Kun Opera is a
traditional performance art in China. It is one of the oldest surviving forms
of Chinese opera originated about 700 years ago. Recently Mushroom Culture
Company has decided to introduce this opera into Australia from China. However, the company recognises that there
might be cross-cultural issues in transferring a traditional Chinese art into a
Western context. The report will explore potential cross-cultural issues and
make possible recommendations.
Issues analysed in
this report in relation to dramas, songs, dances, learning systems, promotion
performance opportunities and length and government economic assistance.
Possible recommendations are suggested with regard to each issue.
Dramas need to adjust to fit in
Western classics may be adapted into
Kun Opera style.
Some songs should be translated into
Costumes should be designed longer
and bigger for Australian learners.
The learning style has to be changed
to the “professor-student” mode.
Promotion channels should be sought
on the Internet and other media channels such as collaborations with western
artists and adaptions into movies.
Performance opportunities may be
found during Australian festivals.
Performance length should be
shortened by dividing the stories into episodes.
opportunities by individuals or communities are needed.
Background of the
Kun Opera is one of
the oldest surviving forms of opera in China which was originated in Kunshan,
Jiangsu Province at the end of the Yuan Dynasty and the beginning of the Ming
Dynasty. It is referred to as “the mother of traditional Chinese Opera” due to
close relation to the development of other styles of Chinese Opera. Kun Opera was listed on the Masterpieces of
the oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2008 (United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, n.d.).
After watching several
Kun Opera performances in China recently, Mushroom Culture Company has decided
to introduce this art of performance into Australia for entertainment and
cultural communication. It is believed that Australia has wide cultural
diversity and growing market to promote this performance art. However, the
company recognises that there might be cross-cultural issues in transferring a
traditional Chinese art into a Western context.
This report will
provide a comprehensive description of the constitutions of Kun Opera, analyse
potential issues may arise from significant differences between Chinese and
Australian cultures and make recommendations to minimise problems.
Kun Opera in China
As a performance art,
three main elements in Kun Opera, traditional dramas, lyrical songs and
graceful dances, work interactively and in harmony as a whole to
express the meaning and artistic impressions. For the nearly 700-year
establishment, Kun Opera has its long-history learning systems. At the same
time, specific performance channels and opportunities and government economic
assistance are constantly supporting the development of Kun Opera.
The stories of Kun
Opera are generally adapted from classic literary poems, novels, fairy tales,
etc. which usually reflect the romantic love, politics, value and culture in
ancient China. These stories are often universally known by the Chinese
The dramatic stories
are presented through melodious songs accompanied by
such as bamboo flutes, small drums, wooden clappers, gongs, and cymbals. There
are specific rules during the composition and arrangement that the writer
should follow fixed conventions developed by ancient innovators of Kun Opera.
Even with the wide performing of Kun Opera all over the world, the songs have
been sung in modified Mandarin with some characteristics of the regional
A variety of
particular stylised dances and skills are involved in performances. Complex
body movements follow spoken parts as a supplement, as well as gestures to
represent a character’s attitude and spirit. Usually, the costumes and props
held in the hand are involved in the movements.
The study of Kun
Opera is always very long and hard, starting from an early age. Selected
children attend a troupe and learn acting, singing, dancing and martial skills
under a professional called master, which is a conventional feature —
“master-apprentice” mode. It is an unequal structure that masters have extreme
power to manage and control apprentices. Physical punishment is quite common
until even now.
Kun Opera used to
perform in public squares and in private houses of wealthy families. In recent times, it is more likely to stage
in tea houses, local theatres and on the television in China but less possible
through the internet or other methods.
opportunities and length
Due to entertaining
and socialising purposes of Kun Opera, families, friends and theatre-goers tend
to enjoy it in a group. Therefore, there may be more performance opportunities
during Chinese national holidays such as Spring Festival. Since food is in the
centrality of socialising in China, the Opera usually performs during the meal
and can even last for the whole day.
In past few years,
China government’s continuous supportive policies on both performing and
learning of this performance art as a part of the cultural characteristics of
Chinese socialism and a great deal of funding investment every year definitely
boost the popularity and advancement.
