Huguang Guild Opera Theater

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"Monkey King Wreaks Havoc in Hell" at the Peking Opera
While visiting Beijing on a Fulbright over the summer, we were given the opportunity to attend a traditional Peking Opera. Though the show was entirely in Mandarin, it was highly entertaining and lively. The vibrant colors of the venue, coupled with a mystic, historic ambiance makes the Huguang Guild Opera Theatre, the oldest Peking opera house, one of the most atmospheric.
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Huguang Guild Hall
This is probably one of the coolest places to visit in Chongqing. The Huguang Guild Hall was first built in 1759 in the Qing Dynasty as a kind of union hall; it was expanded many times over the years, turning it into a sprawling complex of buildings, courtyards, and gardens.

The 300-year-old complex has been renovated and is still in active use. The walls, doors, and windows of the wooden buildings have been carefully carved with human figures, animals, and plants. The skill of the woodcarvers is amazing to see.

Some of the halls are used to show theater or Peking opera. There's also a museum that highlights the history of the hall. My favorite part is all the little stalls and shops selling crafts, knickknacks, art, old money, and more. I could easily spend half a day at the hall.

Photo by Caroline Léna Becker/Flickr.

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Peking Opera on a Traditional Stage
Admittedly, the sharp pitches of Peking opera aren't for everyone. But this art form once entertained the masses of Beijing, and due to its heavy use of tumbling and martial arts, it is definitely one of the more accessible forms of Chinese-style opera. The most atmospheric space is the Zheng Yici Theater, near Qianmen. This wooden theater is over 300 years old, and has showings on Friday and Saturday nights. There are also daily Peking opera performances at the Huguang Guild Hall, an impressive Qing-era wooden theater.
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