West Kowloon Cultural District

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

Arts hub says it will keep an open mind about the 'Xiqu Centre', which is being mocked online

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 11:40am

A West Kowloon arts hub executive says it will keep an open mind about the name of its traditional performing arts venue - which is stirring up controversy online.

But a name change would only be made after thorough discussion and a consensus between academics and industry professionals.

Internet users have mocked the name of the centre - Xiqu - which will house a range of Chinese operas and traditional theatre shows.

Xiqu is the pinyin for the Putonghua word to describe traditional Chinese performing and theatrical arts. But internet users have pointed out that it resembles the Cantonese sound for si chue - which means "private parts". The Cantonese term for the art form is hei kuk.

Louis Yu Kwok-lit, performing arts executive director with the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said he was pleased that the name Xiqu Centre had become such a talking point.

Yu was speaking yesterday at the opening of the Bamboo Theatre, the arts hub's Lunar New Year programme featuring everything from Cantonese opera to contemporary music, which is being held for a second year.

"But the most important thing now is the software and building the infrastructure. We're open to discussing the name issue, but changes will only be considered before the centre opens in 2016," Yu said.

The debate comes amid a rising anti-mainland sentiment that has been fuelled most recently by parallel traders from the mainland buying up infant milk powder in Hong Kong.

Many internet users questioned why the arts hub did not choose an English name or one that draws on the local Cantonese pronunciation rather than Putonghua.

The name was first mooted in 2006/07 in a report by the then Consultative Committee on the Core Arts and Cultural Facilities at the arts hub. The committee's performing arts and tourism advisory group said " xiqu covers Cantonese opera, Kunju, Peking opera and other kinds of Chinese opera".

Xiqu is also the official name for the art forms used by the Arts Development Council.

The authority last month selected a lantern-shaped design for the centre by architects Bing Thom of Vancouver and Hong Kong's Ronald Lu & Partners.

Asked if he thought it was unfortunate the centre was already being criticised, Yu said: "All kinds of discussions reflect the social sentiments of the time. We hope academics and professionals contribute to [the naming issue]. But we won't rush into a name change just because someone's said something."

The debate could well drag on until 2016, but for now the site where it will be built is home to the Bamboo Theatre.

Constructed from more than 10,000 bamboo canes, the temporary stage will seat 800 people and host 18 performances - including both ticketed and free Cantonese opera shows, dance and a capella.

A free Lunar New Year bazaar has also sprung up on the site, with 25 stalls selling traditional local snacks, arts and crafts.

Yu said that despite a significant increase in ticket prices - up from HK$10 for last year's trial to HK$150 this year - 95 per cent of 10,000 tickets had been sold.

The annual event runs until February 16, and Yu expects 30,000 to 40,000 visitors to flood through the gates.