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Postface

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2023

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Summary

Discussions surrounding the performing arts have historically been the specialty of offstage researchers. Actually, it's the actors onstage who are nearer to the quintessence of the theatre. Their grasp of the performing arts is more practical, more ingrained. This is the way they discuss it:

Yu Shuye 于叔夜 slowly fans himself, and in the fragrant evening breeze he faintly catches a scent: oh, it's Suhui 蘇徽. This series of tiny fixed movements [as he perceives the scent] constitutes the soul of this scene. Only our kunqu could be so exquisite, so graceful, so poetic, so enchanting, so meaningful.

That's the explanation given of kunqu 崑曲 performance by Shi Xiaomei 石小梅 in her Masters’ Lectures account of “Admiring the Letter, Misconstruing the Dream” (“Wanjian cuomeng” 玩笺錯 夢) [from The Western Mansion (Xilou ji 西樓記)]. In Liang Guyin's 梁谷 音 explanation of “Appeal to Heaven” (“Yanggao” 陽告) [from Burning Incense (Fenxiang ji 焚香記)], she offers another definition:

Kunqu performance consists of significance and situation. If a performer thinks that having the “four skills” (chang nian zuo da 唱念做打) and “five channels” (shou yan shen fa bu 唱念做打) [Appendix D] is enough for them to pass muster, then your performance will forfeit the essence of kunqu performance. That's why every time you perform you have to grasp hold of one single meaning, express one particular grace, and focus on one flavor.

Historically, there have been very few works containing xiqu 戲曲 performers giving their own accounts of performance. This is such a book. Self-narration is one of the characteristics of this book.

A second characteristic of this book is that it constitutes a collective account. A national project like Masters’ Lectures, giving a collective account by artists, is historically without precedent—this is the first such book. It has long been the case that the performances of master artists have generated plenty of research which circulates widely, and more than a few such works are important. But with regard to the artistry of the group as a whole, there has been little research, little output.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2022

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