The stylistic development of Chinese traditional theatre has been shaped by religious opera from its earliest origins to the modern day. Every year, up to 40 series of Cantonese opera and more than 200 shows take place in Hong Kong. Organised by local communities, and staged by professional troupes in temporary bamboo theatres, the performances celebrate the birthdays of gods and provide sacred and secular entertainment to highlight purification rituals and initiation rituals for new temples.

Using ethnographic data and images collected over 30 years around Hong Kong, this talk looks at aspects such as: features of traditional religions, organisation of performances, related religious rituals and secular activities, formation of opera troupes, artists and performances, and the inevitable but sad decline of a tradition whose preservation depends on its self-sustainability and ability to respond to the challenges of a market-oriented economy.

5 January 2019 (Saturday)

2:30pm – 4:00pm

Seminar Hall, 2/F, Xiqu Centre

Prof Chan Sau-yan


Free admission. Limited capacity on a first come, first served basis. Please register online in advance.

Ms Leung (852) 2200 0872,

Accessibility Services:
Cantonese audio description and Hong Kong sign language interpretation are available upon request with at least 14 days’ advance notice.

Adverse Weather Arrangements:
The talk will be cancelled if a black rainstorm warning or a typhoon signal no. 8 or above is in force at/after 11:00am on the day of the event.

About Speaker:

Prof Chan Sau-yan

Prof Chan Sau-yan read music and philosophy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong before embarking on doctoral studies at the University of Pittsburgh under the supervision of Professors Bell Yung and Deane Root. He taught at the Music Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 1987 to 2007, where he founded the Cantonese Opera Research Programme and Chinese Opera Information Centre, and served as Associate Director of University General Education. He recently returned to Hong Kong after a seven-year stay in Wales, where he learned Welsh folk dance and creative writing. He is the author and editor of twenty academic books on the musical structure, performance practice, ethnographic and historical aspects of Cantonese opera, including Improvisation in a Ritual Context: The Music of Cantonese Opera (Chinese University Press, 1991). At present he is a writer-cum-researcher.

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