Since 2009, Cantonese opera has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A valued part of heritage in Hong Kong and parts of Southern China, Cantonese opera is not only treasured for its complex techniques and unique timbre. Similar to the values of Western opera, the stories expressed in song and performance in this genre, emotions and life lessons conveyed throughout, continue to be timeless and relatable even to a younger generation. Through learning about and participating in Cantonese opera, students appreciate the tradition’s history and deeply rooted cultural values, and also creatively express their inner feelings through learning activities and performances.
Cha Duk Chang Children’s Cantonese Opera Association (“CDC”) is the only organization that offers school-based children’s Cantonese opera lessons in Hong Kong with the objective to advocate “Theater in Education” and develop “Education in Theatre”. CDC believes that learning age-appropriate Cantonese opera enables children to relate and interpret values such as honesty, benevolence, harmony, courage and filial piety in a fun and approachable manner. Hence, CDC is committed to producing tailor-made scripts performed by children, and for children as its audience. Learning this form of oriental music can help nurture time-honored Chinese cultural values at an early age and widen children’s scope for arts appreciation.
The Foundation shares CDC’s vision to cultivate children’s traditional virtues and social-emotional competence through Cantonese opera and is certain that this distinctive art form is worth preserving so that it will be passed on to younger generations. It supports CDC’s school-based program which employs a train-the-trainer approach to pass the torch from opera tutors to school teachers and students in 5 primary schools in Hong Kong. Through introductory workshops and different subjects with which Cantonese opera is integrated, it is hoped that all participating students will develop an initial understanding of the art form and are exposed to positive values and traditional virtues. Performance troupes will be formed among interested students to advance their learning. Some children may be inspired to carry on the practice later in life.
By building a pool of trained teachers, in-school Cantonese opera education can be further developed in the coming years. More opportunities will be provided to students to learn Chinese art and values in a joyful way. By supporting CDC through its activities, the Foundation hopes that this form of education, both traditional and innovative in nature, will play an important role to nurture the next generation of Cantonese opera audience, which will undoubtedly contribute to the sustainability of this particular Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.