Quyi (Simplified: 曲艺; Traditional: 曲藝; pinyin: qǔyì) refers to such traditional art forms such as ballad singing (唱曲), Pingshu (说书), comic dialogues (小品), clapper talks (快板) and xiangsheng. This group of art forms has gained in popularity since the New Culture Movement. With the exception of the Cultural Revolution period, a great number of stories written for these arts have been preserved. Quyi is a Chinese performance art consisted of narrative storytelling using staged monologues and dialogues. It is mostly a spoken performance, and is generally not a full-fledged theatrical play. It should not be confused with Chinese opera.
While the storytelling art concept has been around for centuries, the narrative art concept was mostly recognized in the 1920s. Only after 1949 with the founding of the People's Republic of China did the term "quyi" become widely used. Prior to this, it was just classified as "Singing and Telling arts" (说唱艺术 / 說唱藝術, shuōchàng yìshù). This is one of the art category that gained momentum since the New Culture Movement. With the exception of the Cultural Revolution period, a great number of stories written for this art are preserved.
The story is usually told by a small number of people. The most standard number is 1 or 2, sometimes extending to 4 or higher. Quyi is often accompanied by clappers, drums, or stringed instruments, with the presenter wearing costumes at times. Unlike Chinese operas which has a fixed style for costume, quyi costumes vary depending on the era of the story plot. Costumes range from dynastic period hanfu to the more modern qipao or even suits.
The language used is usually associated with the spoken dialect of the local area. Sometimes it uses rhymed verse, some in prose, and some combine both. A lot of body movements may be used in the portrayal of the characters in the story. Each person may play multiple roles for multiple characters in the story. It is also this local and regional feel for the art that some would classify it as Chinese folk art.