As far as the tone is concerned, Yuju belongs to the category of clapper opera. It has four schools: namely Xiangfu tone centered by Kaifeng, Eastern Henan tone, centered by Shangqiu, Western Henan tone, centered by Luoyang and Shahe tone centered by the drainage area of the Shahe River in south-eastern Henan.
Yuju artists say that there were two early teaching schools, namely Jiang and Xu. They established schools to teach Yuju, the Jiang taught in Zhuxian Town to the south of Kaifeng while the Xu taught in Qingheji to the east of Kaifeng. Later, those around the Kaifeng area developed into the Xiangfu tone. Those spread to Shangqiu area developed into the Eastern Henan tone; those spread into Luoyang developed into Western Henan tone and those spread into Luohe developed into the Shahe tone.
Since 1927, talented Yuju actresses like Wang Runzhi, Ma Shuangzhi, Chen Suzhen, Chang Xiangyu, Ma Jinfeng and others absorbed the essence of Zhuizi (ballad singing to the accompaniment of the Zhuiqin), Dagu (drum), and Beijing Opera while performing in Kaifeng and other cities. The new plays written by Fan Cuiting and Wang Zhennan for Chen Suzhen and Chang Xiangyu brought great changes to the stage performance of Yuju. In 1938, Chang Xiangyu started a new school of opera performance on the ground of Western Henan tones, absorbing some of the Eastern Henan tones, breaking through the confining boundaries.
Famous for its skillful voice control, fluent tones, vivid rhythms and popular spoken language, Yuju is clear in lyrics, lively in tone, easy to understand, plain in style and rich in local colors.
Masterpieces of Yuju are Dui Huaqiang (Two-spear Fight); San Shangjiao (Thrice on Board the Sedan Chair); Di Tangban; Tikou, Zha Mei’an (The Beheading of A Ungrateful Husband), Shi’er Guafu Zhengxi (The Fight Led by Twelve Widows) and so on. Some of them are edited or adapted from traditional plays, including the Hongniang, Hua Mulan, Mu Guiying Took Command, The Conquest of Hongzhou, County Governor Tang Interrogated the Royal Lady, etc. Original or adapted modern plays are Chaoyanggou Valley, Liu Hulan, Li Shuangshuang, etc. Some of the adapted plays are The Marriage of Xiao’erhei, Luohanqian, Sister Xianglin, Girl Wuguniang, The Red Detachment of Women and many others.