• Pupils Perform Peking Opera in Beijing

Pupils Perform Peking Opera in Beijing (Photo : Getty Images)

Chinese opera performers from the Jin Opera troupe dreamt of a financially stable life when they joined the group. Government policies, however, put a stopper on that dream. Still, these dedicated performers give their all to promote and defend traditional culture, according to an article by AFP.

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“I get angry sometimes watching my students perform, because their heart isn’t in it,” Li Zhiguo, a 50-year-old veteran in Jin Opera, said in an interview.

“But when they ask me if rehearsing diligently will guarantee them a good living, I have nothing to say,” he added.

Several government reforms pushed in 2005 have made life harder for Jin Opera performers. These reforms have turned Jin Opera--once sponsored by Beijing--into a private institution that lacks a clear and solid business strategy.

As a result, salaries of performers suffered a terrible blow, and the very existence of the traditional art, which dates back to the early Qing Dynasty, is threatened.

Despite the drastic changes, however, life goes on for the troupe. They tour the country extensively from the start of the Spring Festival to March, and often don’t charge their audience. For financial assistance, they look for help from local governments.

The Jin Opera Group has been active since the 1985 and currently has 90 members. The number would have been larger if it wasn’t a struggle to support themselves and their families.

“If it’s about the art, I’ll tell them to stay,” shared Li. “If it’s about survival, I’ll tell them: ‘Go.’”

Nowadays, the most senior members of the troupe only earn less than 2,500 yuan a month. Regular members, on the other hand, earn approximately 1,500 yuan for the same period.

To supplement their meager income from performing Jin Opera, some members have taken to driving pedicabs during their free time. Although some have left, others have stayed out of loyalty and love for their craft.

“This is my family,” Liu Donghai, who has been with the troupe for 23 years, said. “Our troupe leader is like family to me. Whatever he says, I’ll do.”