Chinese Entertainment Culture

Along the history of China, there are numerous startling inventions. Apart from the four well-known inventions-- the compass, gun-power, papermaking and movable-type printing, there are many various inventions that you may haven't known, such as the shadow plays and paper cutting.

Those inventions are a kind of folk culture for entertainment. The entertainment can be divided into three categories, namely the chess, the performance, and the decoration.

Chess category
1. Mahjong
The history
Chinese mahjong is said to originate from 3000-4000 year ago, when it prevailed merely among the noble. Till the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) mahjong became popular over the whole China. Now, from north to the south, people, men and women, young and old, are playing mahjong, so it is safe to say that mahjong is one of the quintessence of Chinese culture.

How to play
In mahjong, there are 3 suits and 108 cards, which are made of bamboos or plastics, namely the Circles (tong), the Bamboo (suo) and the Thousands (wan). All these 3 suits have 4 teams and 9 tiles (1 to 9) in each team. Apart from these 108 tiles, there are 4 teams of Winds-- east, west, south and north, and 4 teams of Dragons-- Red (zhong), Green (fa) and White (bai). In total, there are 136 tiles.

The basic mahjong rules are very easy to learn, and it is indeed a proper game for people to cultivate our soul. When play the mahjong, one should be concentrated, calm, decisive, credible.
 
2. Chinese Chess  
The history
Chinese Chess is a historic entertainment that can be traced from Warring States (43 B.C. -211 B.C.) involving the military strategies. Reports show that one Chinese out of ten is fond of playing the Chinese chess. Chinese chess is not so much an entertainment, as a tactics competition.

Like the chess, the Chinese chess is a game carried out between two players. There are two armies in the Chinese chess, often black and red, each army commands 16 chessmen. The side who kills the rival’s king wins.

How to play
Like playing the mahjong, the basic rules are very easy to learn, but how to play well is not so easy to master. In a word, practice makes perfect.

The General, the head of the army, in the black army is called Shuai (帅), while in the red called Jiang (将). He just can move one step for once, up and down or left and right, in the square that consists of 9 palaces. 

The Bodyguards, the king’s bodyguards – two in each side, have the same name Shi (士/仕). They just can move one step for once to the opposite angel, in the square that consists of 9 palaces. 

The guards, the defensive forces– two in each side, have the same name Xiang(相/象). They have to move to the opposite angle of the big square made up by 4 small squares, and if there is any chessman in the right center of the square, the Xiang can move. They are the only chessmen who have not rights to cross the river.

The horses are called the Ma (馬)– two in each side. They just can move to the opposite angle in the rectangles consists of two small squares, while if there is any chessman near the horses in the longer edges of the rectangles, the horses will be stuck.

The chariots, the most powerful chessmen– two in each side, are called Ju (车/車). They can move straightly to anywhere, up and down or right and left, if there is no chessman in the way. However, they can not move to the opposite angles.

The artilleries are called Pao (炮/砲)- two in each side. Like the chariots, they can move straightly to anywhere, up and down or right and left, if there is no chessman in the way.  By contrast to all the other chessmen, when the artilleries attempt to kill the rivals, there should be one and just one chessman between them and the rivals.

The soldiers are called Zu (卒/兵)- 5 in each side. Before crossing the river, they merely can move forwards. Once having crossed the river, they can move forwards but not back, right and left, so theirs power will be multiplied as half powerful as the chariots.

The performance category
1. Face-changing performance
The history
Face-changing was actually a way of scaring the fierce animals. Long ago, the villagers lived in the feet of the mountains were attacked by the fierce animals, so they colored their face with various colors, and later they found it a good way to entertain.

Face-changing first appeared in Sichuan Opera in Qing Dynasty (1736-1795), when people celebrated the festivals in the villages, they performed the Sichuan Opera regularly and the face-changing came into being with the popularity of the Sichuan Opera.
 

How to play
The face-changing is one of the stunts used in the Sichuan Opera to express the changes of the actors’ mood, which can create romance. There are three basic tricks of face-changing.

Performers anticipatorily put the glutinous cosmetics on their faces and hid various cosmetic powders aside the stage. When they blew the powder, the glutinous cosmetics stick the powders, and the face changed.

Another trick is the actor hid the colored powders on the palms and mop  up onto their faces swiftly.

The third one is to tear the opera masks off. The actors wear some masks one after another appropriately beforehand. What they need to do is to tear the masks off.

The face-changing actors should be swiftly and trained professionally, so that he will not show any trace when perform the face-changing.

2. Traditional Chinese musical instruments
It is said that in the ancient time the people found that the withered and hollow trees could make a sound when hit and different stuff gave out different sounds, so they invented the drums with the leather and hollow trees. As the time goes by, there are a growing number of musical instruments being invented.

