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Art Quyi

The origin, Development and Artistic Features of Quyi

Quyi is a general name for a variety of spoken and Sung arts. It became a special art form after under going a long period of development and evolution from oral literature and songs. The origin of quyi goes way back in China's long history. In ancient times, both story telling and comic performances containing aspects of quyi were widespread among the common people, while the most talented artists performed songs, dances and comedy routines, accompanied by the music of stringed instruments, in the palaces of the rulers and the mansions of the nobility. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), stories old and new flowed from story tellers' lips. Then tales from Buddhist scriptures, which were very popular, were added and sung to the prevalent daqu and folk tunes. All this gave impetus to the development of the storytelling and singing arts. From that time on, quyi as an independent art form, took shape.

By the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the development of trade and the growth of cities and urban populations gave rise to the emergence of special venues for the performance of storytelling, and professional artists appeared on the scene. Various kinds of quyi art forms, such as spoken guzici(versified storytelling to the accompaniment of a drum) and Zhugonghiao, reached a new peak. Books such as The Eastern Capital: A Dream of a Splendid Past by Meng Yuanlao and sights and Entertainment of the Capital city by Nai Deweng give detailed evidence of the development 0f quyi.

From the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911 ) dynasties to the early days of the Republic, the embryo of the capitalist economy and the increasing growth of cities greatly promoted advances in the arts of storytelling and singing on the one hand, rich and colorful local traditions of storytelling continually flowed into the cities from the surrounding areas. overtime, the artistic level gradually matured. Examples are daoqing (chanting folk tales to the accompaniment of simple percussion instruments), lianhualuo, Fengyang huagu and bawangpian (clapper dancing). On the other hand, some traditional sung verses, in the course of spreading across the country, were transformed as they absorbed the different features of the local tunes and dialects. For instance, cihua (a type of verse with tonal patterns from folk music), originating in the Yuan (1271 -1368) and Ming dynasties, gradually evolved into tanci(storytelling accompanied by a stringed instrument) in the south and guci in the north. New types of quyi and various new tunes emerged, and many talented artsts with different styles came to the fore in the Yuan and Ming periods, Most qui genres that we still enjoy today originated in the Qing Dynasty and the early days of the Republic.

Although the art of storytelling has a long history, it did not have an independent status in the past. In the development of Chinese arts, storytelling belonged to the category of baixi in the Song Dynasty, with performances being held in entertainment houses called washe and goulan, which served as arenas for folk arts. In modern times a variety of shows came to be called shopngzshua, performed in venues such as hanqiao in Beijing, the Confucius Temple in Nanjing, Xujiahui in Shanghai,Sanbuguan in Tianjin, and the Xiangguo Tample in Kaifeng. After the founding of New China in 1949, some of the more developed genres were given the general name of quyi and since then they have been performed in theaters.

Research has shown that there are 4O0 forms of quyi(popular in different parts of China. Each has its own background, but they all have original folk features, a broad mass basis and similar artistic characteristics.Their common features are:

1.They take "speech and singing" as their main artistic modes of expression. Spoken forms are xiangsheng or comic cross talk, pingshu and pinghua. Sung forms include jingyun dagu,danxian Paiziqu, Yangzhou qingbu,Northeast dagu,Wenzhou dagu Jiaodong dagu and Hubei dagu Some are half sung and half spoken to musical accompaniment (sometimes called yunsongti), including Shandong kuaishu,kuaibanshu luoguhu and Pingxiang chunluo. Others combine singing with speech but without musical accompaniment, for example, Shandong qinshu, Xuzhou qinshu and qinshu of other place Another type is accompanied on the Enshi yangqin(instrument with metal strings, played with a bamboo plectrum), and Yunnan yangqin. Yet another is a type combining recitation, singing, dancing and walking. Examples are errenzhuan (a duet), shibuXia lianhualuo, Ningbo zoushu, Fengyang hop, chedeng and Shangluo huagu Because quyi arts tell stories and express emotions mainly through speech and song, their language must be lively, precise, simple and colloquial, suitable for speaking and singing, and easy to memorize and recite fluently.

2. Unlike in plays or operas, where the artists' costumes express fixed roles, a quyi item uaually needs only one or two people, who may take several roles each. The quyi artists are able to play characters of every description, and to tell various kinds of stories through speech and singing. Quyarts have the special feature of being simple and effortless to prepare for performances. There is a minimum of stage props - all that is needed is one or two musical instruments or a special gavel, a fan for pnghu or a pair of bamboo clappers for kuaibanshu. Sometimes there are no props at all. Performers can give shows wherever they go, enjoying more direct interaction with the audience, compared with plays and operas.

