Yang Chi is a key factor behind the popularity of DPOC. Provided to China Daily
"The classical arts are able to make people feel at peace," he says. "I know a Japanese friend, who is a senior executive of a Japanese company in Dalian. He used to enjoy live shows to relieve stress."
Goku Cigei came to Dalian in 2005. In the beginning, he went to the theater just to kill time. Soon, he was enchanted. He loves the art form so much that he established a fan club and tried to introduce Peking Opera to more Japanese.
By March 2011, when he returned to Japan, he had watched more than 260 live Peking Opera shows and made notes for each of them.
Wang was the only Chinese member of the club. He remains in touch with the club founder via the Internet to discuss about the opera.
Performers from the Dalian Peking Opera Company give live shows every Saturday afternoon. Before the Hongji Stage reopened in 2010, they performed at the Qilin Stage for 15 years.
Wang has been following the shows since 2006, befriending some actors and actresses.
He and some other fans take photographs and videos of the performers, and use them to discuss with them ways to improve the shows.
"They are not nitpicking. They give us more encouragement. They love Peking Opera and want to help us perform better," says 19-year-old actor Gao Cangjian.
Usually, a performance on Saturday attracts about 300 audiences. There are some 30 regular fans. When Gao sees the familiar faces among the audience, he feels good.
"I feel motivated," Gao says.
Wang, Gao and more than 200 fans and actors of DPOC formed an online group named Dalian Peking Opera Backyard at the micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo, communicating about the art they love.
Most of the members are young and well-educated. They include university lecturers, public servants, employees of foreign-invested companies, and journalists.
Wang is the administrator of the Sina Weibo account.
"I also go to theaters in other cities within China. Usually after the show, I hear fans complaining about the performance. That's quite different from the atmosphere here in Dalian," Wang says.
"The fans in Dalian are enthusiastic. They love not only the leading actors but also the extras. They treat all the actors, old or young, famous or not, equally with support," Zhao Zhenjiang, chief editor of Dalian Evening News, the most popular newspaper in the city, says.
Zhao, an enthusiast himself, says even though the fans are familiar with the leaders of the theater, they are not freeloaders.
Some even pay more to support the actors who perform or go to competitions in Beijing, Shanghai or Tianjin.
They also introduced the art to more people. When they see someone who is curious about the opera, they will buy a ticket for him or her to watch a live show.
"You can feel the beauty of Peking Opera when you watch it live. But when you watch it on TV, it is flavorless. Many people become a fan only after seeing a live show," Zhao says.
A fan with the pseudonym Dehui has a column with Dalian Evening News, commenting on Peking Opera and painting cute cartoon images of Peking Opera characters.
Other local newspapers also report frequently on the art. A Sina Weibo user named Jingjuyupincha (meaning "Peking Opera and tea") says he read more than 5,000 related reports in recent years and found Tianjin and Dalian the best among domestic cities in popularizing Peking Opera.
"Newspapers in Dalian report not only on their own actors but also those coming to perform in Dalian from other places," he wrote on his weibo.