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Relying on materials uncovered by in the First Historical Archives in Beijing, the author investigates the development of imperial drama and its influence on Peking Opera, as well as the function and system of the Nanfu (later Shengpingshu)--an organization responsible for drama in the Qing dynasty. Also discussed are the complex roles of the actors on and off stage, and the broader issues of cultural and political control intertwined with the performances themselves. The final section delves into the interaction between the palace and commercial theatres and how this contributed to the transformation of "low class" regional Peking Opera into an art form enjoyed by a wide swath of society.
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