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May 24, 2011

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Peace honor for opera star

CHINESE opera performer Zhang Jun has been selected as the UNESCO Artist for Peace for a period of two years for his "long-term commitment to promoting" Chinese Kunqu Opera, the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced yesterday.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will designate Zhang during an official ceremony in Paris on Thursday.

Born in Shanghai in 1974, Zhang is a leading promoter of Kunqu, one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera, inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

While pursuing his stage career, Zhang Jun has promoted programs such as the Hope Project to build schools and improve education in China's poorest areas. He has also supported numerous cultural initiatives in Shanghai.

After receiving the laureate, Zhang Jun will help raise national and international awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage and its safeguarding, including Kunqu Opera.

Kunqu was developed under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in the city of Kunshan in east China and is characterized by the combination of song, recital and complex choreographic techniques, which include acrobatic and symbolic gestures. The genre almost disappeared in the 20th century.


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