Nowadays, in the shade of the summer tree or in a warm small hut on the wintry days, a “bank” of retired aged is practicing the musical instruments to entertain the pedestrians and the spectators. What a harmonious and cozy sight.

There are 8 musical instrument categories in ancient orchestra by the instrument materials, namely the leather, the gourd, the clay, the silk, the stone, the metal, the bamboo and the wood. The representative musical instruments of different materials are as follows:
 
Leather: the drums.
Gourd: the Sheng (笙)- a reed pipe wind.
Clay: the ocarina and the porcelain drum.
Silk: the harps, the lyres and the pi-pa, the urheen and the batokin.
Stone (usually the limestone, bluestone and the jade): the chimes.
Metal: the carillons. Carillons prevailed in the Age of Copper as a symbol of the power and status.
Bamboo: the wind instruments, such as the bamboo flute, the vertical bamboo flute and the panpipe.  
Wood: the wooden musical instruments were commonly seen in ancient time, mainly the percussive instruments that were used to entertain the noble, like the wooden drums.

3. Shadow play
The history
2000 years ago, when the queen of the emperor Wu of Han was infected with a fatal sickness and passed away making Wu Emperor frustrated and lack of concentration to cope with the national affairs. One of the ministers found the sun shone on the doll in his child’s hand making a vivid shadow on the wall, so he made a paper-cutting of the late queen and performed the first shadow play to cheer up the Wu emperor.

How to make and play
The figures of the shadow-play are made of paper and hides, which are as many as the opera—female, male, clown and the painted faces. The sizes of the figures vary from 10 cm to 50 cm.

Behind a transparent screen, the performers command the puppets, with the strong lights shining on them to project the shadows on the screen. When perform, the performers also do the actors' line or sing, much as dubbing, with a bank dubbing the musical background.

The decoration category
1. Paper cutting
The history
Paper cutting, also known as paper graving or paint cutting, is a historic folk entertainment culture that creates a vivid image by hollowing out the paper.

The paper cutting can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220) when the housewives cut the foils and silk clothes into an image of birds or flowers and used them as the hair decorations. Later, people cut the paper or hides or leather into flowers, animals, words and figures to stick on the windows, the doors and the walls as a kind of decoration, which is deem as a symbol of the fortune.

2. Flower lantern
The flower lantern is an entertainment culture originates from the Western Han Dynasty about 2000 years ago. On the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Wu emperor conducted the worship ceremony for the whole night, so the whole city of Peking had to light up all the lanterns. That is the beginning of the Lantern festival.

Later, the folk people invented various size and designs flower lanterns to celebrate the festival, such as the ceiling lanterns, floor lanterns, wall lanterns and hand lanterns. All the lanterns are decorated with various paper cutting or paints or calligraphy or poems, making the lanterns more meaningful and blazing.

How to make
The materials are also simple and easy to get. The bamboo, wood, silk clothes, feather, paper and shells, and of course knife and scissors and paste, if you want to make an elegant flower lantern, the pen and painting materials are must.

The modern category
The entertainments above are the most impressive traditional ones, while the modern Chinese often spends their leisure in something different.

KTV
KTV is a kind of entertainment that originated from Japan, and was introduced and popular in China in 1970s. The original form of KTV was Karaoke, in which "kara" means "no", while"oke" is the abbreviation of the orchestra, so Karaoke means singing without the accompany of the orchestra.

KTV in China is facing an amazingly growing trend. As a combination of singing, dancing and bar, KTV develops into an essential part of the youth's entertainments. Young people, at work or in school, are in fond of going to the KTV, for it is a suitable place to go with a group of friends without costing too much.

In the KTV, anyone can release all in mind, happiness or anger or depression by crying out through the microphone, anyone can show all what he is good or not so good at, anyone can totally enjoy the moment without any to concern.

Bar
Traditionally, bar refers to the wine bar. However, Bar develops into different kinds of bars in China, like the coffee bar, the tea house and the internet bar (cyber-cafe) etc.

Some bars are special places to kill their leisure time for the young people, such as the wine bar and internet bar; some are suitable for the middle-aged even the aged, such as the tea house; and the other for all, such as the coffee bar.

Killing the leisure time in the bar is as popular as KTV, but with more people.

Going to the cinema
As the film blockbusters, especially the Hollywood films, created increasingly influence on the entertainment part of China, the number of the movie fans also increase amazingly. Therefore, going to the cinema seems a fashion that all people are talking about. Movie followers get mad and shocked at Avatar, Transformers and Harry Porter series etc.

Tour and expedition
Recently, tour and expedition become a new and challenging entertainment. Endless work and study deprives the time from people, so people tend to go out for a tour or expedition to enlarge the sight and enrich the life, to relax and experience.
 
Chinese Culture

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