Peking Opera is one of the oldest and most popular forms of traditional Chinese opera. We watch young students at the capital's prestigious Peking Opera School practising for a performance in celebration of the school's 50th anniversary. Entry into the school is very competitive and the training is a tough six years. Peking Opera is both graceful and agile, requiring performers to learn singing, dancing, acting and acrobatics. It has clearly defined roles: sheng, lao sheng, huadan, qingyi and hualian. Stories are about the romances, intrigues and adventures of scholars, emperors and warriors. But for all its colour and excitement, can this ancient art form continue to exist under the pressures of modern society?

First broadcast:
5 November 2010

Students could research the main roles of Peking opera, their names and their main characteristics. Discuss with the class the challenges an ancient art form such as Peking Opera faces in modern Chinese society.