3. The convenient staging enables quyi artists to reflect social life more directly than other forms of art. The contents of their repertoire are generally short and elegant, and the artists usually compose, edit and design the items themselves. The fact that the performers themselves shoulder the director's role differentiates quyi from most stage performances. For instance, for a cross talk piece, the performer must act according to the structure of the story, and the arrangement of the acts, scenery and setting in order to portray the feeling, tone and other nuances of the roles. The artist has to know how to act in accordance with the needs of the narrative and the emotional expressions, and to judge what is the most effective way of communicating with the audience. Artists taking on all the overall planning and direction can produce some enchanting pieces.

4.As quyi arts take speech and singing as the major mediums, the artists have to stimulate the audiences' aural senses with their words and songs, so as to inspire them to conjure up images. Their artistic creations are completed by the participation of the audiences' imaginations. Shows can be performed on any piece of open ground, so the imaginations of the audience are not restricted by a narrow stage, while the contents of the stories and songs enjoy a wider freedom of time and space. in order to expand the imaginations of the audience to the artistic scope created by their recitations and songs, the quyi artists need a clearer and more meticulous understanding of the audience's reactions. Thus they enjoy a more intimate relationship with the audience compared with other types of stage performance.

5.In order to give a beautiful artistic impression and create a sense of intimacy with the audience, the artists should have strong skills in speech, acting and singing, and Outstanding powers of imitation. Storytellers must be able to relate lifelike and lively portrayals of peoples' anger, sorrow and joy. These solid skills are acquired from their observation and experience of real life, as well as their analysis, research and knowledge of history. This last point is particularly important for a quyi artist. The artistic characteristics of the several hundred types of quyi are quite similar in some respects, but in addition to their common features, each 0f them has its own special feature and exists independently Also, each artist has his or her own special skill even to create their own school. Even if they belong to the same school, each will have his or her own specific style, which constantly injects vigor into the art of quyi.

The Position of Quyi in the History of Chinese Arts

Quyi is intimately related to folk tales and folk songs, for they are all rooted in the masses, closely connected with social life, productive labor and people's loves and hates. through quyi people praise life's happiness and lofty values, while castigating evil-doers and mocking all that is low and vulgar The ethnic minority peoples of China use this convenient and effective spoken and singing form to spread knowledge of their histories and to describe the color and diversity of their lives, and their own ideals and hopes. Therefore, the national psyche, along with the joy, humor, anger and sufferings of the Chinese people can be perfectly expressed in a variety of performances. Quyi can be considered an art reflecting the wisdom of the Chinese people. So it occupies an important position in the history of the arts in China. Quyi shows, as flourishing as evergreen trees, have not only become strengthened as an independent genre, they have also nurtured other genres of arts. For example, storytelling scripts, or prompt-books known as huaben, which were popular in the Song and Yuan dynasties, greatly influenced later classical novels. Examples are the world-renowned novels The outlaws of the Marsh and The Romancc of the Three opems. Storytelling scripts fostered the formation of chapter-style novels. For example, the well-known Zaju The Wgytem Bowerof the Yuan Dynasty was based on the Westen Bower Zhugongdiao by Dong Jieyuan. Zhugoghaio was a popular storytelling form which originated in the Northen Song Dynasty and directly influenced the formation of the Yuan Dynasty Zaju. Another example is Cases of Prefect Bao, which was recited and Sung by a famous storyteller of the late Qing Dynasty, Shi Yukun, who was a favorite with audiences. Later, his script was collated and rewritten as a 120-chapter novel, Romance of loyal and Gallant Men, which after several reprints was renamed The Three Heroes and Five Gdents This text has always been very popular, and has been performed by storytelling artists on countless stages. The image of the upright and honest Bao Gong, created first by Shi Yukun, has since become deeply loved by ordinary people, who have taken him as their ideal.

Quyi is the cradlle of other art forms, and has all so learned from other art forms, leading to mutuall enrichment. The Westem Bower Zhugongdiao is a case in point. It is a work developed from The Stoly of yingying written by Yuan Zhen during the Tang Dynasty. Not long after the publication of the classic A Dream of Red Mansions, various kinds of guci such as jingyun, meihua and Iihua sprang up. Such items as Baoyu and Daiyu Qin Music sung bytw dop artists and Daiyu Laments over the Aubon sung by meduadop artists have won universal praise and been added to repertoires. As for pingshu storytelling, its stories have been enriched and made more colorful through the absorption of materials from historical Stories, and turned into scripts. With the universal popularity of television in China from the 1980s, quyi forms have developed through the new medium. For instance, quyi performances on TV, MTV's cross talk and CCTV's quyi variety programs, all show marked advances in the adaptation of quyi to television. Quyidevelopment from production to assimilation not only reflects the relationship of mutual support and mutual influence between quyi arts and other arts, it also reveals the fact that quyirts come from the people and have developed through extensive absorption of the beneficial aspects of other arts .

