Arts and Culture
This study examines ancestral-shrines and ancestral-shrine stages of Huizhou in late Imperial China in order to explore their double role as a place for both ancestor worship and theatrical performance. The late imperial period refers to the last two dynasties: the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1911). As the most popular form and platform for theatrical entertainment, the ancestral-shrine theatre provides an insight into the dual function of Chinese temple theatre and opens a window into ritual and operatic performances in the period under review thus adding to our understanding of the dynamic relationship between ritual and drama in general and between ancestor worship and Huizhou theatre in particular. Yet the historical documents and literati anecdotal accounts of the period reveal little information on the space and structure of Huizhou ancestral-shrine stages, let alone their built environment: this essay thus highlights the importance - and the challenges - of drawing on both archaeological and architectural evidence as well as archives and historical sources to underpin historical inquiries into theatre, examining the evidence from key sites in the region in order to further understand both the architectural and the theatrical conventions of temple theatre in late imperial Huizhou.