Kunqu

Kunqu

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Kunqu also known as Kunju (昆剧), Kun opera or Kunqu Opera, is one of the oldest extant forms of Chinese opera
Chinese opera
Chinese opera is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century CE...

. It evolved from the Kunshan
Kunshan
Kunshan is a satellite city in the greater Suzhou region. Administratively, it is a county-level city within the prefecture-level city of Suzhou. It is located in southeastearn part of Jiangsu Province, China, adjacent to Jiangsu's border with the Shanghai Municipality.The total area of ​​Kunshan...

 melody, and dominated Chinese theatre
Chinese theatre
Theatre of China has a long and complex history. Today it is often called Chinese opera although this normally refers specifically to the more well-known forms such as Beijing Opera and Cantonese Opera, there have been many other forms of theatre in China.-Classical Chinese theatre:There are...

 from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The style originated in the Wu cultural area
Wu (region)
Wu is a region in the Jiangnan area , surrounding Suzhou, in Jiangsu province and Zhejiang province of China. It is also the abbreviation of several kingdoms based in Wu. The two largest cities in the Wu region today are Shanghai and Hangzhou...

. It is listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
The Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity was made by the Director-General of UNESCO starting in 2001 to raise awareness on intangible cultural heritage and encourage local communities to protect them and the local people who sustain these forms of cultural...

 by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 since 2001.

History


Kunqu(Kunshan play) was developed during the late Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 (14th),by Gu Jian顾坚 of Qiandeng town
Qiandeng town
Qiandeng town is a picturesque water town in Kunshan, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. It is located 15 kilometers south of Kunshan city, bordering the East side with Shanghai Qingpu District...

 in Kunshan
Kunshan
Kunshan is a satellite city in the greater Suzhou region. Administratively, it is a county-level city within the prefecture-level city of Suzhou. It is located in southeastearn part of Jiangsu Province, China, adjacent to Jiangsu's border with the Shanghai Municipality.The total area of ​​Kunshan...

, and due to its influence on other Chinese theatre forms, it is known as the "teacher" or "mother" of a hundred operas, including Jingju (Peking Opera). Its emergence ushered in the second Golden Era of Chinese drama. However, by the early twentieth century, it had nearly disappeared, which was only exacerbated by deliberate attempts to suppress it during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

.



Today, Kunqu is performed professionally in seven Mainland Chinese cities: Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 (Northern Kunqu Theatre), Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 (Shanghai Kunqu Theatre), Suzhou
Suzhou
Suzhou , previously transliterated as Su-chou, Suchow, and Soochow, is a major city located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, located adjacent to Shanghai Municipality. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake and is a part...

 (Suzhou Kunqu Theatre), Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 (Jiangsu Province Kunqu Theatre
Jiangsu Province Kunqu Theatre
Jiangsu Province Kun Opera is a professional company, based in Nanjing, engaged in Kunqu research, production and performance.Six members of the opera have won the Plum Blossom Prize: Zhang Jiqing, Shi Xiaomei, Hu Jinfang, Huang Xiaowu and Zhang Jidie...

), Chenzhou
Chenzhou
Chenzhou is a city located in the southern area of Hunan province, People's Republic of China. Its administrative area covers , 9.2% of the provincial area, and its total population reached 4,559,600 as of 2001, 26% of them living in urban areas, 74% of them live in rural areas.-History:Chenzhou...

 (Hunan Kunqu Theatre), Yongjia County
Yongjia County
Yongjia County is a county in the southeast of Zhejiang province, People's Republic of China, located north of the city proper of Wenzhou, which administers the county. The Nanxi River Scenic Area is located within this county, and the river has been nominated on the tentative list of UNESCO...

/Wenzhou
Wenzhou
Wenzhou is a prefecture-level city in southeastern Zhejiang province, People's Republic of China. The area under its jurisdiction, which includes two satellite cities and six counties, had a population of 9,122,100 as of 2010....

 (Yongjia Kunqu Theatre) and Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

 (Zhejiang Province Kunqu Theatre), as well as in Taipei
Taipei
Taipei City is the capital of the Republic of China and the central city of the largest metropolitan area of Taiwan. Situated at the northern tip of the island, Taipei is located on the Tamsui River, and is about 25 km southwest of Keelung, its port on the Pacific Ocean...

. Non-professional opera societies are active in many other cities in China and abroad, and opera companies occasionally tour.

There are many plays that continue to be famous today, including The Peony Pavilion
The Peony Pavilion
The Peony Pavilion is a play written by Tang Xianzu in the Ming Dynasty and first performed in 1598 at the Pavilion of Prince Teng. One of Tang's "Four Dreams", it has traditionally been performed as a Kunqu opera, but Chuan and Gan opera versions also exist...

and The Peach Blossom Fan
The Peach Blossom Fan
The Peach-Blossom Fan is a musical play and historical drama in 44 scenes that was completed in 1699 by the early Qing dynasty playwright Kong Shangren after more than 10 years of effort. The play recounts the dying of the Ming dynasty through the love story of its two main characters, young...

