Qu Yi (曲艺, Chinese Traditional Speaking and Singing arts) is an overall term for a variety of local
and traditional stage arts from many different ethnic groups in China. This type of stage art
originates from the oral folklore literature and the local music and poetry of the various provinces
of China, which have evolved in various forms throughout history. According to incomplete
statistics, up to now there are about 400 traditional speaking and singing arts forms active in
The two most prominent artistic features of Chinese traditional stage arts are singing and
speaking, with the ability to tell a story as a guiding principle in both abilities.
Some of these arts have a stronger “speaking” feature such as Xiang Sheng (相声-a kind of
traditional standup comedy), and Ping Shu (评书- a storyteller- usually historical stories with a
strong dramatic feature). While some have a stronger “singing” characteristic such as The Jing
Yun drum (京韵大鼓- a sung storytelling accompanied by a traditional drum). Additionally, there
also other stage arts that incorporate dance in addition to singing and speaking such as Couples
Rotation (二人转 an art form where a man and woman will usually sing comic dialogues).
One of the most prominent artistic features of the Chinese Traditional speaking and singing arts
is the fact that, unlike more classical stage arts in China such as the Beijing Opera – in the local
performing arts, there is usually no single character with one role in the performance, but one
actor can play a variety of characters and roles in the same play. Due to the more entertaining
and light-hearted nature of these performances in contrast to classical arts, one or two people,
accompanied by simple musical instruments or sometimes even without any accompaniment at
all, can go on stage and in a few simple gestures creates artistic “magic” along with the audience.
China’s long history and the upheavals it has experienced over the years have influenced and
shaped Chinese culture. Meanwhile, ethnic diversity in China has also greatly contributed to the
shape, content, and form of Chinese Traditional Speaking and Singing Arts. In China, almost every
ethnic group and even some villages have their own local stage arts. for example, the sky song of
the “Zhuang” ethnic group (壮族唱天), in Guang Xi Province. These local stage arts are influenced
by both local culture and local history as well as Chinese culture as a whole.
Art is a gateway to culture, and is a bridge to intercultural dialogue and a most enjoyable way to
get to know different cultures. China Culture Center in Tel Aviv is pleased to invite you to a series
of videos featuring six of China’s Traditional speaking and singing arts – Southern Sound (南 音),
Zhuang’s Sky Song (壮族唱天), Jing Yun Drum (京韵大鼓), Sichuan Yang string’s (四川扬琴),
Sichuan bright clear tone (四川清音) and Suzhou tune ballad (苏州弹词)- all available with full
English translation and General review in Hebrew.