Yueju, also called shaoxingxi, is a regional genre in the xiqu form, specifically popular in Shanghai, and in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces. Yet there are yueju companies in other provinces too.
In about 1906, the tea-picking songs in the Shengxian area in Zhejiang were developing into a simple theatrical form by some local troupes. In 1916, some actors went to Shanghai to perform the new genre. The urban competitive environment made actors quickly start absorbing singing melodies from a much older Zhejiang local theatre called shaoju, which had an origin back to the 17th century with a big variety of roots in different musical systems, and learning from jingju’s movements and its division role types. The visual aspects of yueju including costumes, makeup and the scenery were also influenced by the Shanghai cosmopolitan life style. In the early 1920s, all female casting started and replaced the earlier all male or mixed cast members. After 1949, the central government advocated the mixed casting system, male actors were trained, and it was not until after the Cultural Revolution that all female casting companies re-emerged. Yueju today is performed by either a mixed or an all-female cast.
Yueju’s role type of category follows jingju’s. Its music and arias are gentle and soft, yet comparing to the melodious kunju the pace is faster and the lyrics are easy to follow. It is good at telling romantic stories without much display of acrobatics or martial arts, and thus most of the traditional repertoire is set around the role types of young scholar and young female roles. The most famous actors are also specialized in these two role types.