It is at least 500 years since people in
Henan first began to play Daoqing, a kind of opera coming out during the prime time of a kind of lyric song of the Yuan dynasty. This play is accompanied with musical instruments such as the xian (string), the di (flute), the ban (clapper), the tongqi (bronze musical instrument), and so on. When it was performed, six or five people would sit together to play the instruments and sing together. Later, stage props such as shadows and puppets were added into the performance.
The music for Huanxian daoqing is loud and sonorous, melodious and beautiful, with lucid and lively rhythms.
County, all the stage props of daoqing shadow play could be put into two cartons, which could be carried on the back of a donkey. Thus it is very convenient for performers to travel around villages and give performances. Usually, daoqing is performed in the local cave-houses, so people also called it “houtayao” (literarily means that the music of the play is so loud that the cave house would collapse).
Characters of shadow play all have a big head and a relatively small body. They are narrow in the upper part of the body and wide in the lower part, and have very long arms. All characters have their distinctive features according to their genders, dispositions and identities. Male shadow puppets have large head, square face, broad forehead, big nose and hefty figure, while female shadow puppets have oval head, thin face, small nose, delicate mouth and slender figure. Characters of scholars and gentleman have thick eyebrows and beautiful eyes, and always wear gowns, very nice and elegant, while characters of military men and brave warriors have big head, round eyes and thick beard, and wear martial attires, full of power and grandeur.