Yuju master Ma Jinfeng is the founder of the “Ma School of Yuju”. Born in 1922, she began her training at nine and first took the stage at 14. She is known for her powerful and crisp singing voice and lively stage presence, and typically portrays fearless, strong-willed women adept at martial arts. Based on over 70 years of experience and innovation, she invented shuaidan roles—a new role type that incorporates the characteristics of various traditional martial arts and civilian female roles. Her shuaidan performance as Mu Guiying in General Mu Guiying Takes Command is widely considered the definitive portrayal of the historic heroine in Yuju. In 2005, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chinese Ministry of Culture.
An iconic film star of the 20th century, Xia Meng was born in Shanghai in 1933 and moved to Hong Kong in 1947. Four years later, she made her screen debut in hit comedy A Night-time Wife and shot to stardom. After 41 films, Xia ended her 17-year acting career and migrated to Canada in 1966. She founded her own production company in the 1970s and produced a string of critically-acclaimed films, including Boat People and Homecoming, both winners of Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards. She passed away in 2016.
An accomplished singer and a remarkably versatile actor, Xia had appeared in a number of traditional Yueju films, including The Princess Falls in Love, My Darling Princess and A Bride for a Ride.
Renowned Jinju artist Li Yuexian is a National Class One Performer and a Representative Bearer of Jinju as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage. Born into poverty as a farmer’s daughter, Li started her training at the age of 12 under Jinju master Ma Zhaolin, specialising in xusheng (bearded male) roles. Over the years, she studied and integrated a variety of styles and techniques, and from it developed a distinct personal style. Apart from her agility, natural stage presence and elocution, Li is particularly admired for her attention to detail and effortless execution of highly challenging or specialised techniques. Her major works include Saving General Yang, Love and Regret in the Palace and Emperor Qi Reins in the Horse.
Hailed the “Queen of Pingju”, Xin Fengxia was born in 1927 and started receiving Beijing opera training at six. The prodigy became a headliner at 14 and, in the early-1950s, her memorable turn in the Pingju film Liu Qiao’er made her a national star. In addition to being a skilled soprano, she also collaborated with composers to create new tunes and rhythm patterns, and developed a unique artistic style that remains popular today. Xin enjoyed portraying strong women with modern sensibilities; her most notable works include The Remonstrance of Yang Sanjie and Flower as My Matchmaker. Having suffered persecution during the Cultural Revolution, Xin was rehabilitated in 1979 and dedicated the final years of her life to teaching and writing before her passing in 1998.
Zeng Jingping is a National Class One Performer specialising in dan (female) roles and the director of the Experimental Theatre of Liyuan Opera in Fujian. In 1988, Zeng won her first Plum Blossom Award at the age of 25 for her acclaimed portrayal as the widow Yan in A Widow’s Lament. She won the prestigious award the second time in 2007, for her performance in production The Scholar and the Widow. Her other notable works include Chen San and Wuniang and Zhu Maichen. Zeng is known for her exquisitely feminine performance style and nuanced interpretations of her characters.