The Kun Opera’s
establishment in Australia may raise a number of cross-cultural problems since
it is a very typical representative of Chinese traditional cultures. The
significant differences between China and Australia will be examined in the
The stories of Kun
Opera, adapted from Chinese literature, are not familiar by the Australian
audience. Although Eastern classics seem to be newfangled and attractive
for some people in Australia, the values and ideas included may be hard to
understand or accept for those from Western contexts.
The limitation on the
Chinese language is an obvious issue Kun Opera must confront, which is likely
to be a deterrent for most English speakers. However, it may be seen as an
appealing way of learning Chinese with the increasing popularity of Chinese
language among Western countries. In addition, for those who want to write
songs for Kun Opera in English, the difficult composition and arrangement may
be a barrier.
especially the sleeves are highly participating in the dances. According to Vrontis & Vronti (2004),
there are different physical sizes between China and Australia. Therefore, the
size of costumes is probably an issue, as far as the learning of Kun Opera is
considered. Some slight modifications could be made to fit most Australian
“master-apprentice” learning style seems not to be effective in Australia. The
characteristic of high power distance in Chinese culture makes Chinese people
easily accept the idea to subordinate on the master (Hofstede 1994, cited in
Morrison 2006). However, Hofstede (1994) points out that Australia has
relatively small power distance, which indicates Australian people are inclined
to regard themselves more as equal and play various roles in the system.
Accordingly, Australian may not welcome this learning style; they may look
forward to a flatter structure. Moreover, physical punishments involved
probably cause some legal issues in Australia.
The current domestic
promotion channels are likely to be insufficient in the Australia market.
Different levels of technology between two countries should be considered
(Vrontis & Vronti, 2004). Australia, as an advanced country, may have a
rather high level of technologies and can take full advantage of the diversity
of promotional methods such as the internet, television, or movies. Australia’s
well-developed economy makes it widely possible to afford these channels.
Furthermore, taking account of the factor of political systems introduced by
Thomas (2008), there is an opener and more free internet use in Australia.
Therefore, more performance channels need to be expanded for better promotion.
opportunities and length
Another concern is
performance opportunities in Australia. Due to different religious and cultural
traditions, Chinese national holidays seem not to be suitable for performing.
Other performance opportunities have to be developed. On the other hand, Australian
does not treat food as a major way of socialising, which means they are less
likely to watch a whole-day Opera with friends during the meals.
One problem related
to a lack of government assistance would be inadequate financial supports to
both performing and learning. Possible higher tickets fees might be necessary
to cover the promotion costs, thus prevent more audience from enjoying this art
and increase the difficulties of promotion.
In order to ensure
successful introduction and promotion of Kun Opera in Australia, several
recommendations are suggested below in response to the issues mentioned above.
It should be
necessary to adapt famous western classics into Kun Opera style due to the familiarity. Some attempts might be made to adjust
original Chinese stories to fit in the Western context.
barrier is crucial for being accepting, it is necessary to try to translate
some songs into English or arrange English songs in the existing composition.
particular average height and weight of Australian learners, longer and bigger
costumes should be designed for them to wear.
The learning style
has to be changed to the “professor-student” mode commonly seen in the
university. This mode provides an equal relationship between teachers and
students. Physical punishment should be avoided likewise.
should be sought not only on television or in theatres, but also on the
internet such as YouTube, or other media channels. Some strategies should be
planned located on detailed research to cater to interest groups. For examples,
it might operate effectively for young generations to collaborate Kun Opera
with famous Western artists (singers, dancers, etc.), which has been proved to
be successful in China. Besides, the adaption into movies would be impressive
since the movie industry is so influential around the world; Kungfu Panda and
Mulan are typical models for this case.
opportunities and length
opportunities may be found during Australian festivals such as Christmas.
could be divided into several episodes according to chapters in original
literature to shorten each show under two hours.
Due to the limited finance,
fund-raising opportunities by individuals or communities may assist to cover