Chinese Drama




Summer Chinese Drama Course


The World of Kun Opera


Four weeks in June, at Suzhou University, China



View Syllabus and Class Schedule



Course Description 

This course is designed to give an in-depth introduction to the history, literature. music, and stage performance of Kun opera, which originated in Suzhou and is recognized as “the mother of all traditional Chinese theater traditions.” The international value and importance of Kun opera was recognized by UNESCO in 2001. Famous plays such as Washing Silk, Peony Pavilion, The Palace of Eternal Youth, and The Peach Blossom Fan will be introduced with a focus on their place in the historical development of Kun opera and reaching an understanding of their rich allusions and cultural references.  Students will watch both recorded and live performances of these and other plays, all provided with English subtitles. Students will have a chance to see what happens backstage and to experience dressing in traditional costumes and makeup and participating in the performance of selected scenes. 


The class is open for both undergraduate students (400 level) and graduate students (600 level).     With their applications for admission to the course, graduate students will submit a research proposal for a graduate level research project that they will work on during the course of the class under the guidance of the instructors and the assistance of Chinese graduate student tutors.

 Other features of the course:

          • Site visit to classical gardens and water towns near Suzhou
          • Weekend trip to Shanghai
          • Visit Shanghai Academy of Theater to study the influence of Kunqu on Beijing opera.
          • Interview actors and actresses
          • One-on-one Chinese language tutor for practicing speaking/reading daily
          • Weekend visit to a Chinese family

  Course Level EALL/DRAM 600 for graduate students, EALL/DRAM 400 for undergraduate students. 


Instructor: ZHOU Qin, Professor of Chinese literature at Suzhu University,  and Director of the National Kunqu Research Institute.   Professor Zhou is a leading scholar in the study of kunqu in China.  He is an expert in both kunqu literature and stage performance study. As the instructor, he will give lectures on kunqu history, performance, modern development, and related topics; he will bring students for site visits and actor interviews; he will coordinate local actors/actresses to direct student performances.


Associate Instructor: David Rolston. Professor Rolston teaches Chinese literature at the University of Michigan. In recent years he has concentrated more on traditional Chinese theater, and in particular Peking opera. His current project is on the imaginary world conjured up on stage in Peking opera of the early Republican period.  Professor Rolston will interpret the instructor's lectures into English, and will also teach part of the class, and participate in all activities and site visits.

About Suzhou University

30 minutes by high speed train from Shanghai, Suzhou has been a city since 2,500 BC, and is one of the most important cultural centers in South China.

This program is hosted at the College of Literature of Suzhou University, which was established a hundred years ago, making it one of the oldest schools in modern China. With over 20,000 students on several campuses, Suzhou University is one of China's 211 national key universities.

  Housing and Meals   

Students will be hosted in a near-campus hotel affiliated to Suzhou University, within walking distance to the classroom, and can eat at the student cafeterias for about 10-15 RMB per meal.  There are also many inexpensive restaurants near campus, with about 20-30 RMB per meal.   


A three-credit transcript and certificate will be issued by Suzhou University.  English syllabus about the course is available.


Application Fee: $100;  Program Fee: $3,200, covers tuition, room, and the above listed features.


How to Apply  Please notify TCE via email iThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 TCE staff will help you with your application.
 Application Deadline  Mid-May, contact us for details.