The Big and Small Theatre Towers2016-05-24 13:34:00Share:
The royal family of Qing Dynasty loved operas very much. In Qianlong period a small theatre had been constructed in the clear ripple garden called the hall for listening to orioles. This title means “a place to appreciate the singers with sweet voice like that of yellowbirds”.
It is located in the southwest of the Summer Palace's longevity hill. It was said that Emperor Qianlong himself had played in some of the operas. This is a quadrate yard. In the restoration during Guangxu period the stage was moved to the south and five main halls had been built for the audience in the north facing the stage. Empress Dowager Cixi often came here to watch small operas or make paintings to enjoy herself.
The Small Theatre Tower: Hall for listening to orioles
The Big Theatre Tower
But as the space of the hall for listening to orioles was too limited, large-scale fairy tale operas like the legend of the monkey king could not be staged here. Cixi loved such rumpus programs so she had ordered early that the big theatre tower of the garden of virtue and harmony be built and expanded from the site of the former hall of pleasant spring in the northeast of the court area.
The new building group included four rows of courtyards. It is fully equal to and not a little inferior to the three theatres of the pavilion of pleasant sounds in the Forbidden City, the garden of universal happiness in the Yuanmingyuan Garden, and the pavilion of clear songs in the summer resort in scale.
The three-story theatre hall stands in the center having a height of 22 meters. The three floors have very auspicious names: the felicity platform, the longevity platform and the wealth platform. Each floor has a stele. From the third to the ground floor the three steles read one by one as “show of jubilation and glory”. “Testimony of peace and prosperity” and “celebration at flourishing age” are trying to create a happy and peaceful atmosphere.
There is a central parvis inside the tower. When the fairy tale operas were staged, the heavenly army played by actors could fly onto the stage from above and the machine-operated stage sceneries like sprinkling water, flames, snow, sound tricks and other special effect could be made very vivid and rumpus. At the backstage is a two-story building. Actors would make up, prepare for performance and retire from the stage to have a rest here.
Standing right opposite to the big theater is the Hall of Happiness and Healthiness. It is a seven-by audience hall. The base platform is 22 centimeters higher than that of the theater tower to make sure the audience could see all the happenings on the three stages at a glance. The throne of the empress dowager is put in one of the seven bays.
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