Review: Flowers as Matchmakers is a masterpiece filled with timeless charm

Flowers as Matchmakers
What happens when two brides show up for a wedding with the same guy? They fall in love with each other, of course!

Known for its accessibility, humor, and charm, Flowers as Matchmakers 花为媒 is often considered the best film adapted from Chinese operas. It ranks in the top 20 of all mainland films on audience review site Douban, and it’s apparent from start why the film is so highly praised.

  The script by Cheng Zhaocai and Wu Zuguang packs the story with humor, catchy lines, and updated values to make the story fit for a modern audience.  The brilliant performances by its stars, most notably its prima donna  Xin Fengxia and comedic actress Zhao Lirong, fills the film with joy. Ping opera pronunciation is almost identical to standard Mandarin, so it’s a lot easier to enjoy than other opera types for most Mandarin speakers. And you’re going to want to sing-along because the songs are very, very catchy.  

When the charming Zhang Wuke (Xin Fengxia) is rejected in marriage by the wealthy Wang Junqing, she goes to meet him to change his mind. However,  Wang Junqing’s heart is already promised to Li Yu’e (Li Yilan).  To save the potential match, his cousin Jia Junying goes in his place to meet Zhang Wuke.  Tricked into thinking Jia Junying is Wang Junqing, Zhang Wuke agrees to marry him.

Meanwhile, Li Yu’e takes things into her own hands and shows up as Zhang Wuke for the wedding.  When the two women meet at the wedding, they are immediately stricken by each other’s beauty and grace and team up to find out what’s up.

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Lyrics Translation: Hua Mulan selection

Brother Liu, you speak without reason
How can one say women enjoy leisure without labor?
Men fight on the borders,
while women spin and weave at home.

Lyrics translation for one of my favorite pieces of Chinese opera, a selection from Yu Opera Hua Mulan. The piece is a rare take on Mulan that points out the strength of women lie not just in their ability to succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields, but also in the often over-looked importances of traditionally female occupations. Plus, it’s easily one of the most catchy opera pieces.

Performance of the selection by Peng Liyuan:

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Ten things about Zhang Yunlei, the artist making Chinese opera cool again

Zhang Yunlei
Thousands of fangirls singing along to Chinese opera is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, but here we are with Zhang Yunlei.

From a homeless fourth-grade dropout to surviving a four-story fall to becoming one of the hottest new stars making century-old tunes hip again, singer-xiangsheng comedian Zhang Yunlei is a Republican-era prima donna teleported into the modern era. Here are ten things to know and love about rising star Zhang Yunlei.

  1. Thanks to him, millennial fans are singing along to traditional music like Taiping Lyrics version of Madame Lady Snake , Peking Opera Suolin Pouch, modified Suzhou PingtanDongbei errenzhuan , and the extremely catchy Ping Opera Qiankun Belt.
  2. Zhang Yunlei is most widely known for his modern rendition of Beijing folk song Visiting the Qingshui River. He released his first single, Yuzhen, last year, and has already recorded more songs.
  3. Nails from his left leg.

    In August 2016, over twenty terminally ill notices were released for Zhang Yunlei after he fell from the equivalent of a four-story drop-off at a railroad terminal. He miraculously returned to the stage, but with 108 nails inside his body and one less lung.  For his earlier performances, they would wheel him up to stageside, and then he would walk up with the help of his partner, Yang Jiulang.  There have been times where after he goes backstage, they would find out the nails had poked through his ankles and bled all over.

  4. Zhang Yunlei began studying Chinese opera and music at the age of five, and quit school in 4th grade to train under xiangsheng and opera performer Guo Degang.  Zhang Yunlei’s performances of xiangsheng’s special ballad form, Taiping lyrics 太平歌词, are so good that their company still uses recordings of him for lessons. Zhang Yunlei singing Taiping lyrics here.
  5. At the age of 13, he lost his boy soprano voice and thought he would never return to the stage. While getting by on odd jobs in Beijing, he once slept for a month at McDonald’s since it was open all night. Last year, he became a brand ambassador for McDonald’s.

Zhang Yunlei and fans singing Visiting the Qingshui River.

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