, were originally written for the Kunqu stage. In addition, many classical Chinese novels and stories, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century, is a Chinese historical novel based on the events in the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history, starting in 169 and ending with the reunification of the land in...

, Water Margin
Water Margin
Water Margin , also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, All Men Are Brothers, Men of the Marshes, or The Marshes of Mount Liang, is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.Attributed to Shi Nai'an and written in vernacular Chinese, the story, set in the Song Dynasty,...

and Journey to the West
Journey to the West
Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known simply as Monkey. This was one title used for a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley...

were adapted very early into dramatic pieces.

Its melody or tune is one of the Four Great Characteristic Melodies
Four Great Characteristic Melodies
Four Great Characteristic Melodies in Chinese opera are Bangziqiang, Huangpiqiang, Kunqiang and Gaoqiang.-Bangziqiang:Qinqiang, Yuju, Jinju, Hebei Bangzi, Sixianqiang in Dianju, Tanxi in Chuanju, etc.-Huangpiqiang:...

 in Chinese opera.

Repertoire

  • The Peony Pavilion
    The Peony Pavilion
    The Peony Pavilion is a play written by Tang Xianzu in the Ming Dynasty and first performed in 1598 at the Pavilion of Prince Teng. One of Tang's "Four Dreams", it has traditionally been performed as a Kunqu opera, but Chuan and Gan opera versions also exist...

    (Tang Xianzu
    Tang Xianzu
    Tang Xianzu , courtesy name Yireng , was a Chinese playwright of the Ming Dynasty.Tang was a native of Linchuan, Jiangxi and his career as an official consisted principally of low-level positions. He successfully participated in the Provincial examinations at the age of 21 and at the imperial...

    )
  • The Peach Blossom Fan
    The Peach Blossom Fan
    The Peach-Blossom Fan is a musical play and historical drama in 44 scenes that was completed in 1699 by the early Qing dynasty playwright Kong Shangren after more than 10 years of effort. The play recounts the dying of the Ming dynasty through the love story of its two main characters, young...

    (Kong Shangren
    Kong Shangren
    Kong Shangren was a Qing Dynasty dramatist and poet best known for his chuanqi play The Peach Blossom Fan about the last days of the Ming dynasty....

    )
  • The Palace of Long Life (Hong Sheng)
  • The White Snake
  • The Western Mansion (Southern version, adapted from Wang Shifu
    Wang Shifu
    Wang Shifu was a successful Chinese dramatic playwright of the Yuan Dynasty.Born in Dadu, there is little known about him. There are 14 plays attributed to Wang and only three are extant. His Romance of the West Chamber is considered to be one of the most famous Chinese plays and is still popular...

    's zaju
    Zaju
    Zaju was a form of Chinese drama or Chinese opera which provided entertainment through a synthesis of recitations of prose and poetry, dance, singing, and mime, with a certain emphasis on comedy...

    )
  • The Injustice done to Dou E (adapted from Guan Hanqing
    Guan Hanqing
    Guan Hanqing , sobriquet "the Oldman of the Studio" , was a notable Chinese playwright and poet in the Yuan Dynasty.-Biography:...

    's zaju
    Zaju
    Zaju was a form of Chinese drama or Chinese opera which provided entertainment through a synthesis of recitations of prose and poetry, dance, singing, and mime, with a certain emphasis on comedy...

    )
  • The Kite (Li Yu
    Li Yu (author)
    Li Yu , also known as Li Liweng was a Chinese playwright, novelist and publisher. Born in Rugao, he lived in late-Ming and early-Qing dynasties....

    )

Dramatists

  • Tang Xianzu
    Tang Xianzu
    Tang Xianzu , courtesy name Yireng , was a Chinese playwright of the Ming Dynasty.Tang was a native of Linchuan, Jiangxi and his career as an official consisted principally of low-level positions. He successfully participated in the Provincial examinations at the age of 21 and at the imperial...

  • Kong Shangren
    Kong Shangren
    Kong Shangren was a Qing Dynasty dramatist and poet best known for his chuanqi play The Peach Blossom Fan about the last days of the Ming dynasty....

  • Li Yu
    Li Yu (author)
    Li Yu , also known as Li Liweng was a Chinese playwright, novelist and publisher. Born in Rugao, he lived in late-Ming and early-Qing dynasties....

  • Hong Sheng
  • Feng Menglong
    Feng Menglong
    Feng Menglong was a Chinese vernacular writer and poet of the late Ming Dynasty. He was born in Changzhou, now Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China....


Performers

  • Yu Zhenfei
  • Mei Lanfang
    Méi Lánfang
    Mei Lanfang was one of the most famous Beijing opera artists in modern history, exclusively known for his qingyi roles, a type of dan role. Méi Lánfāng is his stage name, and in Chinese it is generally considered a feminine name. His real name was Méi Lán...

  • Zhang Jiqing
  • Wang Shiyu
  • Yue Meiti
  • Liang Guyin
  • Cai Zhengren
  • Ji Zhenhua
  • Hua Wenyi
  • Qian Yi
  • Yan Huizhu

External links