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Kun Opera: '1699 · The Peach Blossom Fan'

Finished Ended on Sun Mar 31, 2024 , 7:30pm/2pm
Theatre YOUNG
1155 Kongjiang Lu


The Peach Blossom Fan is a traditional musical play and historical drama with 44 scenes that was completed in 1699 by the early Qing dynasty playwright Kong Shangren after more than 10 years of effort, reflecting the rise and fall of the Ming Dynasty through the love story of Hou Fangyu, a scholar, and Li Xiangjun, a famous Qinhuai prostitute. The "1699·Peach Blossom Fan” version by Jiangsu Kun Opera Theater is a unique existence. It is a work condensed by director Tian Qinxin based on stage aesthetics. From 44 plays to 6 plays, it retains the original charm of The Peach Blossom Fan, the so-called "ancestor of all plays", to a great extent. The show is nearly 160 minutes long, at Theatre Young on March 30 evening and March 31 afternoon.


A fan - given as a token of love by a poet to his fiancee, a beautiful courtesan - is splattered with her blood when she resists being forced to marry another man by corrupt officials who have trapped her beloved. The bloodstains are transformed by a painter's brush into peach blossom petals. But amid many twists and turns and the decline of a nation, the couple's saga is far from over…

Scene One

Hou Fangyu, a member of the Revival Literary Society, visits the scenic city of Qinhuai (now Nanjing) with his friends and encounters the famous courtesan, Li Xiangjun. Hou and Li fall in love at first sight and "become engaged", with a white fan given by Hou to Li as a token of his love.

Scene Two

Hou's friend and painter, Yang Wencong, and Li Zhenli, Li Xiangjun's foster mother, hold a wedding banquet for Hou and Li, and they are married. On the nuptial night, Hou inscribes a poem on the engagement fan. However, the couple learn from Yang that the wedding has been paid by the treacherous Run Dacheng who is trying to ingratiate himself with Hou. Ruan sends Li a wedding trousseau but, reluctant to become involved with the cunning Ruan, Li rejects his gift. From this point on, Hou and Li incur the enmity of Ruan.

Scene Three

The Ming dynasty falls with the suicide of the Emperor Chongzhen. The royal family establishes the new, short-lived southern Ming regime. At court, Ruan Dacheng and highly influential courtier Ma Shiying falsely accuse Hou and General Zuo Liangyu of plotting to undermine the Emperor. Hou is forced to flee for his life and seek shelter will General Shi Kefa.

Scene Four

Li Xiangjun has been engaged to sing in the palace by Emperor Fu of the southern Ming regime. At a banquet, she reprimands Run who evicts her from the palace. Li disappears. Hou Fangyu returns to Nanjing to look for Li and encounters Su Kunsheng who has the engagement fan. He tells Hou about Li's arranged marriage to Tian, and they go in search of Li together.

In the meantime, the Ming regime is on its last legs as the Ching Manchurian troops take over the Central Plains. General Zuo Liangyu tells the Emperor about Ruan Dacheng and Ma Shiying'streachery, and he sends officers to apprehend them. Ruan and Ma flee and attempt surrendering to the Manchuria troops.

Scene Five

The Manchurian troops move south and the southern Ming regime is overturned. Generals Huang Degong and Shi Kefa commit suicide. Whether loyal or treacherous, all courtiers and officers are now part of the regime's ashes.

Scene Six

Hou and Li meet by chance at the Taoist sanctuary on Mount Qixia. They recount their bittersweet stories to each other. However, the Taoist Priest Zhang points out to them the insignificance of their tale in the great scheme of life. The world as they knew it has been ruined. Hou and Li, being enlightened, decide to follow the path or Taoist belief.

Director's Message:

Through centuries of socio-political turbulence and change, for over 600 years, Kun Opera has continued to be passed from generation to generation in the oral tradition. Kun Opera is typically based on scripts that are rich in literary beauty and is sung with sweet, pleasant lyricism. The actors perform and sing in accordance to established Kun Opera conventions in which the story is developed through song and dance. Sadly, with Kun Opera's decline in popularity since the 18th century, there are only half a dozen Kun Opera troupes in China today.

