Aesthetic, Political and Religious Change to Semiotic Communication in Ching H'si

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8th AIS/IASS Congress

Lyon - 7th-12th July 2004



interculturality AND GLOBALISATION


5. Semiotics and aesthetic practices



ABSTRACT by Dr Zachar Laskewicz



NACHTSCHIMMEN music-theatre-language NIGHT SHADES

New Music-Theatre (Sint-Niklaas)


Saling Asah Music in Balance

Balinese Cultural Exchange in Belgium

Gong Kebyar and Gender Wayang (Brussels)


Chinese Opera as a Dynamic Cultural Platform:

Aesthetic, Political and Religious Change to Semiotic Communication in Ching H'si


For Brusāk in 1938 the concept of the theatrical text was restricted, and if there was any innovation in his structural presentation of Chinese Opera it involved the realisation of how little the text consisting only of words contributes to an understanding of performances (Brusāk, 1938: 59).  Today, with multimedial texts and music-theatre-combining words, sounds and images-a new form of hermeneutics is developing which builds upon the stasis of existing models. It will be demonstrated that the semiotic processes involved in the realisation of these texts present a sign which is dynamic, variable, transformable and personally significant that can influence the perception of the texts they form part of and therefore the culture they are within.  These tools allow a reappraisal of traditional Chinese theatre and the complex processes of semiosis that take place in contemporary China, particularly in relation to the imposition of occidental textualities.


Unknown to many, there are actually several hundred types of regional opera in China today.  The tradition is not referred to as 'opera' but instead ching h'si which means 'theatre of the capital city' because the Chinese consider music to be an essential part of the dramatic arts.  The origin of all the variations of these traditions are related to an original form which developed in Peking.  When the Chinese culture colonised Taiwan they took the ching h'si tradition with them.  Although there is a strong relationship between the ching h'si traditions of Mainland China and Taiwan, there are both subtle and obvious contrasts in the way semiosis occurs which will be discussed in this paper.  The ultimate intention is to demonstrate the dynamic aesthetic, political and religious change brought about by intercultural forces throughout history and more recently dynamic nationalistic and globalised influences.  It involves the questioning of a traditional approach to semiotics which views signification in terms of a static set of signs, exemplified well in Brusāk's exposition of the semiotic systems in Chinese theatre introduced above.  The development of the tradition is discussed and the intercultural fusion of contrasts in forms of ching h'si in Beijing and Taiwan today are concentrated upon.  These contrasts entail not only aesthetic and religious forces influencing their semiosis, but also politics.  This can be seen in the strong sense of Chinese nationalism in the North of Taiwan , and a move towards the independence of Taiwanese culture and language in the South.  These political ideologies are strongly influenced by the ching h'si traditions which are used by the Chinese to help form a sense of self-identity.  The sign, therefore, becomes a multi-levelled, multi-facetted communicative vehicle which is in a constant process of transformation and which can in its own right initiate cultural change.





【新鳳凰蛋】New Phoenix Egg, (unpublished Taiwanese opera script) representative of the Helo or Holo tradition of Northern Taiwan.


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Š May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)
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6 June, 2008