Music, Festival

The Four Beauties 四大美人

Organised by: Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Performed by: Shanghai Pingtan Troupe
  • Date:
    3 Feb 2020
  • Time:
  • Duration:
    2h, including 15min intermission
  • Venue:
    Esplanade Recital Studio
    Esplanade Recital Studio Esplanade Recital Studio
  • Language:
    Performed in Suzhou dialect, with English and Chinese surtitles.


With a history dating back to the late Ming dynasty, come experience a performance of elegant storytelling set to music as traditional pingtan makes its debut at Esplanade.

Originating in Suzhou over 400 years ago, pingtan is a genre of musical storytelling. Performed in the Suzhou dialect, which is famous for its melodious and lilting qualities, pingtan is a combination of two Chinese narrative folk art forms—pinghua (narration without music) and tanci (narration with music accompaniment).

For one night only, the renowned Shanghai Pingtan Troupe will perform stories of The Four Beauties of ancient China—Xi Shi, Diao Chan, Wang Zhaojun and Yang Guifei. Beyond waxing lyrical about the allure of the four beauties, the performance will creatively narrate the touching sacrifices the four made for their country and its people.

What is Pingtan?
Two chairs flanking a small table, a woodblock for creating sounds and rhythm to draw attention, a folding fan and a stringed musical instrument (either sanxian or a pipa)—this simple stage set-up coupled with melodic narration evokes the listeners' imaginations as the performers tell stories about battle tales and heartrending romances. The art of pingtan was listed as one of China's intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture of China in 2006.

The Four Beauties 四大美人