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Women in Henan Opera

The people in Henan Province like the TV program “Spring in Theater” very much. It’s an opera singing competition. All the contestants were amateurs and most were women. The lead roles in most Henan operas are intended for women. The most popular piece women perform is from the opera “Hua Mulan”. Almost everyone, from a three year old girl to eighty year old women, can sing a few verses from the opera and everyone wants to play the part of the beautiful, brave, Mulan. She dresses as a man to take her father’s place in the army. Mulan was admired for her extraordinary heroism as well as exemplifying the traditional Chinese virtues of filial piety, loyalty to country, and courage.

After the war, Mulan relinquished her government position, returned to home and resumed her womanly duties. It is very clear that Mulan doesn’t want to lord it over men; she just wanted to prove that men and women are equal. The most famous verse from the opera is, “In what way are women inferior to men?” another opera called “Mu Guiying Takes Command” tells the story of the heroine, Mu Guiying,, who is appointed a Marshal in the army by the Emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty. Together with 12 widows, she leads the army against the Western Xia Dynasty. Not only heroines, the focus of many Henan Opera is about women overcoming adversity and triumphing in the face of obstacles. The most tragic opera is “Qin Xianglian”. After her husband Chen Shimei achieves top marks in the Imperial Exams, he marries the Emperor’s daughter and sends people to kill Xianlian and her children.

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