Quyi: one of China’s older performing arts helping preserve ethnic history and culture

As one of the older performing arts in China, Quyi—developed during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD) and flourished in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279)—is rooted in China’s history and culture.

Chinese Quyi focuses on how the “Body Talks”, and it’s mostly a spoken performance from one to four people. Don’t confuse it with Chinese opera.

During a performance, the actors pay attention to the use of the hands, eyes, body and step.  The focus of this performing art consists of narrative storytelling using staged monologues and dialogues.

Hand gestures are used to present the story’s plot while the eyes are the most important part of a Quyi performance. The eyes show anger, sorrow and joy. Using the eyes to dramatize the story is an art in itself.

Since there are different schools of Quyi, the hand, eyes, body and steps are used differently from school to school.

There are fifty-six minorities in China and minority produced Quyi is often subtly different from what the Han majority produces.

For instance, Chinese ethnic minorities use mostly their own languages or dialects for the performances often singing the dialogue. In fact, it’s been an important performing art for preserving the history and culture of many ethnic groups. (The Quyi of Ethnic Minority Groups in China)

In fact, since Quyi is a vital part of China’s minority culture, soon after the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the Chinese Quyi Association was organized. Today, more than 3,500 members belong to an association that publishes Quyi Magazine.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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