Beijing Theater Museum
Among the hundreds of halls built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the one called Huguang Huiguan is best preserved of them all. It was originally built in 1807, in the twelfth year of the Jiaqing reign of the Qing dynasty. It is situated at the southwest corner of the intersection at Hufang Qiao. In 1997, it was completely renovated and reopened as what is now called the 'Beijing Theater Museum.
The most valuable part of the complex is a theater building that was constructed in 1830. This is the most ancient of all of China's extant indoor theaters. The floor space of the first floor measures 568 square meters and the second floor is 328 meters, making a total of 896 square meters for the theater. The stage is 54 square meters. The main structural elements are the two great beams and nine crossbeams that span 11.36 meters, which is rare among buildings in China.
Today, eight-sided tables are placed around the lower level, and upstairs are boxes for seating; altogether the theater can hold an audience of 250. The ancient theater has been repainted but has not lost its refined elegance.
The old Xiangxianci building is currently the exhibition hall of the theater museum. It gives a brief history of the development of theater and in the process one can see that the institution of such a huiguan or gathering spot was very important for the development of Peking opera. In the Qing dynasty, when theaters from elsewhere came into Beijing they used the huiguan theaters for performances. The Anhui Huiguan would perform Hui-plays, the Huguang Huiguan would perform Chu-plays, the Jiangxi Huiguan would perform Gan-plays: this allowed all the different kinds of theater the opportunity to see each other and draw inspiration and lessons from each other. The exchange and blending finally created the conditions for the birth of the ultimate Chinese theater, Peking opera. Some of the masterpieces of the theater were first performed in the Anhui Huiguan, such as Peach-blossom Fan. Great masters of the stage such as Master Tan Xinpei (1846?1943), Mei Lanfang (1894-1961) and others have all in the past performed here. Historical treasures relating to the theater are stored in the Xiangxianci part of the Wenchang pavilion. There are, for instance, the costumes worn by Yang Xiaolou (1879-1938), there are early period records made by the EMI Company, and so on.
Xuanwu District, Hufang Road, #3
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