:¸ nc฀s:uuivs,฀no.฀.

¡î,฀Vintcr฀acc¸/c6
I!1IíII\1Ií!฀II'1íII\AI฀I!VI'IIIII1Y฀
A!I฀1IA!'!A1Ií!AI฀^íIIII1Y
A
s฀ ~฀ :ouuivv,฀ awardwinning฀ novclist฀ Vayson฀ Choy฀ vagucly฀
rcmcmbcrs฀ spcnding฀ many฀ cvcnings฀ with฀ his฀ mothcr฀ and฀ hcr฀
lricnds฀ at฀ thc฀ Sing฀ Kcw฀ Thcatrc฀ in฀ old฀ Shanghai฀ Allcy฀ in฀
\ancouvcr's฀Chinatown.฀To฀build฀on฀his฀lading฀mcmorics฀and฀to฀capturc฀
thc฀contcxt฀ol฀thc฀latc฀.µ¸cs฀and฀carly฀.µ¡cs฀lor฀his฀childhood฀mcmoir,฀
Choy฀spcnt฀thrcc฀summcrs฀in฀local฀archivcs฀and฀muscums฀rcscarching฀
thc฀activitics฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀troupcs.฀His฀chaptcr฀on฀what฀transpircd฀
insidc฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀฀thc฀mcsmcrizing฀pcrlormancc฀on฀stagc฀and฀
thc฀ conviviality฀ among฀ thc฀ thcatrcgocrs฀ ฀ lurnishcs฀ by฀ lar฀ thc฀ most฀
vivid฀and฀cngrossing฀account฀ol฀Chincsc฀immigrant฀thcatrc฀ol฀that฀cra.฀
Howcvcr,฀ncithcr฀thc฀author's฀litcrary฀liccncc฀nor฀his฀historical฀imagination฀
has฀prcparcd฀him฀(and฀his฀rcadcrs)฀lor฀thc฀unlolding฀drama.฀As฀Choy฀
approachcd฀thc฀cnd฀ol฀his฀mcmoir,฀hc฀lcarncd฀that฀hc฀had฀bccn฀adoptcd฀
by฀his฀workingclass฀immigrant฀parcnts฀and฀that฀his฀¯rcal"฀lathcr฀was฀an฀
unknown฀mcmbcr฀ol฀a฀visiting฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀troupc.฀!ronically,฀Choy's฀
\II!A1í\!฀1IIA1II฀
A'฀1IA!'!A1Ií!AI฀II'I!I''
Ne.฀E.idence฀from฀!ancou.er฀
during฀the฀Exclusion฀Era´
\I !\฀ \II!\฀ !\
฀฀ This฀articlc฀is฀drawn฀lrom฀a฀largcr฀projcct฀on฀thc฀social฀history฀ol฀thc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀in฀
South฀China฀and฀among฀thc฀Chincsc฀in฀diaspora฀in฀thc฀latc฀ninctccnth฀and฀carly฀twcnticth฀
ccnturics.฀Thc฀Chiang฀Chingkuo฀Foundation฀lor฀!ntcrnational฀Scholarly฀¡xchangc,฀thc฀US฀
National฀¡ndowmcnt฀lor฀thc฀Humanitics,฀and฀thc฀Univcrsity฀ol฀Tcxas฀at฀San฀Antonio฀havc฀
oßcrcd฀this฀projcct฀gcncrous฀nnancial฀support.฀Ðißcrcnt฀portions฀and฀vcrsions฀ol฀this฀articlc฀
havc฀bccn฀prcscntcd฀at฀thc฀annual฀mcctings฀ol฀thc฀Association฀lor฀Asian฀Studics฀(acc¸)฀and฀
thc฀Southwcstcrn฀Conlcrcncc฀on฀Asian฀Studics฀(acc¡)฀as฀wcll฀as฀at฀a฀symposium฀on฀Chincsc฀
thcatrc฀ pcrlormancc฀ hostcd฀ by฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀ Univcrsity฀ ol฀ Hong฀ Kong฀ (acc¡).฀ !฀ thank฀ thc฀
participants฀lor฀thcir฀hclplul฀suggcstions.฀!n฀particular,฀!฀apprcciatc฀thc฀sound฀advicc฀and฀
