Introduction to Kunqu opera in Shanghai.
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Kunqu opera

Kunqu opera

Kunqu Opera, also known as Kunshanqiang, nanxi was extended to Kunshan at the turning of Yuan and Ming Dynasty. It is a combination of local music, dance, and language. Kunshan drama evolved in the kunshan region by absorbing advantage of other dramas. The tune is mild, fluent and beautiful. The dramatist Liang Chenyu put Huanshaji (“Washing the Silken Gauze”) on the stage and formally brought kunqu into drama. Kunqu spread from Suzhou and Zhejiang regions to the rest of China during the reign of Wanli emperor, and became the most prestigious form of Chinese drama in the early years of the Ming dynasty until the late Kangxi emperor in the Qing dynasty. After the reign of Emperor Qianlong, Kunqu gradually declined. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the government has established 7 independent professional kunqu troupes. At present, it is performed by professional kunqu troupes, and mainly concentrated in Jiangsu, zhejiang, Shanghai, Beijing, Hunan and so on.

Kunqu is a humanistic art, many dramatists in the Qing and Ming dynasty got a very high literature achievement. There are many plays that are famous today, including The story of Pipa, The Peony Pavilion, Palace of Eternal Life, The Tale of Political Fight, The Tale of Ted Pear, A Tale of jade lapse, All Men Are Brothers, The Tale of Lanke Mountain and Fifteen Strings of Cash, the former three scripts are perfectly preserved. After the middle of Qing dynasty, kongqu is performed in  "zhezixi" (highlights from operas), and more than 400 "zhezixi" were kept until now.

Kunqu attained an extremely high artistic level through long stage practices, it is a combination of play, opera, poetry recital, and musical recital. With the development of the art, the roles of Kunqu are divided into seven categories, including laosheng (aged male roles), xiaosheng (young male roles), dan (female roles), tie, wai, mo (middle-aged male roles),jing (painted face),and chou (clowns), and each category has subdivisions. It significantly influences the Peking opera and other local opera. Kunqu music is graceful and fluent. 

Kunqu has a long history and profound effect as it is the product of traditional culture. In May 2001, UNESCO for the first time awarded the title of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" for its unique cultural value.

In the late Qing dynasty, kunqu had been on the harsh environment despite revitalization after 1949. In recent years, with the decline of the traditional drama in the city, the survival of Kunqu has faced enormous challenges due to the decreasing amount of performers and audiences. There are many other problems that need solutions.