beneficial attempt to deeply explore the theme of the capital's "Great Canal culture" and has also injected more updated interpretations into the stage art expression of the new Beijing culture.

Translator: SHI Meiling

Reviewer: ZHANG Ruochen