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January 23, 2010

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Museum highlights nation's first opera

A MUSEUM to showcase an ancient Chinese opera form that is the forerunner of all Chinese operas is to open in northwest China's Gansu Province on Monday.

The China Qinqiang Opera Museum covers at least 2,000 square meters on the northern bank of the Yellow River that flows across downtown Lanzhou, the provincial capital.

"It's not a big place, but is rich in content," said Fan Wen, a city government official in charge of cultural affairs.

The museum has a huge collection of musical scores, face masks, scripts, costumes and historical photos donated by private collectors across the country, said Fan.

Zhang Hanhu, an opera fan in Lanzhou, has donated 40 puppets and 50 costumes he inherited from his father and grandfather, who were renowned opera performers.

The museum will also feature film and recordings of leading artists' singing and dancing performances.

Construction of the museum began in June 2008 and cost at least 10 million yuan, said Fan Wen.

"Gansu Province is the origin of Qinqiang Opera," he said. "We hope the museum will enable opera fans to closely study this ancient artistic form and save it from extinction."

Qinqiang is known as the "First Emperor's Opera," indicating it was popular during the reign of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China in the Qin Dynasty (221BC-207BC).

Today, however, the opera is popular mainly among elderly people. "The young are more interested in pop songs and rock'n'roll," said Li Zhi, head of the museum.

An entrance ticket will cost 10 yuan (US$1.5).


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