Peking University Looks To Revive Interest In Traditional Kunqu Opera

Centuries-Old Opera Form, One Of The Oldest In China, Rarely Studied By Younger Generations

Several performances of "The Story of the Jade Hairpin" will be staged in Beijing this month

Several performances of "The Story of the Jade Hairpin" will be staged in Beijing this month

Xinhua writes today that China’s prestigious Peking University has launched a program to revive interest in Kunqu Opera, one of the oldest forms of traditional Chinese opera, in a partnership with celebrated Taiwanese author and professor Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai. Pai is considered one of the world’s foremost experts in Kunqu opera, having adapted the famous Kunqu opera “The Peony Pavilion” several times before. From the article:

Activities about Kunqu Opera including courses, lectures and performances will be provided for students in the university in five years to foster their interest, said Ye Lang, dean of the cultural industries institute of Peking University, at a press conference.

Ye said a Kunqu Opera cultural week, as an opening part of the program, will be held from Dec. 9 to 20. Young lovers’ edition of “The Peony Pavilion” and a fresh “The Story of the Jade Hairpin,” two classics of the opera produced by Pai, will be staged.

Workshops and lectures will also be available in Peking University, Beijing Normal University and Euro-China International Business College to discuss the topics like how the Kunqu Opera can be accepted internationally.

Pai said the re-establishment of Kunqu courses in Peking University was significant because it restored the tradition of the university and gave the opera a new definition academically.

A short CCTV (Chinese) covers the opening event in Beijing and discusses the long history of Kunqu — which originated in Suzhou more than 500 years ago, and another Sina video (Chinese) shows Pai introducing the program. Pai says this Kunqu program has been five years in the making, and expresses the importance of exposing traditional Kunqu Opera to the younger generation of Chinese students. Pai says that the art form risks dying out if it isn’t incorporated into more curricula, as currently Kunqu Opera is only taught at a handful of universities, such as the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. Additionally, the Sina video includes a clip of Kunqu Opera.

Performances of “The Peony Pavilion” (玉簪记) and “The Story of the Jade Hairpin” (牡丹亭) will take place between December 10 and December 17, at Peking University and Beijing Normal University.


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