In the early period of Peking Opera, the main roles on stage wereDan(female roles). It was after the emergence of three successful actors thatLaosheng(male roles) rose as the main role on the opera stage.
The roles on the Chinese opera stage fall into four categories --Sheng, Dan, Jing and Chou.
These roles have the natural features of age and sex, as well as social status.Dan
is the general term in Peking Opera
for female roles.
Sheng, a male role, usually a leading one, dates back to Southern Drama of the Song and Yuan dynasties (960-1368). According to the age and social status of the characters,Shengfalls into three sub-groups --Laosheng, Xiaosheng and Wusheng.Laoshengrefers to middle-aged or elderly men.
The three outstandingLaoshengactors in the early period of Peking Opera are Cheng Changgeng (1811-1880), Yu Sansheng (1802-1866) and Zhang Erqiang (1814-1864).
Cheng Changgeng, the leader of Hui Opera and founding father of Peking Opera, learned drama since childhood. His greatest contribution was that he integrated Anhui and Han opera tunes, as well asKunqu, which laid the foundation for theLaoshengrole in Peking Opera.
Yu Sansheng's performance is based on Han opera tunes, with which he amalgamated Anhui tunes,KunquandBangzi, and greatly enriched Peking Opera.
Zhang Erkui at first was just aPiaoyou(orFan). He became a professional actor at the age of 24, and later formed his own style -- the Kui School.
It was after the three thatLaosheng(male roles) rose as the main role on Peking Operastage.