Kunqufirst appeared in the late Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), some 600 years ago, in the lowerYangtzeValley. It was named after its birthplace, Kunshan, near the city of Suzhou in today's Jiangsu Province.
The new opera form quickly gained popularity, and by the 16th century, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it had spread across the country. There are two schools ofKunqu-- the SouthernKun, which is prevalent inJiangsuandZhejiangprovinces, and the NorthernKun, prevailing throughoutNorth China. Yu Zhenfei is actor ofKunqu.
Yu Zhenfei, born in Songjiang (present-day Shanghai), was the best-known maestro ofKunquin the first half of the 20th century. His artistry inKunquis comparable to that of the famed Mei Lanfang in Peking Opera. Yu Zhenfei himself attributed much of his success to his thorough study and appreciation of classical literature.
Yu began to learnKunquat the age of six from his father who was then aKunquactor. Yu Zhenfei is not only good atKunqubut also at Peking Opera,and at the age of 14, he made his debut asXiaosheng.
In the 1940s, he went to Hong Kong to perform. It was in 1957 that he returned to Shanghai and became the headmaster of Shanghai Drama School.