Musical-Dramatic Experimentation in the Yangbanxi: A Case for Precedence in The Great Wall

  • John Winzenburg
Part of the Chinese Literature and Culture in the World book series (CLCW)


The yangbanxi “model dramas” were intended by their creators and supporters to revolutionize China’s musical-dramatic genres. Peking opera was central to that effort because it was deemed to be the most nationally symbolic and important genre in staging class struggle on the literary-arristic front.1 However, as we now consider this period in retrospect, we see how generic meaning changes over time, where the experimentation of the yangbanxi is part of a larger trajectory beyond Peking opera alone. The inclusion of ballets Btzimtzo Nü (White-Haired Girl) and Hongse Niangzijun (Red Detachment of Women) and the “Revolutionary Symphonic Music” Shajiabang among the main eight works is only one indication of how the yangbanxi associated with Jiang Qing were novel in their specific blending of elements from Chinese and Western opera, dance, and music. Paul Clark points out how “cultural developments of 1966–1976 began before 1949,” and that experimentation of the yangbanxi had precedents in works that appeared before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).2 In the decades since the Cultural Revolution, Chinese performing arts have continued the path of experimentation, though diverse and divergent from the yangbanxi paradigm, even if Peking Opera itself no longer resonates as China’s national-cultural symbol to the degree it did before 1976.


Cultural Revolution Musical Drama Symphony Orchestra Aesthetic Objective Pentatonic Scale 
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© John Winzenburg 2016

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  • John Winzenburg

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