Jingju (Jing Opera, or Peking/ Beijing Opera), and Kunqu (Kun Opera) both enjoy national opera status in China. They are highly refined, visually stunning and very demanding on the actor. The four elements of singing, recitation, acting/movement, and martial arts form the basis of this musical and dramatic art. Strict control and pace, but also immense fluidity, are required in the performers’ use of hands, eyes, body, and feet. Dynamic interaction between actors and musicians in performance further adds to its vibrancy.

In recognition of the intrinsic value of Kunqu, in May 2001 UNESCO declared it one of the first 19 ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.

Among the 46 new inscriptions of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010, UNESCO has declared ‘Peking Opera’ as one of them.

Jingju and Kunqu are fascinating and challenging to anyone with an interest in the performing arts. They have more to offer now to the contemporary arts than ever before because of their unique ability to combine the poetic and the surreal with very earth-bound emotions and aspirations. The richness of their representational techniques and artistry in music, singing, speech, movement, and staging are all there to be tapped by innovative minds.

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