From September 12 to 16, the cultural exchange activity "Encounter of Civilization: Jiangsu Week of Chinese Kunqu Opera" was held in Paris, France. Featuring classic performances, interactive dynamic displays, thematic exhibitions, academic discussions, and more, it presented a rich cultural feast of Kunqu Opera for the people of France.
For two consecutive days, the South Kunqu Opera version of "The Peony Pavilion" by Jiangsu Kun Opera Theater played to a full house at the Theatre Libre in Paris. This production faithfully showcased the masterpiece as presented by Master Zhang Jiqing from the Jiangsu Kun Opera Theater, who had astounded Paris with this same version 37 years ago, according to Jiangsu International Culture Association. The brilliant performance, lasting over two hours, received seven curtain calls with lead actors Kong Aiping and Shi Xiaming. Many French audience members expressed that despite their first encounter with Kunqu Opera, they could feel the beauty within it, which they found to be not only Eastern but also a part of humanity's intangible cultural heritage.
In addition to the performances, this event included a rich array of exhibitions, seminars, and outreach activities such as Kunqu Opera in schools. The actors also organized flash mobs at iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, engaging with the local people on the streets.
The "Emotions Unveiled, Affections Explored: A Special Exhibition on Chinese Kunqu Opera Culture" held at the Guimet Museum, also known as the National Museum of Asian Arts, comprehensively showcased the history, texts, props, costumes, musical instruments, and international exchanges related to Kunqu Opera. It presented a panorama of the inheritance and development of Chinese culture, as well as the modernization of Jiangsu Province in the Chinese context.
During the international symposium held at the China Cultural Center in Paris, cultural scholars from countries including France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the Netherlands focused on the theme of "Kunqu Opera in Our Era: Cross-Cultural Dialogue and Civilization Exchange" for discussions and exchanges. Maria Shevtsova, a fellow of the European Academy of Sciences and a professor of Drama at the University of London, stated that Kunqu Opera has continuously explored various aspects of human artistic expression. It combines singing, dancing, and theatrical costumes into a harmonious whole, showcasing the dignity of human creativity.
Kunqu Opera, often referred to as the ancestor of a hundred operas, originated between the 14th and 17th centuries in the Kunshan region of Suzhou, near today's Shanghai. Over the following 600 years, it merged with regional cultures across China, giving rise to various distinctive schools and styles. The delegation performing in France hails from Jiangsu, the birthplace of Kunqu Opera, and is acclaimed by Kunqu enthusiasts for its "Southern Kun Style". The eight major Kunqu Opera troupes active across China possess their own regional characteristics and unique beauty. With support and enthusiasm for culture from all segments of Chinese society, Chinese traditional theater arts have entered a more confident stage today.
Art knows no borders, and culture finds common ground. Nowadays, through online channels, audiences from all over the world can experience innovative expressions of Chinese traditional culture, even if they are thousands of miles away. Follow the "China Culture & Art" media cluster on Facebook and YouTube, and join the #Echoesofkunqu hashtag to share stories of Chinese opera from your own experiences. Feel the enduring charm of China's outstanding traditional culture.
Source: Jiangsu International Culture Association