cncouragcmcnt฀ol฀¡dgar฀Vickbcrg,฀Nancy฀Rao,฀Yung฀Sai฀Shing,฀¡lizabcth฀Sinn,฀¡lizabcth฀
Johnson,฀Sau฀Yan฀Chan,฀and฀Rogcr฀Ðanicls.฀Among฀librarians฀and฀archivists,฀Chak฀Yung,฀
Gcorgc฀8randak,฀and฀Vci฀Chi฀Poon฀havc฀rcndcrcd฀assistancc฀that฀has฀bccn฀indispcnsablc฀to฀
my฀work.฀Any฀rcmaining฀crrors฀and฀shortcomings฀in฀this฀articlc฀arc฀minc.฀As฀a฀gcncral฀rulc,฀
namcs฀ol฀actors,฀opcra฀troupcs,฀and฀othcr฀Chinatown฀cntitics฀arc฀rcndcrcd฀in฀local฀lorms.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
:o
:,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
absorbing฀narrativc฀and฀mastcrly฀cmbcllishmcnt฀ol฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀
bccamc฀thc฀backdrop฀to฀a฀piccc฀ol฀dccply฀unscttling฀pcrsonal฀history.
1
฀ Not฀ to฀ bclittlc฀ Choy's฀ pcrsonal฀ anguish฀ at฀ his฀ shocking฀ discovcry,฀
thc฀mystcry฀bchind฀his฀biological฀parcnts฀rcminds฀us฀ol฀thc฀largc฀void฀
in฀our฀undcrstanding฀ol฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀in฀North฀Amcrica฀during฀
thc฀ cxclusion฀ cra.฀ Ðcspitc฀ thc฀ Cantoncsc฀ opcra's฀ oncc฀ commanding฀
popularity฀ as฀ a฀ lavouritc฀ cntcrtainmcnt฀ lor฀ Chinatown฀ rcsidcnts,฀
thc฀ subjcct฀ continucs฀ to฀ cludc฀ indcpth฀ historical฀ analysis.฀ Thc฀ only฀
partial฀cxccption฀is฀Ronald฀Riddlc's฀pionccring฀and฀sympathctic฀study฀
ol฀ musical฀ lilc฀ among฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀ in฀ San฀ Francisco,฀ which฀ contains฀
valuablc฀inlormation฀on฀opcra฀thcatrcs,฀glcancd฀lrom฀tourist฀writings฀
and฀ncws฀rcports,฀howcvcr,฀his฀rcliancc฀on฀¡nglishlanguagc฀sourccs฀has฀
limitcd฀his฀pcrspcctivc฀to฀that฀ol฀an฀outsidc฀gazc.
2
฀Thc฀gap฀in฀scrious฀
scholarship฀is฀glaring฀in฀light฀ol฀thc฀attcntion฀conccrncd฀scholars฀havc฀
givcn฀ to฀ Chincsc฀ migrant฀ communitics'฀ myriad฀ cthnic฀ institutions฀
฀such฀as฀ncwspapcrs,฀languagc฀schools,฀and฀thc฀cvcrcvolving฀world฀
ol฀voluntary฀organizations฀฀all฀ol฀which฀arc฀bcing฀scrutinizcd฀in฀ordcr฀
to฀dclincatc฀thc฀proccss฀ol฀immigrant฀adaptation,฀community฀lormation,฀
and฀thc฀tcxturc฀ol฀social฀lilc.฀As฀lar฀as฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀is฀conccrncd,฀
whcrcas฀novclists฀sccm฀to฀bc฀ablc฀to฀cvokc฀its฀mcanings฀and฀signincancc฀
with฀rcgard฀to฀thc฀carly฀immigrant฀cxpcricncc,฀historians฀sccm฀to฀havc฀
littlc฀to฀oßcr฀bcyond฀a฀gcncral฀outlinc.
3

