is China's oldest and one of its most influential theatrical
traditions. It is performed in many areas of the country. A
Kunqu play usually consists of more than 24 scenes -
accompanied by arias - with a complex plot and subplots involving
human or supernatural elements. The performance usually features
12 actors who employ gestures, pantomime, mock combat and
acrobatics, as well as stylized dancing and singing. A
small ensemble of wind and string instruments, and percussion
instruments accompany the singing and stage action.
of the Kunqu theatre are librettos from the Ming and Qing
periods (1644-1911). When the People's Republic of China was
established in 1949, the government set up training academies for
traditional theatres, as well as research institutes on
traditional music and theatre. The Cultural Revolution (1966-76)
suppressed these measures, and in the early 1980s, the Ministry of
Culture called on all surviving Kunqu actors, as well as
actors from other traditional theatres, to resume their acting
careers. New actors were also recruited and trained.
lack of a consistent programme for Kunqu performances,
which, since 1990, have only been staged sporadically.
Opera Research Institute envisages the collection and publication
of scripts, photographs, and audio and video recordings of Kunqu
performances. The government plans to support th
e six existing Kunqu opera houses and the training of new
performers, the revival of rarely performed operas, and the
organization of festivals.