For more than 100 years, Vancouver has been home to a vibrant and thriving Cantonese opera scene. As a performance art carried out by transient troupes, it is an ephemeral medium that rarely leaves a trace in the historic records. However, an extraordinary treasure trove of early 20th-century Cantonese opera costumes, props, and stage dressings made its way to the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC.
In the first book-length study of this little known collection, April Liu retraces the arduous journeys of early Cantonese opera troupes who began arriving along the west coast of North America during the mid-19th century. A close examination of the costumes and props reveal the moving songs, stories, performances, and ritual practices of early Chinese migrant communities who struggled to make a home in a foreign and often hostile land.
Dr. April Liu completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2012, with a specialization in Chinese art history. Liu has served as the Curator of Public Programs and Engagement at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and as an instructor in the Critical and Cultural Studies Department at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, teaching courses on Asian art, visual culture, and global modernity. She has organized numerous festivals, arts programs, and research projects involving the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in Asia and Canada, and served as an expert consultant for UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage section in 2016. Her current research interests include Cantonese Opera, contemporary Asian art, critical approaches to intangible cultural heritage, and the visualization of heritage and memory amongst Asian diasporas.