฀ An฀cncouraging฀rcccnt฀dcvclopmcnt฀involvcs฀ncw฀rcscarch฀matcrials฀
and฀thcir฀gradual฀incorporation฀into฀historical฀work.฀Yong฀Chcn's฀study฀
ol฀ Chincsc฀ San฀ Francisco,฀ in฀ which฀ hc฀ argucs฀ lor฀ thc฀ importancc฀ ol฀

1
฀ Vayson฀Choy,฀Paper฀Shado.s:฀Æ฀Memoir฀of฀a฀Past฀Lost฀and฀Found฀(Ncw฀York:฀Pcnguin฀Group,฀
.µµµ),฀¡.¸6,฀aî..฀

2
฀ Ronald฀Riddlc,฀Flying฀Dragons,฀Flo.ing฀Streams:฀Music฀in฀the฀Life฀of฀San฀Francisco´s฀Chinese฀
(Vcstport,฀CT:฀Grccnwood฀Publishing฀Group,฀.µî¸).฀Ònc฀sourcc฀ol฀particular฀importancc฀
to฀Riddlc฀is฀a฀¸îcpagc฀typcscript฀rcport฀by฀Pctcr฀Chu,฀Lois฀M.฀Fostcr,฀Nadia฀Lavrova,฀and฀
Stcvcn฀C.฀Moy฀cntitlcd฀¯Chincsc฀Thcatrcs฀in฀Amcrica,"฀which฀was฀commissioncd฀as฀part฀ol฀
thc฀lcdcral฀thcatrc฀projcct฀and฀was฀nnishcd฀in฀.µ¸6.฀Thc฀bulk฀ol฀this฀documcnt฀pcrtains฀to฀San฀
Francisco.฀Givcn฀thc฀dcarth฀ol฀Chincsc฀sourccs,฀thc฀rcport฀dcrivcs฀its฀historical฀inlormation฀
largcly฀lrom฀Vcstcrn฀rcportagc,฀ol฀which฀it฀says:฀¯Most฀ol฀our฀rccords฀ol฀Chincsc฀thcatrcs฀
in฀this฀city฀arc฀grotcsquc฀colorations฀ol฀ßccting฀visits฀by฀amuscd฀sightsccrs,฀or฀occasional฀
ncwspapcr฀itcms฀lorccd฀into฀print฀by฀rcason฀ol฀indisputably฀ncwsvaluablc฀occurrcnccs฀or฀a฀
tcmporary฀paucity฀ol฀subjccts฀lor฀rcporting"฀(.,î).฀Thc฀documcnt฀contains฀usclul฀ncldwork฀
obscrvations฀rcgarding฀thc฀thcatrc฀houscs฀and฀stagc฀practiccs฀ol฀thc฀mid.µ¸cs.฀

3
฀ Scc฀ thc฀ lollowing฀ two฀ standard฀ rclcrcnccs฀ on฀ Chincsc฀ Amcrican฀ and฀ Chincsc฀ Canadian฀
history:฀Him฀Mark฀Lai,฀Cong฀huaqiao฀dao฀huaren:฀ershi฀shiji฀Meiguo฀huaren฀shehui฀fa.hanshi฀
|From฀Òvcrscas฀Chincsc฀to฀¡thnic฀Chincsc:฀A฀History฀ol฀Chincsc฀Amcrican฀Socicty฀in฀thc฀
Twcnticth฀Ccntury|฀(Hong฀Kong:฀Joint฀Publishing,฀.µµa),฀and฀¡dgar฀Vickbcrg,฀cd.,฀From฀
China฀to฀Canada:฀Æ฀History฀of฀the฀Chinese฀Communities฀in฀Canada฀(Toronto:฀McClclland฀and฀
Stcwart,฀.µîa).฀Apart฀lrom฀Choy,฀othcr฀writcrs,฀such฀as฀Jadc฀Snow฀Vong,฀Ðcnisc฀Chong,฀
and฀Paul฀Ycc,฀havc฀also฀writtcn฀about฀Chinatown฀thcatrc.
I\฀'1IIII'
:o
:,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
nativc฀languagc฀matcrials฀and฀draws฀on฀a฀collcction฀ol฀opcra฀playbills฀
lrom฀ thc฀ .µacs฀ in฀ ordcr฀ to฀ providc฀ a฀ bricl฀ analysis฀ ol฀ thc฀ social฀ and฀
cultural฀lunctions฀ol฀thc฀thcatrc,฀is฀a฀casc฀in฀point.
4
฀Thc฀contributions฀
ol฀musicologist฀Nancy฀Rao฀rcprcscnt฀cvcn฀boldcr฀stcps,฀both฀cmpirically฀
and฀conccptually.฀Through฀a฀carclul฀rcading฀ol฀thcatrc฀advcrtiscmcnts฀
in฀ Ncw฀ York's฀ Chinatown฀ ncwspapcr฀ thc฀ Chinese฀ Nationalist฀ Daily,฀
Rao฀ oßcrs฀ a฀ succinct฀ account฀ ol฀ thc฀ livcly฀ Cantoncsc฀ stagc฀ in฀ this฀
important฀cast฀coast฀Chincsc฀community฀lrom฀thc฀carly฀.µacs฀to฀about฀
.µ¸c.฀ Shc฀ obscrvcs฀ that,฀ lor฀ too฀ long,฀ thc฀ lcns฀ ol฀ racial฀ prcjudicc฀ and฀
thc฀cxclusionist฀impulsc฀ol฀thc฀host฀socicty฀had฀rcndcrcd฀Chinatown฀
thcatrc฀not฀just฀historically฀invisiblc฀but฀also฀inadmissiblc฀to฀mainstrcam฀
Amcrican฀musical฀discoursc.฀An฀cspccially฀intriguing฀momcnt฀฀onc฀
that฀illustratcs฀thc฀cultural฀dynamics฀bchind฀such฀invisibility฀฀is฀thc฀
visit฀ol฀thc฀Pcking฀opcra฀supcrstar฀Mci฀Lanlang฀to฀thc฀Unitcd฀Statcs฀
in฀carly฀.µ¸c.฀As฀Rao฀poignantly฀argucs,฀Ncw฀York฀highbrow฀socicty's฀
lascination฀ with฀ Mci฀ as฀ a฀ rcprcscntativc฀ ol฀ thc฀ bcauty฀ and฀ cultural฀
csscncc฀ol฀China's฀historical฀civilization฀only฀undcrscorcs฀its฀pcrsistcnt฀
disrcgard฀and฀dismissal฀ol฀Chinatown's฀own฀musical฀tradition.
5
฀!n฀my฀
vicw,฀what฀makcs฀thc฀juxtaposition฀doubly฀intcrcsting฀is฀thc฀scllccntring฀
posturc฀ol฀Mci,฀who฀attcmptcd฀to฀appropriatc฀Chincscncss฀lor฀his฀art฀
at฀thc฀cxpcnsc฀ol฀othcr฀rcgional฀thcatrcs.฀Hcncc,฀in฀thc฀diaspora,฀thc฀
Cantoncsc฀opcra฀much฀cnjoycd฀by฀southcrn฀Chincsc฀immigrants฀was฀
rclcgatcd฀to฀thc฀margins฀not฀oncc฀but฀twicc.
6
฀ Ðccpscatcd฀ cultural฀ prcjudicc฀ on฀ both฀ sidcs฀ ol฀ thc฀ Pacinc฀ has฀
contributcd฀to฀thc฀ncglcct฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀opcra,฀howcvcr,฀to฀takc฀anothcr฀
hint฀lrom฀thc฀disappcarancc฀ol฀Vayson฀Choy's฀lathcr,฀an฀undcrlying฀
dimculty฀in฀writing฀thc฀history฀ol฀thc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀ovcrscas฀has฀to฀

4
฀ Yong฀Chcn,฀Chinese฀San฀Francisco,฀z8¸c-z,,¸:฀Æ฀Trans-Paci(c฀Community฀(Stanlord:฀Stanlord฀
Univcrsity฀Prcss,฀accc),฀µc¸,฀aa¸î.฀Thc฀collcction฀ol฀playbills฀was฀nrst฀gathcrcd฀by฀Him฀Mark฀
Lai฀and฀is฀now฀availablc฀at฀thc฀¡thnic฀Studics฀Library฀at฀thc฀Univcrsity฀ol฀Calilornia,฀8crkclcy.฀
Chcn's฀usc฀ol฀thc฀collcction฀appcars฀to฀bc฀cursory,฀as฀indicatcd฀by฀his฀prcliminary฀rcmarks.฀
Vci฀Chi฀Poon,฀hcad฀librarian,฀has฀kindly฀givcn฀mc฀acccss฀to฀thc฀collcction฀during฀thrcc฀short฀
rcscarch฀trips,฀all฀ovcr฀holiday฀brcaks,฀and฀pcrmission฀to฀arrangc฀thc฀matcrials฀in฀somc฀ordcr.฀

5
฀ Nancy฀Yunhwa฀Rao,฀¯Racial฀¡sscnccs฀and฀Historical฀!nvisibility:฀Chincsc฀Òpcra฀in฀Ncw฀
York,฀.µ¸c,"฀Cambridge฀Opera฀Journal฀.a,฀a฀(accc):฀.¸¸6a,฀and฀¯Songs฀ol฀thc฀¡xclusion฀¡ra:฀
Ncw฀York฀Chinatown's฀Òpcra฀Thcatcrs฀in฀thc฀.µacs,"฀Æmerican฀Music฀ac,฀¡฀(acca):฀¸µµ¡¡¡.฀

