How Well Do We Know Our Neighbour?

By Shanghai Family Advertorial 2021-10-21 16:31:53

If we were to tell you that your next door neighbour is a decorated artist that is considered an icon in the performing arts, would you believe it? 



Zhang Jingxian is a 74-year-old famous Kunqu Opera artist and national first-class actor with the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe. She shares her personal experience from her comfortable living room at the serviced apartment of Central Residences II.

Zhang’s performing style is vivid, combining both her strong voice and delicate movements. In her artistic life, she has created many iconic stage characters with different personalities. Her repertoire includes traditional opera highlights like Qiao Vinegar, neeling Pond, Zhan’e, Eating Chaff, Lu Lin, Thorn Tiger, Gift of Sword, and full-scale dramas Ban Zhao, The Palace of Eternal Life, The Story of the Jade Hairpin, The Peony Pavilion, Accounting for the Oiran, Blood Hand, and Sima Xiangru. Much to the admiration of the audience, her performances bring to life many distinctive characters including the graceful imperial concubine, the ruthless Lady Macbeth, the talented Zhuo Wenjun, and the female historian Ban Zhao who led a tough life. 

Under the influence of her family, Zhang fell in love with operas and dreamed of becoming an actor at an early age. “It’s been 62 years since I took a fancy to Kunqu Opera,” she recalls. In 1959 when Shanghai Traditional Opera School recruited students, the then 12-year-old girl was successfully admitted. Zhang recalled that she was really surprised and delighted at the time. “It was a professional school for the study of opera after the founding of New China. Back then, there were two classes, studying Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera respectively and I was assigned to the latter. My teachers were all respectable elderly performing artists in the field of Kunqu Opera. For a newcomer like me, I felt fortunate to receive learning and training in such an environment, which was bound to benefit me for the rest of my life.”



Celebrating the Centenary of CPC 

The year 2021 marks the centenary of the CPC, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Suzhou Kunqu Opera School as well as the 20th anniversary after Kunqu Opera was listed as a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage. “I am honoured to be part of the programme and make my part of contribution.” According to Zhang Jingxian, Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe is now rehearsing a modern Kunqu Opera “There Are Certainly Successors”, which is set in the revolutionary years of China. 

Zhang Jingxian plays Grandma Li in the opera. “I believe, ‘There Are Certainly Successors’ will enable us to take a new step on the road of modern drama, not only to create excellent works that meet the aesthetic needs of modern audiences, but also carries forward the creative spirit of the predecessors.” Despite her advanced age, 74-year-old Zhang still comes to the suburbs of Shanghai to participate in the rehearsals.


Inheriting and Innovating Kunqu Opera

“Kunqu Opera, which boasts a long history, is an invaluable treasure in traditional Chinese culture,” Zhang said. Nowadays, Kunqu Opera is gaining popularity among young people as artists have initiated campaigns introducing Kunqu Opera to campuses and holding master classes. “We perform opera excerpts in many Shanghai universities. Before performances we offer detailed introductions and interact with audience. Sometimes we give explanations during our performance to inform students of the storyline and foster their interest in Kunqu Opera.” As a result, an increasing number of people like the Kunqu Opera and go into theatres to enjoy it. 



Moving into Central Residences II Serviced Apartments

Zhang moved into the Central Residences II Serviced Apartment half a year ago. Before that, she had seen many apartments and decided that this was the best for her. Central Residences II is ingeniously built and surrounded by the three major commercial centers: Jing’an Temple, Huaihai Road and Xujiahui. Here, you can see idyllic treelined streets, hear the twittering of birds and smell the fragrance of flowers. According to Zhang, “the apartment stands among a combination of century-old buildings and modern architectural masterpiece.” It is quiet, prosperous and full of vitality. While enjoying a convenient life there, you can experience the leisurely side of modern life. 

“Now that I can afford to put higher requirements on living environment, I wish to live a high-quality life,” Zhang said. She and her husband want a house with more rooms and her daughter wants her own space. “Central Residences II provides warm services. Department staff are responsible and professional. Everyone is polite. I think, it’s safe and I’m delighted to live here. Now me, my husband, and my daughter live on two different floors. Ideally, we are close and have our private space. My residence is well located with convenient transportation. It is quiet yet also vibrant, comfortable to live in, a rare high-end residential area in downtown Shanghai indeed. Besides, its distance from Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe is half that of my former residence.”