Red Boat Opera Company

The Red Boat Opera Company (Chinese: 紅船) was a group of traveling Cantonese opera singers who toured China in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

They were instrumental in forming and leading a popular uprising against the Qing Dynasty,[1] using a derivative style of Kung Fu fighting called Wing Chun to defeat government troops.

The Cantonese opera troupe was a boat used for performances between the Guangdong and Guangxi rivers. It is said that the actor originally used a purple cave boat as a theater boat, and later added sails to paint dragon scales and chrysanthemums on the hull. The pattern, the bow is painted red, so it is called the red boat. They were used to transport carry members of theatrical troupe and theater boxes, and also serves as a place for boarding and lodging of theatrical troupe members. Such troupes are called Red Boat troupes.

Red Boat troupes had been an important platform for Wing Chun to build on in Guangdong, and some of the most famous Red Boat Performers such as Leung Lan Kui, Leung Yee Tei, and Wong Wah Bo were all grand masters of Guangdong Wing Chun[2][3][4]

Wing ChunEdit

Liang Shan (梁贊), one of the earliest recorded users of Wing Chun in history, studied martial arts with boxer Luo Xiong (羅雄) at the age of 15. Liang Shan joined Qiaonghua Hall with Liang Erdi (梁二娣) as teacher. Liang Shan later gained apprenticeship and joined the Tiandihui. Liang Shan learned Luóhàn fú hǔ quán (羅漢伏虎拳) from Liang Erdi. A few years later, Liang Erdi had to move to Guangzhou. Before leaving, Liang Erdi introduced Liang Shan to Huang Huabao (黃華寶), who would teach Liang Shan Wing Chun Kung Fu (詠春拳法).

Therefore, Wing Chun was originally one of the martial arts practiced by the Red Boat opera, also referred to as Hóng chuán yǒng chūn quán (紅船詠春拳 Eng. "Red Boat Wing Chun"). Later, in 1854 (fourth year of Xianfeng), Cantonese opera artist Li Wenmao of the Qionghua Guild Hall organized a triad in response to the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and revolted in the Jingtang Ancient Temple in Foshan. The Qing government burned down the Qionghua Guild Hall, disbanded the artists, and banned Cantonese opera for 15 years. The Red Boat was extinct and Wing Chun also disappeared in Cantonese opera. In 1870, the ban on Cantonese opera was lifted and Liángzànshè (梁贊設) established a pharmacy in Kuaizi Street, named Rongshengtang. At the same time, Wing Chun was taught to the outside world. Since then, Wing Chun has been spread to the world step by step.

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ DUHALDE, MARCELO (8 November 2019). "Cantonese performing art". South China Morning Post (Online). South China Morning Post. Retrieved 11 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Ye, Guo (4 July 2019). "Canton Kung Fu: The Culture of Guangdong Martial Arts". Sage Jurnals (Online). SAGE Publications Inc. Sage open. Retrieved 11 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "History of the Red Boat Opera".
  4. ^ "Cantonese Popular Culture and the Creation of Wing Chun's "Opera Rebels."". Kung fu tea. Retrieved 8 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)