6
฀ Òn฀ Mci฀ Lanlang's฀ US฀ tour฀ and฀ his฀ collaboration฀ with฀ scholardramatist฀ Qi฀ Rushan฀ to฀
articulatc฀ a฀ largcr฀ cultural฀ claim,฀ scc฀ Joshua฀ Goldstcin,฀ ¯Mci฀ Lanlang฀ and฀ thc฀ National
ization฀ ol฀ Pcking฀ Òpcra,฀ .µ.a.µ¸c,"฀ Positions฀ ,,฀ a฀ (.µµµ):฀ ¸,,¡ac.฀ Such฀ cultural฀ hicrarchy฀
rcmains฀cvidcnt฀in฀Chincsc฀scholarship,฀as฀is฀indicatcd฀in฀thc฀lollowing฀rcccnt฀work฀by฀Xu฀
Yaxiang,฀¯Jindai฀Zhongguo฀xiban฀zai฀guowai฀dc฀chuanbo"฀|Thc฀Activitics฀ol฀Chincsc฀Òpcra฀
Troupcs฀Òvcrscas฀in฀Modcrn฀Timcs|฀in฀:cc:฀liangan฀xiqu฀da.han฀xueshu฀yantaohui฀lun.enji฀
|Procccdings฀ol฀thc฀acca฀CrossStraits฀Symposium฀on฀Chincsc฀thcatrc|฀(Taiwan:฀Ccntcr฀ol฀
Traditional฀Art,฀acc¸),฀.¸.î6.
I\฀'1IIII'
:8
:,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
do฀with฀its฀transnational฀mobility.฀!ndividual฀actors฀and฀cntirc฀opcra฀
troupcs฀ camc฀ and฀ lclt,฀ as฀ travclling฀ cntcrtaincrs฀ pcrlorming฀ among฀
immigrants,฀ thcy฀ wcrc฀ transicnts฀ among฀ transicnts.฀ Tracking฀ thcir฀
itincrarics฀dcmands฀a฀multisitcd฀rcscarch฀cßort฀to฀collcct฀and฀collatc฀
thc฀cxisting฀cvidcncc.฀Kathcrinc฀Prcston฀rccalls฀cncountcring฀thc฀samc฀
problcm฀in฀hcr฀rcscarch฀on฀¡uropcan฀travclling฀troupcs฀opcrating฀in฀
thc฀antcbcllum฀Unitcd฀Statcs:฀¯Namcs฀pop฀up฀in฀sccondary฀sourccs฀
฀lor฀cxamplc฀in฀studics฀ol฀thc฀history฀ol฀music฀or฀thc฀thcatcr฀in฀spccinc฀
Amcrican฀ citics,฀ and฀ in฀ such฀ primary฀ sourccs฀ as฀ playbills฀ or฀ music฀
and฀ thcatcr฀ pcriodicals.฀ Ònly฀ by฀ accumulating฀ such฀ isolatcd฀ bits฀ ol฀
inlormation฀฀and฀by฀ßcshing฀out฀thc฀rcsulting฀itincrary฀with฀additional฀
data฀฀can฀wc฀bcgin฀to฀undcrstand฀just฀how฀activc฀thcsc฀singcrs฀wcrc,฀
how฀thcir฀carccrs฀constantly฀convcrgcd฀and฀divcrgcd,฀how฀lrcqucntly฀
thcy฀ pcrlormcd,฀ how฀ widcly฀ thcy฀ travclcd,฀ and฀ how฀ important฀ thcir฀
activitics฀wcrc฀in฀Amcrican฀lilc."
7
฀Vith฀rcgard฀to฀studying฀Chinatown฀
thcatrc,฀thc฀task฀is฀rcndcrcd฀all฀thc฀morc฀dimcult฀bccausc฀ol฀thc฀rclativc฀
paucity฀ol฀both฀primary฀and฀sccondary฀sourccs.฀Connccting฀thc฀dots฀in฀
ordcr฀to฀map฀out฀thc฀pcrlorming฀circuits฀is฀casicr฀said฀than฀donc.
8
฀ 8y฀dclving฀into฀sourccs฀in฀\ancouvcr,฀8ritish฀Columbia฀฀sourccs฀that฀
havc฀only฀rcccntly฀bccomc฀availablc฀฀this฀articlc฀sccks฀to฀tacklc฀qucstions฀
conccrning฀thc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra's฀transnational฀mobility.฀Among฀thcsc฀
sourccs฀is฀an฀cxtcnsivc฀run฀ol฀thcatrc฀advcrtiscmcnts฀and฀rclatcd฀ncws฀
itcms฀that฀appcarcd฀in฀thc฀Chinatown฀ncwspapcr฀thc฀Chinese฀Times.
9

Thc฀ inlormation฀ contains฀ thc฀ most฀ complctc฀ rccord฀ availablc฀ ol฀ thc฀

7
฀ Kathcrinc฀Prcston,฀Opera฀on฀the฀Foad:฀Tra.eling฀Opera฀Troupes฀in฀the฀United฀States,฀z8:¸-oc฀
(Urbana:฀Univcrsity฀ol฀!llinois฀Prcss,฀.µµ¸),฀¡a.฀

