The "eight model plays" (Template:Zh-sp) were the only operas and ballets that were permitted during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976). Although they were limited in number, there were in fact more than eight. They all have communist or revolutionary themes.
The official versions of the operas were all Beijing operas and were produced by either the China Beijing Opera House or Shanghai Beijing Opera House, although many of them were subsequently adapted to local provincial species of operas. The ballets were produced by either the Central Ballet Troupe or Shanghai Ballet Troupe.
In addition to the traditional format of Beijing opera, The Legend of the Red Lantern was adapted to a piano-accompanied cantata by the pianist Yin Chengzong, which was basically a cycle of arias excerpted from the opera. And Shajiabang was musically expanded to a symphony with a full Western orchestra, a format similar to the ninth symphony of Beethoven.
Toward the end of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the ballet Red Detachment of Women was adapted to a Beiing opera, and the Beijing opera The Azalea Mountain was adapted to a ballet, but they did not have a chance to become as popular as their earlier versions, and the ballet version of The Azalea Mountain never got officially released.
Although these works bear unmistakable political overtones of the time when they were created, they nonetheless had significant artistic values, and for this reason, some of the works remain popular even today, nearly thirty years after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
The three most popular Beijing operas are The Legend of the Red Lantern, Shajiabang, and Taking the Tiger Mountain by Strategy. And the ballet that still shows a considerable vitality today is the Red Detachment of Women, the one that was presented to Richard Nixon, the thirty-seventh President of the United States, who visited China in 1972, seven years before the normalization of the Sino-US relationship. This performance is reenacted (in a slightly surreal form) in John Adams's opera Nixon in China (1985-87).
The eight model plays were the subject of the 2005 documentary film "Yang Ban Xi, The Eight Model Works."
The model plays included:
- The Legend of the Red Lantern
- Taking the Tiger Mountain by Strategy
- The Harbor
- Sweeping the White Tiger Regiment
- The Azalea Mountain
- Song of the Dragon River
- The Warfare on the Plain
- Red Detachment of Women
- Red Azalea
- The White Haired Girl
- Red Detachment of Women
- Song of the Yimeng Mountain
- The Brother and Sister on the Prairie
- Liu, Terence M. (1982). "Music of Modern Revolutionary Chinese Opera: A Study of Political Influences and Artistic Incorporation." M.A. thesis. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa.
- Lu, Guang. "Modern Revolutionary Beijing Opera: Context, Contents, and Conflicts" (1997). Ph.D. dissertation. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University.
- Paul Clark, The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008