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West Kowloon Cultural District

Hong Kong Chinese opera centre looks like woman’s private parts, as well as its name sounding like word for them in Cantonese

There was sniggering when Chinese opera venue at Hong Kong arts hub was named Xiqu Centre, given Putonghua word sounds in Cantonese like word for a woman’s private parts - now photos show entrance that looks like them

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 6:20am

Remember all the fuss in 2013 over the English name for the Chinese opera centre at the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) ? Instead of simply calling the 13,800-square-metre venue the Chinese Opera Centre (which is what it is), officials opted for the pinyin (and presumably politically correct) pronunciation of “Chinese opera” (in Putonghua) and called it the Xiqu Centre.

This was rather unfortunate, given “xiqu” sounds in Cantonese – the predominant Chinese dialect spoken in Hong Kong – exactly like si chue, the word for a woman’s private parts.

West Kowloon arts hub has 'open mind' on Xiqu Centre name

Just when we thought this was old news and the controversy no more than just some smutty schoolboy joke, it returned with a vengeance this week as images of the facade of the centre, which is still under construction, emerged on the WKCD website.

It doesn’t appear to look quite as envisaged in artist’s impressions of the late Hong Kong-born Canadian architect Bing Thom’s design – a grand, somewhat curvaceous structure. Most noticeably, it lacks architectural finesse.

When a colleague showed a similar comparison a few months ago I thought the building, without its arching curves, bore a closer resemblance to a rice cooker than “the soft glow of a lantern behind a bead curtain”. But now, with the construction in earnest of the inverted V-shaped main entrance, it doesn’t take much imagination to see this defining architectural feature as more and more like a woman’s private parts.

Perhaps there is still more work to be done to transform the facade, visible from the Canton Road thoroughfare, into something closer to Thom’s poetic vision, but we probably won’t find out until next year when the building is due for completion.

Is the West Kowloon Cultural District finally taking shape?

The Xiqu Centre is one of the three major performing arts venues at the arts hub currently under construction. It will house a 1,100-seat main theatre, a “tea house” (black box space) that can accommodate up to 200 people, arts education facilities and space for shops and restaurants.