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Under the guidance of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and with the Palace Museum and the Chinese National Academy of Arts as hosts, the Chinese Kunqu Opera and Guqin Research Association and the Northern Kunqu Opera Theatre organized events at the Belvedere of Pleasant Sounds (Changyin ge) in the Forbidden City to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the selection of Kunqu for the UNESCO as part of humanity’s oral and intangible cultural heritage.
The year 2021 is the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. This event was designed to praise the Communist Party of China’s leadership of the people of all ethnicities in the nation in unremitting efforts on the glorious course of history and demonstrate the achievements of the propagation of China’s outstanding culture and the preservation of intangible cultural heritage. In 2001, Kunqu was listed by UNESCO as part of humanity’s oral and intangible cultural heritage. In 2006, the performing art was included on the first national list of intangible cultural heritage. According to the transitional provisions of UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, it was adopted to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 18 May of this year is the twentieth anniversary of the selection of Kunqu. Over the past twenty years, under the caring leadership of the Party and government, the art of Kunqu and other forms of China’s intangible cultural heritage have both received effective protection, propagation, and unprecedented development which have played an important role in advancing the cultural confidence of all the people of the nation and building a Socialist, culturally powerful nation.
The Belvedere of Pleasant Sounds (Changyin ge) is located within the Forbidden City in the rear of the area of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshou gong) on the south side of the east corridor. Built in the thirty-seventh year (1772) of the Qianlong reign (1736–1795), the north-facing structure is a theatre used by the court of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) for opera performances. The courtyard has splendid architecture with a central three-tiered stage, which has special symbolic significance among traditional Chinese opera stages.
The program for the commemorative events fully displayed the artistic nature of Kunqu and its the rich cultural import. The Assembly with a Single Sword (Dandao hui) is a classic of the operatic stage; the role of Guan Yu embodies loyalty, righteousness, benevolence, and valor and is a symbol and incarnation of the heroism of traditional Chinese culture and love for one’s nation. The story of Zhong Kui Vanquishing Demons (Zhong Kui zhuo gui) is deeply cherished by Chinese people as it auspiciously represents warding off evil and preventing calamity. The Peony Pavilion (Mudan ting) and The Palace of Eternal Youth (Changsheng dian) are quintessential works of historic Chinese romance with deep, passionate content.
Having experienced the great challenge of resisting the novel coronavirus epidemic of 2020, all the people of the nation were united with one will as a fortress under the direction of the Central Committee of the Party, facing hardship together and writing a new chapter for the era on the great Chinese spirit. In 2021, during celebrations for the centennial of the founding of the Communist Party of China and the twentieth anniversary of the selection of Kunqu for the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, this Kunqu event praised heroism, offered prayers for peace and prosperity, and extolled the greatness of China.
The program Sky Theatre (Kongzhong juyuan) on China Media Group’s channel for opera recorded the live event, which will air at 19:20 on 29 May on CCTV-11.
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu