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Tongzi Opera

en.nantong.gov.cn Updated: 2023-06-16


A photo of the Tongzi Opera Pearl Pagoda. [Photo provided to en.nantong.gov.cn]

With a history of more than 1,000 years, Tongzi Opera features immortals and supernatural or magical powers, and has been seen as a kind of prayer in Nantong, East China's Jiangsu province.

The Tongzi is a group of people who claim they can travel between realms of immortals, ghosts, and human beings, eliminate ill fortune and bring people good luck.

The lyrics and spoken parts of Tongzi Opera are all in the Nantong dialect, giving it a strong local flavor.


Tongzhi Opera performers in Nantong participate in an Asian folk-art festival in South Korea in 2004. [Photo provided to en.nantong.gov.cn]

"Although different from Peking Opera, Huangmei Opera, and Yue Opera in music and tune, Tongzi Opera is still based on Chinese historical stories and folk legends," said Yang Jianming, head of the Tongju Opera Troupe in Rugao, Nantong.

In the 1950s, Tongzi Opera experienced further development and started being called Tongju Opera. In 2008, it was listed among the second batch of national intangible cultural heritage items.

Traditional Tongzi Opera features a strange, resounding and sorrowful tune and has an intense force of impact while Tongju Opera sounds more tender and melodious.

Yang noted that as a folk art performance, Tongzi Opera needs to be promoted to the public, and to achieve that goal the Tongju Opera Troupe offered nearly 400 performances in rural Nantong last year.

"Our troupe has performed in more than 70 towns and subdistricts in Nantong and we've traveled all the rural areas in the city," said Yang.

He has also set up a Tongzi Opera base to stimulate young people's interest in the folk art and train more performers for his troupe.