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Kunqu (Kunshan opera) (昆曲) originated in the Kunshan area of Jiangsu around the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the early Ming.

Kunqu singing is gentle and clear, its tunes are beautiful and refined, and its stage movements resemble dancing.

Kunqu reached its peak of popularity at the end of the Ming and the early period of the Qing, exerting tremendous impact on other types of opera.

Around the middle of the Ming Dynasty it spread to the north and gradually developed into a more vigorous, rugged type of opera known as northern kunqu.