The presentation of Kun Opera requires a delving into the past to study, inquire and learn from its huge legacy. In the course of realising thi project, our research saw us being moved, experiencing awe and gasping with admiration. This classic Kun opera work, The Peach Blossom Fan, which we were committed to revive, was an authentic, real-life historical drama that had taken place in Ming-era Nanung - Its tale full of insight into the complexities of an era's end, peopled by a huge cast of characters and featuring a diverse array of scenes. However, most of the score had been lost, and considering the fact that musical performance is the main feature of Kun Opera, this added to the difficulties we faced in our efforts to restage this classic.

Fortunately, those involved in the creation of the production were generally young and eager to discuss ideas. They suggested restoring the incomplete score with present-day methods and techniques. Subsequently we put our work onstage. And as more and more audiences set a sense of how richly thriving Chinese culture was in the past, they also begin to appreciate the splendour of ancient Chinese theatrical art. We feel particularly privileged.

In the making of this production, for the help of Zhang Hong, script writer for the Jiangsu Province Kunqu Opera and the support of Kun Opera artists Shi Xiaomei and her husband, Zhang Hong, we say thank you!

—— Tian Qinxin - Director for The Peach Blossom Fan

An Introduction to Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Kun Opera Theatre

Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Kun Opera Theatre is one of the professional companies that make up the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group. It is located in the grounds of the ancient Chaotian Gong Palace and is specially engaged in Kunqu Opera research, production and performance. It is considered the stronsest of China's six kunqu opera companies.

The troupe draws upon a large pool of talented actors, including seven PRC National A-List performers and nine winners of Chinese Operas highest esteemed "Plum Blossom Prize. All the performers have achieved mastery of their art, making use of their insider's knowledge of the beauty of Wu culture and clear southern Kun style as well as a firm foundation in operatic skills.

The repertoire of the Jiangsu Province Kunqu Opera encompasses over a hundred classical scenes. The troupe is dedicated to preserving this Kun Qu tradition, through further research, transmission of skills and sympathetic adaptation of these classical masterpieces, in order to continue to hand them down to posterity.

The troupe has made numerous trips outside the Mainland for performances and lectures. visiting Italy, England, France, America, Japan, Spain, Korea, India, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and is held in wide acclaim by the international art scene and domestic and foreign

Creative Team

Playwright: Kong Shangren (1648-1718)
Chief Producer: Zheng Zeyun
Artistic Director: Ke Jun
Supervisors: Li Hongliang
Special Consultant for Kunqu Performance: Zhang Jiqing
Literary Consultant: Yu Kwangchung
Consultant for Theatre Arts : Sohn Jin Chaek
Academic Consultant: Dong Jian, Oh Sook Yung (Korea)
Director/ Adaptation: Tian Oinxin
Performance Consultant: Shi Xiaon
Performance Consultant: Hu Infang
Performance Instructor: Zhao Jian
Promotion Music: Seikoh Nagaoka (Japan)
Music Director & Conductor: Dai Peide
Performance Instructors: Huang Xiaowu, Zhao Jian, Ke Jun, Li Hongliang, Gong Yinlei, Qian Zhenrong
Vocal & Music Designer: Sun Jianan
Music Arranger: Jiang Jinghong
Stage & Lighting Designer: Xiao Lihe
Costume & Style Designer: Mo Xiaomin
Costume Embroidery: Yao Jianping
Technical Directors: Shan Xiaoming, Zhao Rongjia, Cong Haiyan, Gu Jun
Sound Designers: Mao Linhua, Zhou Qun
Make-up Designers: Jiang Shuhong, Li Xuemin
Props Designers: Miao Xiangming, Hong Liang

Cast (In order of appearance)

Master of Ceremonies/Su Kunsheng/Taoist Priest Zhang: Sun Pin
Hou Fangyu: Shi Xiaming
Wu Yingji: Yin Xianghan
Courtesans: Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Performers
Li Zhenli: Xu Sijia
Li Xiangjun: Shan Wen
Yang Wencong: Zhou Xin
Ruan Dacheng: Zhao Yutao
Ma Shiying: Wang Zhenyu
Zuo Liangyu: Lv Tiangan
Chen Zhenhui: Song Bofan
Herald: Qian Wei
Shi Kefa: Yang Yang
Generals: Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Performers
Boatman: Zhu Xianzhe