8
฀ !n฀ prcparing฀ lor฀ an฀ cxhibition฀ ol฀ Cantoncsc฀ opcra฀ costumcs฀ and฀ thcatrical฀ paraphcrnalia฀
owncd฀by฀a฀musical฀socicty฀in฀Ncw฀York's฀Chinatown,฀!sabcllc฀Ðuchcsnc฀has฀comc฀across฀
cvidcncc฀ol฀¯costumc฀migration."฀Somc฀ol฀thc฀itcms฀acquircd฀by฀thc฀socicty฀bclorc฀thc฀Pacinc฀
Var฀bcar฀thc฀stamps฀ol฀thcir฀original฀makcrs฀in฀Guangzhou.฀!ntriguingly,฀scvcn฀claboratc฀
costumcs฀ in฀ this฀ collcction฀ arc฀ also฀ stampcd฀ with฀ thc฀ namc฀ ol฀ an฀ opcra฀ troupc฀ that฀ oncc฀
pcrlormcd฀in฀\ancouvcr฀in฀.µa.aa.฀!t฀is฀quitc฀possiblc฀that฀this฀troupc฀initially฀importcd฀thcsc฀
costumcs฀into฀Canada฀as฀Ðuchcsnc฀suggcsts.฀Howcvcr,฀without฀any฀additional฀documcntation,฀
thc฀routcs฀and฀mcans฀by฀which฀thcsc฀itcms฀journcycd฀cast฀rcmain฀a฀mattcr฀ol฀spcculation.฀Scc฀
!sabcllc฀Ðuchcsnc,฀¯A฀Collcction's฀Richcs:฀!nto฀thc฀Fabric฀ol฀a฀Community,"฀in฀Fed฀Boat฀on฀
the฀Canal:฀Cantonese฀Opera฀in฀Ne.฀York฀Chinato.n,฀cd.฀!.฀Ðuchcsnc฀(Ncw฀York:฀Muscum฀ol฀
Chincsc฀in฀thc฀Amcricas,฀accc),฀¸.,฀¸,6c.฀

