A Classical Opera of Twenty-First-Century China


Joseph S. C. Lam

ISBN : 978-988-8754-32-8


November 2022

308 pages, 6″ x 9″, 25 b&w and 7 color illus.

  • HK$700.00

In Kunqu: A Classical Opera of Twenty-First-Century China, Joseph S. C. Lam offers a holistic and interdisciplinary view on kunqu, a 600-year-old genre of Chinese opera that is being fashionably performed inside and outside of China. He explains how and why the genre charms and signifies Chinese culture, history, and personhood. As the first comprehensive and scholarly book on kunqu written in English, the book not only discusses the genre in cultural and historical terms but also analyzes its shows as performative, cultural, social, and political communications. It approaches the genre from several perspectives, ranging from those of performers and producers to those of casual audience, dedicated connoisseurs, and scholarly critics. Lam also employs a judicious blend of Chinese and international theories and methods. Through this comprehensive study of kunqu, Lam has established the significance of the genre not only in the sphere of Chinese music, but also among the cultural heritage and performing arts at a global level. 

Joseph S. C. Lam is professor of musicology at the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at the University of Michigan. A musicologist and sinologist, Lam specializes in the music and culture of Southern Song (1127–1279), Ming (1368–1644), and modern China (1900 to present). His most recent publication is “The Southern Story of the Western Wing: Traditional Kunqu Composition, Interpretation, and Performance,” in How to Read Chinese Drama: A Guided Anthology, edited by Patricia Sieber and Regina Llamas (2022).

“This work would be of terrific interest to amateur kunqu performers and to kunqu supporters. It will also be an essential reference work for scholars conducting research not only on kunqu, but on all forms of Chinese opera, particularly as they are being performed contemporarily.”

Nancy Guy, UC San Diego; author of Peking Opera and Politics in Taiwan

“It is the first book-length work devoted to studying kunqu opera from historical and ethnomusicological perspectives. At the same time, the study engages various sociocultural theories and methods of humanities studies. It will be a significant addition to the scholarships of ethnomusicology, Chinese cultural history, Chinese drama, and theater/performance studies.”

Yung Sai-shing, National University of Singapore