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Hakka Grand Opera

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Hakka grand opera (in Hakka Sixian dialect: hagˋ gaˊ tai hi; in Hakka Hailu dialect: hag gaˋ tai+ hiˇ), also known as "refined tea-picking opera" or "tea-picking grand opera," is developed on the basis of the "Hakka three-character tea-picking opera" from China. Influenced by specific historical context and different types of opera in Taiwan, it has become one of Taiwan's unique traditional theater genres.Hakka grand opera has taken on various performance forms throughout its history, including "lo̍k-tē-sàu" (an informal performance that took place at the temple courts), "indoor plays," "outdoor plays," and modern cultural performances. With the rise of different media, it has also found its way into radio, television, and theater, adapting to various forms of performances.

The language used in Hakka grand opera is based on the "Taiwanese Hakka Sixian dialect." Its musical style is rooted in the original tunes of tea-picking opera, such as "Pingpan" and "Shankotzu," while also incorporating melodies from other opera genres, resulting in a unique musical form.

Historical Development[edit]

Qing Dynasty[edit]

Hakka grand opera was developed on the foundation of Hakka three-character tea-picking opera, which was brought to Taiwan by Hakka immigrants during the Qing Dynasty.[1] It reached its peak of popularity in the late Qing Dynasty.[2][3]

Japanese occupation period[edit]

In the early years of Japanese occupation, Hakka three-character tea-picking opera was influenced by the rise of commercial theaters in Taiwan and performances by theater troupes from China. It absorbed elements from other opera genres like Luantan opera, Siping opera, and Peking opera, attempting to transform the three-character tea-picking opera into a more elaborate theatrical form that involved more performers and delicate stage performance, selling tickets at commercial theaters.[2][4]

In the later period of Japanese occupation, due to the government's promotion of Japanization, the "Taiwan Drama Association" was established in 1942 to manage Taiwan's drama troupes. As a result, traditional opera performances in Taiwan were greatly restricted, leading to the dissolution of many troupes.[3]

Post-war Period[edit]

After 1945, Hakka opera troupes started to resurge, returning to indoor performances. To train new performers, the troupes hired experienced performers from other opera genres such as Luantan opera, Siping opera, and Peking opera, who taught the new members in body movements and performance styles. Peking opera performers were the majority among the instructors, which was reflected on the demonstration of the characteristics of Peking opera in Hakka grand opera.[4][5] Additionally, the combination with different opera genres and emerging visual and entertainment effects has resulted in the highly flexible, adaptable, and inclusive Hakka grand opera.[1][6][7]

In 2021, Taiwan's National Taiwan College of Performing Arts established the Hakka Opera Department, providing formal education to train Hakka opera actors. Since the establishment of Hakka TV in 2003, the TV productions of Hakka grand opera productions has encouraged the participation of theater troupes.[1]

Performance characteristics[edit]

Melodies and tunes[edit]

Hakka grand opera's musical tunes can be categorized into two systems: "Hakka system" and "non-Hakka system." During performances, the Hakka system uses "Pingpan" (tea-picking tune) as the main musical form, while "Shankotzu" serves as a secondary tune. Other tunes, known as the "Nine Accents and Eighteen Tunes," are used for embellishment.[8]


Instruments used in Hakka grand opera are divided into "wenchang" (literary scenes) and "wuchang" (martial scenes)." The wenchang instruments are represented by string instruments "panghu" and "erxian." The wuchang instruments consist of "tungku" (drums), "chitzu" (small cymbals), "hsiaoluo" (bowl gong), "daluo" (local gong), "Chiasai" (bamboo clappers), and "chiaotzu" (wood blocks). "Hsiaoluo" is an indispensable instrument in Hakka opera and eight-tone musical ensembles.[8]

Role types[edit]

The role types in Hakka grand opera are similar to those in other traditional Chinese operas, including "sheng" (male), "dan" (female), "chou" (clown), and "jing" (painted face).[9] The "chou" role in Hakka opera is particularly important, since it is the role that can best deliver Hakka vernacular. The categorization of "chou" roles in folk troupes is different from other opera genres, including "ching chou" (crafty clown), "han chou" (silly clown), "wenming chou" (cultured clown), "wuchou" (martial clown), "dien chou" (comic clown), and "laoshih chou" (elder clown). The "chou" role is essential in Hakka opera,[10] as the plot development is tied to the role. "Sanpatzu" (a silly and goofy role), portrayed by female performers, serves a similar function to the clown role and primarily sings Hakka folk songs in the performances.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 蘇秀婷 (2000-01-18). "客家戲". 臺灣大百科. Retrieved 2023-09-01.
  2. 2.0 2.1 鄭榮興. "台灣客家採茶戲概說" (PDF). 臺大開放式課程.
  3. 3.0 3.1 鄭榮興:《臺灣客家戲之研究》,臺北:國家,2016年。
  4. 4.0 4.1 王璦玲 (2017-01-24). "客家戲曲簡介". 客家委員會-客家雲.
  5. 蘇秀婷:《臺灣客家改良戲之研究》,臺北:文津出版社,2005年。
  6. "文化部文化資產局--國家文化資產網". Retrieved 2023-09-01.
  7. 國際化,雙語編排,文化整合,全球華人的雜誌, 台灣光華雜誌 Taiwan Panorama |. "客家本色,起班囉 復興客家大戲──鄭榮興". 台灣光華雜誌 Taiwan Panorama | 國際化,雙語編排,文化整合,全球華人的雜誌 (in 中文). Retrieved 2023-09-01.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 劉美枝:〈第五章 採茶戲音樂〉,《苗栗縣客家戲曲發展史·論述搞》。苗栗:苗栗縣文化中心,1999年。
  9. 邱慧齡:《茶山曲未央:臺灣客家戲》,商周編輯顧問股份有限公司,2000年。
  10. 10.0 10.1 蘇, 秀婷 (2015-03-01). "客家戲丑行之學藝歷程與口語藝術─以「憨丑」張有財為考察對象". 戲曲學報. 國立臺灣戲曲學院 (12): 75-100 – via 華藝線上圖書館.

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