West Kowloon arts panel dodges jokers as it votes for venue name

Body that distills public opinion settles on safe choice amid sniggering over Putonghua option

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 11:40am

Most consultants for the West Kowloon arts hub have come out in favour of "Chinese Opera" as the English name for its traditional performing arts venue.

They rejected the alternative, "Xiqu", which quickly became the subject of lewd mockery online after it was proposed.

Xiqu is the pinyin representation of the Putonghua phrase to describe traditional Chinese theatrical arts. But wags on the internet have gained plenty of comic mileage out of its resemblance to the Cantonese term si chue, which means "private parts".

The Cantonese term for the art form is hei kuk.

At a panel meeting yesterday, only one of the 14 members present voted in favour of the name Xiqu, but nine others voted for Chinese Opera. The rest did not vote for either.

It was unclear which way individual panel members voted, but several expressed their views before the name was put to a vote.

"It's better to use 'Chinese Opera', because if we are choosing an English name, of course we need a name that foreigners will understand," panel member John Tse Wing-ling said. "Even on the mainland, many cities use 'Chinese Opera'."

He told of how a friend who had emigrated to Canada a long time ago and given himself an unusual English name ran into trouble because Canadians did not know how to pronounce it.

"A few years later, he decided to change to a proper English name," Tse said, suggesting he did not want the same thing to happen to the local arts hub.

Another member, William Leung Wing-cheung, said the "qu" in Xiqu was a Putonghua pronunciation and English speakers would pronounce it differently.

"It is not even proper English pronunciation," he said. "It will be difficult for foreigners to understand."

But panel chairman Professor John Leong Chi-yan said he believed Xiqu would sound exotic to foreigners, and could well prompt them to explore traditional Chinese performing arts.

Louis Yu Kwok-lit, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority's executive director of performing arts, said the official name would be unveiled after the venue was completed in 2016.

Yu also said people involved in Cantonese opera accepted both Xiqu and Chinese Opera, and that academics were more inclined to favour Xiqu.

He said academics had pointed out that the term "kung fu" was also transliterated directly from Cantonese, but was widely understood in Western nations.




Send to a friend

To forward this article using your default email client (e.g. Outlook), click here.

Enter multiple addresses separated by commas(,)

For unlimited access to: SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive