From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Beijing opera is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing Dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing and Tianjin in the north, and Shanghai in the south. The art form is also enjoyed in Taiwan, and has spread to other countries such as the United States and Japan. Beijing opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Beijing opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilize the skills of speech, song, dance, and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements.
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Shen Kuo was a polymath Chinese scientist and statesman of the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Excelling in many fields of study and statecraft, he was a mathematician, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, zoologist, botanist, pharmacologist, agronomist, ethnographer, encyclopedist, and poet. He was the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy in the Song court, as well as an Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality. In his Dream Pool Essays of 1088, Shen was the first to describe the magnetic needle compass, which would be used for navigation (first described in Europe by Alexander Neckam in 1187). Shen Kuo devised a geological theory of land formation, or geomorphology, based upon findings of inland marine fossils, knowledge of soil erosion, and the deposition of silt. He also advocated a theory for gradual climate change, after observing ancient petrified bamboos that were preserved underground in a dry northern habitat that did not support their growth in his time. Shen Kuo wrote extensively about movable type printing invented by Bi Sheng, and because of his written works the legacy of Bi Sheng and the modern understanding of the earliest movable type has been handed down to later generations.
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