Cantonese opera
2011-August-4 Source:
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The 28th day of the ninth luna r month is the birthday of the opera god Huaguang. There is a tradition in the Cantonese Opera industry to offer sacrifices to this musical deity. This picture shows the Foshan Cantonese Opera Troupe worshipping their divine rhythmic idol.

Musical Instruments

The number of applied instruments reached mor e than 40, and even Western musical instruments such as saxophones and violins were incorporated to enrich the sound.



This vintage aesthetic was applied with intricate steps. First, the hair was bound up snugly with a piece of cloth, tightening the face skin. Then the performers applied white foundation, dabbed dark symmetrical lines across their cheekbones and etched a myriad of other vibrant colors across their visage canvas.


Almost all young female characters in the Cantonese Opera wear head accessories which are diversified and made from a variety of materials.For example, the princess and high-ranked imperial concubine wear a phoenix hairpin and a phoenix coronet respectively. Only a few male characters infrequently wear head accessories, such as the prince’s casques. For example, Jia Baoyu in the Dream of Red Mansions and Cao Zijian in the Goddess of the Luo River wear the prince's casques.


In the early Qing Dynasty, the Waijiang Troupe introduced the Yiyang and Kunshan pitches to Guangdong. During the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (an oppositional state in China from 1851 to 1864),the local troupes sprouted, but the vocal was still based on the Bangzi pitch. Later, with the decline of the Kunqu Opera and the influence of the Hui Opera troupes, the Cantonese Opera accepted Xipi and Erhuang as the main pitches. During the Revolution of 1911, the "Patriots Troupe" reformed the Cantonese Opera by changing its language from Mandarin Chinese to Cantonese or the so-called New Vocal. During the War of Anti-Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), there were many artists who studied the Cantonese Opera intensively and developed their own vocal styles. Striking examples included Xue Juexian’s "Xue-style",  Ma Shizeng's "Ma-style", and Hong Xiannü's "Hong-style". As Cantonese has nine tones, it makes the Cantonese Opera more melodious and elegant.


The early-period Cantonese Opera costumes mainly imitated the Ming- and Qing-style clothing. During the Qing Dynasty the Peking Opera became more and more popular, heavily influencing the Cantonese genre's costumes. It is described in the Brief History of Guangdong Operas that "The Gu-style embroidery is widely loved by the Guangdong people. The noble golden color is widely used to make the costumes splendid and bright. They are better than those made in Beijing and Shanghai. Since the European and American plastic sequin was introduced in China, the costumes have become as shiny as mirrors." Bythe end of the 1960s the embroidered opera costumes became main stream in the genre, and they remain popular even today.


Source: Information Office of the People's Government of Guangdong Province

Editor: Miranda
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