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Carving Bricks of Characters in Zaju Opera

Name: carving bricks of the characters in Zaju Opera

Category: pottery architecture component

Period: Northern Song dynasty (960–1127)

Measurement: a set of 5 items, each with a length of 37cm, a width of 17cm and a thickness of 4.3cm

Provenance: unearthed from a Song tomb at Xiguansanjie, Wenxian County, Jiaozuo City, Henan Province in 1991


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Name:Zhao Le
About the Writer: 

Zhao Le: a museologist of the Collections Administration Department of Henan Museum, dedicated to collections design and research.

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A set of carving bricks of Zaju characters, composed of 5 pieces, were found in the tomb chamber of a tomb of the Northern Song Dynasty at Xiguansanjie, Wenxian County, Henan Province in April 1991. On the surface of these bricks the outlines of characters were carved in low relief , and then,their features, clothes, and props by incision. The characters are very concise and vivid.

Rubbings of the Zaju characters carved on the bricks

Five Zaju characters on the set of five carving bricks have different images. The first character (from right) wears a soft-towel cap and a gown with round collar and tight cuffs, facing his right side. With a belt around his waist, he takes on a posture of dramatic wriggling. He makes a funny show with his left hand hanging down in the sleeve and his right hand holding a fan high. This role is called Fumo, who is a comic role with a face applied with white paint and powder in Zaju of the Song Dynasty. 


  The first character(from right) and its rubbing

The second character is capped with a Dongpo towel, wearing folded-collar underwear, a square-but-round-collar and tight-cuff gown and tights. It is a woman disguised as a man, holding a stick in the right hand. This role in Zaju is called Yinxi, who dances first on the stage and then is followed by other roles.


The second character( from right) and its rubbing

The third character wears a floral-shaped cap, folded-collar underwear, and a square-but-round-collar and loose-cuff gown, putting his hands in front of his belly. This role is called Zhuanggu, who specially plays the role of a government official in Zaju.


The third character(from right) and its rubbing

The fourth character wears a soft-towel cap ornamented by a pair of soft wings, a round-collar tight-cuff gown and a prop attached to the back of his waist. He is making a funny show with folded hands in salute and a posture of wriggling. This role is called Fujing, whose face is usually applied with paint and powder.


The fourth character(from right) and its rubbing

The fifth character is capped with a high soft towel ornamented by a flower on the head, a round-collar, tunic and long-sleeve gown and tights. It is a woman disguised as a man. This role is called Moni in Zaju, who plays the role of an usher and recites poems and songs on the stage as well.


The fifth character(from right) and its rubbing

This set of carving bricks of Zaju characters collected by Henan Museum are all separate bricks, on which the five Zaju characters are in complete accordance with the five roles ( namely Yinxi, Moni, Zhuanggu, Fujing and Fumo ) of Zaja recorded in documents of the Song Dynasty. They are of great artistic value because they are a mirror of the Zaju form of the Northern Song Dynasty.