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".
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.