- Exhibition: Sun Liang Chau, the Cantonese Opera Legend
- Exhibition: Sun Liang Chau, the Cantonese Opera Legend Sun Liang Chau drawing a giant bow with his incredible strength; the bow was used to raise funds during the Sino-Japanese War.
- Exhibition: Sun Liang Chau, the Cantonese Opera Legend Sun Liang Chau in costume as the ancient warrior Wu Song in the 1930s
- Exhibition: Sun Liang Chau, the Cantonese Opera Legend 'General Kwan Escorts His Sisters-in-law on a Thousand-mile Journey' (1957)
- Exhibition: Sun Liang Chau, the Cantonese Opera Legend Kwan tak-hing got to showcase his impressive lion-dancing skills in 'Wong Fei-hung' film series
- Exhibition: Sun Liang Chau, the Cantonese Opera Legend Interested in Western cowboys and gone through tough practising to acquire the whip cracking skills
As this year marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of Kwan Tak-hing, one of Cantonese opera’s most seminal figures, we are presenting an exhibition that celebrates his life and career.
Opening in May, the exhibition is organised with the support of Kwan’s eldest son, Mr David Quan Hon-chuen, and his family, and features a wide variety historical documents, film stills, photographs and video footage. From his overseas tours and travels to his various on-stage personas and iconic portrayal of the martial artist Wong Fei-hung on the big screen through the exhibits, the audience will get to know the various aspects of Kwan’s colourful life and artistic achievements, as well as the early history of Cantonese opera and the political turmoil and cultural changes that shaped the 20th century.
In addition, suspended above the exhibition from the ceiling of the Xiqu Centre atrium is an imposing art installation inspired by the traditional Chinese wind wheel. Audiences are welcome to enjoy the artwork from different angles as they visit the exhibition, and snap a picture with this eye-catching new addition to the venue.
From today to November 2021
Atrium, Xiqu Centre
Special acknowledgments go to Mr David Quan Hon-chuen and his family, Mr Law Ka-ying, Mr Yuen Siu-fai, ATV Digital Media Limited, the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Radio Television Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and Television Broadcast Limited for loaning out their archival collections, granting interviews, and providing photographs and audio-visual materials.
Kwan Tak-hing was born into an impoverished family in China’s Guangdong province in 1905. From the age of eight, he worked to earn a living. As a child, Kwan had a keen interest in Chinese operas and would often climb up makeshift bamboo theatres to watch the performances from the canopies.
At 13, he was shipped to Singapore as an indentured servant. There, his strong work ethic soon earned him an apprenticeship with the prominent Cantonese opera artist Sun Pak, specialising in xiaowu, a type of young male warrior roles. Later, he followed his mentor back to China and joined a boat troupe, adopting “Sun Liang Chau” as his stage name. By the age of 19, he had established himself as a top-class xiaowu performer.
Equipped with an athletic build, refined martial arts skills and near-superhuman strength, Kwan was best known for playing historic warriors such as the military general Kwan Yu and the tiger-fighter Wu Song. He had a large opera repertoire and worked with some of the best leading ladies in the business.
In addition to his stage success, Kwan was also a bone fide movie star. In 1931, he went on tour in San Francisco, where he was received with great acclaim and enthusiasm. This led to him being approached by filmmaker Moon Kwan to star in the feature film Blossom Time (1933). Shot in the US, the film was one of the first Cantonese talkies ever made, and was released in Hong Kong, Guangdong and Southeast Asia. After returning to Hong Kong, he made two other Cantonese opera musicals: Yesterday’s Song (1935) and Broken Song (1935). Together with Blossom Time, they are known as the “Song Trilogy”.
During the Sino-Japanese war, Kwan frequently performed for the troops and participated in fund-raising campaigns in support for the armed resistance against Japanese invasion. He was named a “Patriot Artist” for his various charitable and patriotic endeavours.
Kwan was elected as Chairman of the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong in 1957, and was instrumental in the 1959 restoration of the ancient Cantonese opera piece, The Imperial Emperor of Heaven Holds Court. Along with a group of experienced artists that he assembled, they made it possible for this long-lost piece of art to be seen on stage again.
Kwan starred in over 140 films in his lifetime, and played the renowned martial artist Wong Fei-hung in 77 of them. His portrayal of the beloved folk hero was so popular and indelible that for decades, he was constantly addressed as “Master Wong” by audience members.
In 1982, Kwan was awarded an MBE in recognition of his achievements and humanitarian contributions. On 28 June 1996, he died from pancreatic cancer in Hong Kong.