9
฀ Thcatrc฀advcrtiscmcnts฀and฀rclcvant฀ncws฀itcms฀in฀thc฀Chinese฀Times฀havc฀bccn฀cxtractcd฀and฀
copicd฀lrom฀micronlms฀by฀Prolcssor฀Huang฀Jinpci฀as฀part฀ol฀a฀rcscarch฀cßort฀to฀support฀a฀
major฀cxhibit฀cntitlcd฀¯A฀Rarc฀Flowcr:฀A฀Ccntury฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀Òpcra฀in฀Canada."฀Òrganizcd฀
by฀thc฀Muscum฀ol฀Anthropology฀at฀thc฀Univcrsity฀ol฀8ritish฀Columbia,฀thc฀cxhibit฀(.µµ¸µ6)฀
lcaturcs฀thc฀largcst฀collcction฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀costumcs฀in฀North฀Amcrica.฀¡lizabcth฀
Johnson฀kindly฀allowcd฀mc฀to฀duplicatc฀a฀sct฀ol฀thc฀Chinese฀Times฀matcrials฀during฀a฀rcscarch฀
trip฀in฀accc.฀For฀highlights฀ol฀thc฀cxhibit,฀scc฀¡lizabcth฀Johnson,฀¯Cantoncsc฀Òpcra฀in฀its฀
Canadian฀ Contcxt:฀ Thc฀ Contcmporary฀ \itality฀ ol฀ an฀ Òld฀ Tradition,"฀ Theatre฀ Fesearch฀ in฀
Canada฀.,,฀.฀(.µµ6):฀a¡¡¸,฀and฀¯Òpcra฀Costumcs฀in฀Canada,"฀Ærts฀of฀Æsia฀a,฀(.µµ,):฀..aa¸.
I\฀'1IIII'
:8
:,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
activitics฀ ol฀ Cantoncsc฀ opcra฀ troupcs฀ in฀ \ancouvcr฀ during฀ thc฀ nrst฀
hall฀ol฀thc฀twcnticth฀ccntury.฀Thc฀data฀lurthcr฀allow฀us฀to฀documcnt฀
thc฀ circuits฀ ol฀ touring฀ actors฀ and฀ troupcs฀ by฀ comparing฀ notcs฀ with฀
matcrial฀ that฀ surlaccd฀ carlicr฀ (albcit฀ in฀ much฀ lcsscr฀ amounts)฀ in฀ thc฀
two฀major฀Chincsc฀scttlcmcnts฀in฀San฀Francisco฀and฀Ncw฀York.฀¡vcn฀
morc฀valuablc฀arc฀thc฀busincss฀rccords,฀which฀oßcr฀an฀undcrstanding฀ol฀
thc฀intcrnal฀workings฀ol฀such฀transnational฀opcrations.฀Thcsc฀rccords฀
pcrtain฀to฀two฀thcatrc฀companics฀cstablishcd฀by฀Chinatown฀mcrchants฀
in฀ \ancouvcr฀ in฀ .µ.6.î฀ and฀ .µa¸a¡,฀ rcspcctivcly,฀ lor฀ thc฀ purposc฀ ol฀
bringing฀ in฀ opcra฀ troupcs฀ lrom฀ South฀ China.฀ Thc฀ nrst฀ sct฀ contains฀
dctails฀ ol฀ incorporation,฀ minutcs฀ ol฀ board฀ mcctings,฀ inlormation฀ on฀
tickct฀ salcs฀ and฀ payrolls,฀ scvcral฀ actor's฀ contracts,฀ and฀ misccllancous฀
itcms฀such฀as฀rcccipts.
10
฀Thc฀sccond฀consists฀almost฀cntircly฀ol฀intcrnal฀
corrcspondcncc฀that฀shows฀thc฀logistical,฀nnancial,฀and฀lcgal฀dimcultics฀
ol฀running฀a฀thcatrc฀busincss฀and฀how฀thc฀company฀sought฀to฀addrcss฀
thcm.
11
฀Similar฀archival฀matcrials฀rcgarding฀thc฀history฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀
opcra฀havc฀thus฀lar฀not฀bccn฀lound฀on฀cithcr฀sidc฀ol฀thc฀Pacinc.
฀ Thc฀abovc฀sourccs฀prcdisposc฀mc฀to฀analyzc฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀as฀a฀
busincss฀organization.฀Admittcdly,฀it฀is฀hard฀not฀to฀inscrt฀a฀commcnt฀or฀
two฀on฀thc฀thcatrc฀as฀a฀cultural฀institution,฀but฀!฀will฀wait฀lor฀anothcr฀
occasion฀ to฀ dclincatc฀ its฀ intcgration฀ into฀ thc฀ sociopolitical฀ lilc฀ ol฀
Chinatown฀฀a฀subjcct฀that฀dcscrvcs฀lull฀trcatmcnt฀on฀its฀own.
12
฀Thc฀
primary฀purposc฀ol฀this฀articlc฀is฀to฀disccrn฀thc฀transnational฀naturc฀ol฀
Chinatown฀thcatrc฀by฀locusing฀on฀various฀laccts฀ol฀its฀opcration.฀Thc฀
nndings฀ conccrning฀ thc฀ pcrlorming฀ itincrarics฀ ol฀ Cantoncsc฀ opcra,฀
and฀thc฀undcrlying฀busincss฀and฀social฀nctworks฀that฀supportcd฀such฀

10
฀ ¯Ving฀ Hong฀ Lin฀ Thcatrc฀ Rccords,"฀ Sam฀ Kcc฀ Papcrs,฀ Add฀ :ss฀ ¸,.,฀ ¸66G¡,฀ City฀ ol฀
\ancouvcr฀Archivcs฀(hcrcaltcr฀citcd฀as฀wni:v).

11
฀ Thc฀rccords฀arc฀dcpositcd฀in฀two฀scparatc฀collcctions:฀¯Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀Filc฀rcgarding฀
a฀Chincsc฀Acting฀Troupc,"฀in฀Yip฀Sang฀Family฀Scrics,฀lol.฀cc.î,฀nlc฀¸,฀Chung฀Collcction,฀
Rarc฀8ooks฀and฀Spccial฀Collcctions,฀Univcrsity฀ol฀8ritish฀Columbia฀Library฀(hcrcaltcr฀citcd฀
as฀xnunc),฀and฀¯Thcatrc฀Managcmcnt฀฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.฀Ltd.,"฀in฀Yip฀Family฀and฀Yip฀Sang฀
Ltd.฀londs,฀Add฀Mss฀..cî,฀6.aF,,฀City฀ol฀\ancouvcr฀Archivcs฀(hcrcaltcr฀citcd฀as฀xncv~).

