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The Peking Opera, with a history of 200 years, evolved into its present form when various kinds of opera were combined and integrated during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (end of the 18th century). It is a comprehensive performing art that combines music, singing, dialogue, pantomime, acrobatics and martial arts. Hence an actor or actress in Peking Opera has to meet more requirements than in other forms of performing art. He or she has to be a performing artist, a singer, and a dancer at the same time. It usually takes a student more than ten years of training to learn the singing and acrobatic skills. Thus, it is difficult to become a qualified performer in Peking Opera. Many performers were forced into "retirement" during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) but returned to the stage after Chairman Mao's death. Many of these performers and musicians had, however, practiced their art in secret during this period, allowing them to return to the theater fully prepared. The tradition was saved by fathers passing on their acrobatic skills to their sons while tending sheep, doing back-flips in the fields of rural China. Also, in secret, a flute player silently practiced his 200-song repertoire as Red Guards patrolled outside his home. *** Local Caption *** The troupe leader: Song Yan. He played the Monkey King.