Nanxi (南戏), the Southern Opera, refers to the Han ethnic opera from the late Northern Song to the late Ming and the early Qing dynasties. The opera was created in the Wenzhou region when the Song government fled south. At the time, it was also known as chuanqi (传奇 drama), xiwen (戏文 play) as well as the Wenzhou Zaju (温州杂剧 Wenzhou Opera), the Yongjia Zaju (永嘉杂剧 Yongjia Opera), and the Yongjia Xiqu (永嘉戏曲 Yongjia Play). Drawing on local folk singing styles, the Southern Opera first developed on the basis of village operas without any traces of palace styles and rhymes, and it was noted for being natural and smooth in singing. A Tale of the Pipa, a play by Gao Ming(1301?–1370?), marked the maturity of the Southern Opera. The Southern Opera inherited the Song zaju and heralded the emergence of chuanqi of the Ming Dynasty. Chuanqi plays were long enough to accommodate multiple roles and all performers sang. The Southern Opera masterpieces include The Romance of a Hairpin, The Story of the White Rabbit, The Moonlight Pavilion, and The Killing of a Dog. Many operas in southern China were created based on the Southern Opera.
Longloujing and Danchixiu were both daughters of Jinmengao. They were beautiful and good at giving South Opera performances. (Xia Tingzhi: Pleasure House Collection)
The Northern Opera was known as zaju and the Southern Opera as xiwen in the Jin and Yuan dynasties. (He Liangjun: Works from the Four-scholar Study)