Happiness and Heartlessness Represented in Cantonese Opera: With Reference to Burning of the Incense and Scent of a Lady


Cantonese opera is seen as a treasure stemmed from the Southern part of China, and was made extremely popular in Hong Kong from the 1930s to the 1980s. Being adapted largely from traditional Chinese folklore, fiction and mythology, Cantonese opera concerns essentially with figurative representations of human emotions and behaviour, logically related to the manifestations from classical literature. Most of these opera titles thus derived consist of core Chinese Confucian values of benevolence, righteousness, loyalty and filial piety. However, there were still plenty of titles focusing on unfulfilled or forbidden love which did not conform to the ‘right’ track of traditional moral principles. From the very perspective of feudal beliefs, to be attached in love and passion usually results in dire consequences, especially when such deeds were unorthodox ones. Taking the above into consideration, it would be thought-provoking to scrutinize how happiness and heartlessness (a frequently explored theme) are depicted in the art of Cantonese opera. Interestingly, most of these love-laden scenes are corresponding to sexual desires and motives mainly from the male side. The happy heroes and heroines are first deeply drown in passion, but are often refrained from being united owing to different factors, and the females are usually the ones to be abandoned. This article is going to analyze in depth the significance of these representations in the selected opera titles of Burning of the Incense and Scent of a Lady.

Author Information
Kar Yue Chan, Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2022
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon