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Kunqu Opera

Kunqu Opera is one of the oldest forms of opera still existing in China, with its origins dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) in Kunshan, east of Suzhou city. It has distinguished itself by the virtuosity of its rhythmic patterns and has exerted a dominant influence on all the more recent forms of opera in China, including the Sichuan and Beijing operas. Plays that continue to be famous today, including The Peony Pavilion and The Peach Blossom Fan, were originally written for the Kunqu stage. In addition, many classical Chinese novels and stories, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Journey to the West were adapted very early into dramatic pieces. In 2001, Kunqu Opera was proclaimed as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of humanity.
The dancing and movement of a role is gentle and closely connected with the player's singing. The music instruments used for Kunqu consist of Chinese ancient instruments such as Chinese flute, suona trumpet, sanxian, pipa and traditional percussion. Others are bamboo-pipe-composed Sheng, Er Hu and Pi Pa. Regional dialects have played a great role in changing Kunqu too. Kunqu Opera, acknowledged as an elite opera, has suffered some of a decline since the eighteenth century because it requires a high level of technical knowledge from the audience. Today, it is facing competition from mass culture and a lack of interest amongst the young. Of the 400 arias regularly sung in opera performances in the mid-20th century, only a few dozen continue to be performed.

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