Shaoxing Opera, also called Yue Ju (越剧) in Chinese, is one of the Five Operas in China just second to Peking Opera and has been listed into the first national non-material cultural heritages in 2006. As the most popular local opera in the country, Shaoxing opera originated from Sheng County, Zhejiang Province from local folk songs in later Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), and prospered in Shanghai City in 1920s.
Shaoxing Opera is characteristic in singing and superior in expressing emotions with melodious and lyrical tunes and lifelike performing. Popular mainly in south areas of Yangtze River Shanghai City, provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Fujian, the main subject of Shaoxing Opera is romances of wits and beauties; and the accompanied instrument is Erhu (a two-stringed bowed instrument) with some other traditional Chinese stringed and wind instruments.
Firstly performed by male farmer artists in the countryside, Shaoxing Opera was later developed to a warm received performance in cities with absorbed elements from Kunqu Opera, Shao Opera and modern drama. The first female troupe of Shaoxing Opera was founded in 1923 and female performers gradually replaced the males and nowadays almost all performers are females. The most famous master of Shaoxing Opera is Yuan Xuefen (Chinese:袁雪芬) who had reformed the opera to be the present form that we appreciate. The classics of the opera are Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtao (story of butterfly lovers), the Romance of the West Chamber, the White Snake, Meng Lijun and A Dream of Red Mansions.