Suzhou Pingtan is a general name for Pinghua and Tanci. It was born and popular in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province and Shanghai area. Performers sing Pingtan with Suzhou dialect. Pingtan has a long history and has been popular since the Qian Long’s period of Qing Dynasty. The most famous actor of Pingtan is named Wang Zhoushi who sung the Pingtan for the Emperor Qian Long. In the following years, Suzhou appeared many schools of Pingtan which made it be the classic for more than 200 years and still popular today.
Suzhou Pinghua is a form of telling stories in Suzhou dialect which is the represent of Wu dialect. It was popular in the southern part of Jiangsu Province and northern part of Zhejiang Province, including Shanghai where Wu dialect is used. Usually, Suzhou Pinghua is called as Suzhou Pingtan together with Suzhou Tanhua. In its popular areas, Suzhou Pinghua is commonly known as ” book” while Suzhou Tanci is commonly known as “little book” and they are named Suzhou Pingtan in general.
Suzhou Pinghua originated in the Song Dynasty’s speaking skills. In the middle of Qing Dynasty, Suzhou Pinghua developed into its heyday. The features of Suzhou Pinghua are slow and gentle. The performance of Pinghua is usually telling long stories. Each story is divided into many rounds. Each round lasts about half an hour. Each day, performers only telling one round so it will takes performers several months to finish a story. In recent years, with the shrinking of audiences and artists, Suzhou Pinghua urgently needs to be supported and protected.
Suzhou Tanci is also called “little book” , a combination of scattered rhyme and narrative. It formed at the ending of Min Dynasty and the beginning of Qing Dynasty. At the beginning of Qing Dynasty, with the booming of urban economy, Tanci had been popular in Suzhou. During the reign of Emperor Jiaqing, Tanci developed rapidly. Many famous artists turned out and created many new schools which enriched the staged bibliography. Suzhou Tanci is usually performed with the form of speaking, adding some singing into the speaking. By the end of 20th century, the audience and perform platforms reduced quickly, Tanci was facing the survival problems and needed to be rescued.
The government lays much attention to the protection of intangible cultural heritage. Therefore, in 2006, Suzhou pingtan was approved by the state council and listed in the first batch of state-level non-material cultural heritage list.