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About Kunqu Opera





About Kunqu/Kunju (Kun opera) By Gu Duhuang

Kunqu refers to the opera form and the type of music. Kunju refers to the drama in the kunqu form.

Kunju singing style originated in southern China – the earliest records dating back to the 1360s and the Yuan Dynasty.
At the time, it was little more than a local style and its popularity remained strictly confined to a small area. It was not until the middle of the Ming Dynasty (mid 16th century) that musician Liangfu Wei introduced new innovations to Kunju, combining other southern styles and the strengths of northern singing popular during the Yuan Dynasty. Through this process a new and improved singing style was developed to be performed in close conjunction with a series of traditional instruments such as the bamboo flute, reed pipe and strings. This reformed version of Kunju quickly became popular with the intellectual elite, and members of the literati produced scripts designed specifically for this new type of opera, many of which were great works of literature in their own right.

Kunju combines the nuances of the five southern Chinese singing styles with the seven styles of grand and passionate northern opera, making it extremely rich and varied in nature. The movements involved in the performance of Kunju are both lifelike an highly refined, together with a seamless combination of words and music creating an art form that far exceeds the sum of its parts. With its unsurpassable artistic achievements and influence kunju is widely regarded as the "Mother of Chinese Opera".


UNESCO Proclamation
On May 18, 2001, for the first time, UNESCO proclaimed 19 of the world's most remarkable examples of the oral and intangible heritage. China's Kunqu Opera was among the 19 traditions honored by this distinction. Follow the links below to learnmore about Kunqu Opera.

Kunju Opera History
Wikipedia article on Kunqu
The Peony Pavilion On-Line
Wintergreen Kunqu Society
UNESCO Declaration


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