It is precisely because it bases its stories on the masses that quyi has been very much appreciated by the Chinese people while also capturing the attention and intcrest of foreign scholars. Many foreign friends have invited Chinese quyi artists to visit their countries to give lectures and performances. They have also come to China to conduct their own investigations and researches. Examples are: Professor Shi Qinghao from the University of Toronto in Canada and Professor Bai Suzheng from the American University, who both came to China several times to collect materials and write papers; Lin Peirui of Princeton University in the US has had frequent contacts with the late crosstalk master Hou Baolin, translating scripts and researching crosstalk theory They have all devoted great efforts to exchanges in quywith foreign countries. Guai Yarui of Stockholm University in Sweden and Fujita Kaori from japan, both studied at Beijing University, majoring in the Chinese language and specializing in the research of Chinese quyi(obtaining degues in the Study of cross talk.The Canadian known in China as Dashan learned cross talk from the famous artist jiangKun, and is now an amateur artist much appreciated by the Chinese people. This shows that this national art truly belongs to the world.

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Kuaishu and Kuaiban
Kuaishu and kuaiban are both story-telling and singing with theatrical rhyming. However, they have slight differences.
Dagu and Gushu
Dop and Gushu are terms that denote the same category of qu under the heading of quyi Dagu or gushu chiefly consists of jinyun dagu,stories told in Beijing dialect with a drum accompaniment; and xihe dagu stories told by a performer who beats a drum at the same time, with seven or ten words to the line; meihua dagu which originated in Beijing and is popular in north China, and in which the performer tells stories while beating a drum, accompanied by two or three persons who play three-stringed instruments, pipa and sihu.
Guangxi WanChang
This form is called wenchang for short. it is prevalent in putonghua speaking areas north of Guilin, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and especially in Guilin, Liuzhou and Lipu. Guangxi wenchang is the representative form of quyi in this region, having reached here early in the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Daoguang.
Beijing Dabon

Northeast ErrenZhuan
This is a form of duet, also known as bengbeng. it originated in the three provinces of northeast China-Liaoning, jilin and Heilongiiang. It is a form of quyi which involves story telling, singing and dancing, between two performers. Bengbaphas a history of 200 years.
Popular Tales and Storytellingi
When talking about quyi performances, the Chinese people usually refer to them as "storytelling and singing." Storytelling has very old historical origins. In the earliest extant written records something akin to storytelling is found in a seetion of the work Bwthies of Eminent Women written by Liu Xiang of the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220).
The Quyi of Ethnic Minority Groups in China
China is a nation of 56 ethnic groups. in this big family which we call China, each ethnic group has its own form of quyi The Tibetans sing and narrate The story of King Gesar and have a type of performance called Zhop, which is mainly singing.
Sichuan Qingyin(Arias Sung Without Makeup or Musical Accompaniment)
In the early days, this form of aria was called changxiaoqu (small tunes). it also had other names according to whether the performer uses a yueqin, a four-stringed plucked instrument with a full-moon-shaped sound box, or a pipa as accompaniment. Since the 1950s, Sichuan qingyin has been formally used as the proper term to designate arias sung in the Sichuan dialect.
Suzhou Pingtan
Suzhou Phan is a general term denoting Suzhou pinghua and tanci namely, story telling and ballad singing in the Suzhou dialect. Flourishing in Suzhou, it also enjoys great popularity inJiangsu and Zhejiang provinces as well as in Shanghai, the biggest metropolis in east China. The art has a long history, and its popularity can be traced to the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty.
XiangSheng (Comic Dialogue)
Xiangsheng is one of the most popular and influential types of quyi. It can be said that nobody in China does not know and like it. it is humorous and highly satirical by nature.
Yuequ, or Guangdong Melodies
yuequ means Guangdong melodies. The music is delicate, sweet, tender and soft. It is an important member of the family of Chinese quyi Sung in the GuangZhou, or Cantonese, dialect, it is popular in Guangdong Province, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Hong Kong and Macao.

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