12
฀ Thc฀lollowing฀studics฀ol฀¡uropcan฀opcras฀lrom฀a฀busincss฀history฀pcrspcctivc฀arc฀inspiring฀
modcls:฀ Lorcnzo฀ 8ianconi฀ and฀ Giorgio฀ Pcstclli,฀ cds.,฀ Opera฀ Production฀ and฀ Its฀ Fesources฀
(Chicago:฀ Univcrsity฀ ol฀ Chicago฀ Prcss,฀ .µµî),฀ John฀ Rossclli,฀ The฀ Opera฀ Industry฀ in฀ Italy฀
from฀Cimarosa฀to฀!erdi:฀The฀Fole฀of฀the฀Impresario฀(Cambridgc:฀Cambridgc฀Univcrsity฀Prcss,฀
.µî¡),฀Ansclm฀Gcrhard,฀The฀Urbani.ation฀of฀Opera:฀Music฀Theater฀in฀Paris฀in฀the฀z,th฀Century฀
(Chicago:฀Univcrsity฀Òl฀Chicago฀Prcss,฀.µµa),฀and฀F.V.J.฀Hcmmings,฀The฀Theater฀Industry฀in฀
Nineteenth-Century฀France฀(Cambridgc:฀Cambridgc฀Univcrsity฀Prcss,฀.µµ¸).฀Thc฀collcction฀ol฀
cssays฀in฀John฀Cox฀and฀Ðavid฀Scott฀Kastan,฀cds.,฀Æ฀Ne.฀History฀of฀Early฀English฀Drama฀(Ncw฀
York:฀Columbia฀Univcrsity฀Prcss,฀.µµ,),฀is฀a฀nnc฀cxamplc฀ol฀thc฀social฀history฀approach.฀A฀
rcccnt฀attcmpt฀to฀apply฀thc฀lattcr฀pcrspcctivc฀to฀thc฀China฀ncld฀is฀Joshua฀Goldstcin's฀¯From฀
Tcahousc฀to฀Playhousc:฀Thcatcrs฀as฀Social฀Tcxts฀in฀¡arlyTwcnticthCcntury฀China,"฀Journal฀
of฀Æsian฀Studies฀6a,฀¸฀(acc¸):฀,¸¸,µ.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸c
¸z
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
mobility,฀scrvc฀as฀a฀tcstimony฀to฀thc฀historical฀agcncy฀ol฀thc฀migrant฀
Chincsc.฀¡lusivc฀as฀it฀may฀sccm,฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀was฀indccd฀a฀most฀
dcmonstrably฀transnational฀undcrtaking฀in฀thc฀diaspora฀cxpcricncc฀ol฀
thcsc฀migrants.฀
1IIA1II฀IíI'I.฀I^IíI1II฀A\1íI'.฀A!I฀1II฀
\I!\฀Ií!\฀II!฀1IIA1II฀\í^IA!Y฀
I!฀IAIIY฀\II!A1í\!.฀!ß'ß·!'!'
Thc฀ nrst฀ writtcn฀ account฀ ol฀ Chincsc฀ thcatrc฀ in฀ \ancouvcr฀ is฀ similar฀
to฀many฀ol฀thosc฀lurnishcd฀by฀Vcstcrn฀tourists฀and฀rcportcrs฀who฀had฀
visitcd฀Chincsc฀opcra฀houscs฀in฀San฀Francisco฀sincc฀thc฀nrst฀pcrlorming฀
troupc฀arrivcd฀lrom฀South฀China฀in฀.î¸a.฀Local฀historian฀J.S.฀Matthcws฀
rcmcmbcrcd฀lollowing฀a฀Chincsc฀guidc฀to฀an฀old฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀
housc฀in฀Shanghai฀Allcy฀on฀a฀dark฀and฀rainy฀cvcning฀in฀thc฀wintcr฀ol฀
.îµî.฀According฀to฀a฀short฀rcminisccncc฀writtcn฀almost฀hall฀a฀ccntury฀
latcr,฀ Matthcws฀ did฀ not฀ undcrstand฀ thc฀ music฀ or฀ thc฀ play฀ but฀ was฀
intrigucd฀by฀thc฀oßstagc฀spcctaclc฀ol฀¯drably฀drcsscd฀Chinamcn฀.฀
looscly฀groupcd,฀|sitting|฀on฀cvcry฀bcnch฀.฀Thcrc฀wcrc฀no฀ushcrs,฀thc฀
audicncc฀ mcrcly฀ staycd฀ and฀ dcpartcd฀ at฀ thcir฀ own฀ will."฀ Asidc฀ lrom฀
thc฀apparcnt฀casualncss฀ol฀thc฀audicncc,฀Matthcws฀was฀struck฀by฀thc฀
physical฀conditions฀ol฀thc฀lacility:฀¯onc฀might฀comparc฀it฀with฀going฀with฀
a฀lantcrn฀to฀thc฀woodshcd฀or฀thc฀barn฀.฀!nsidc฀wc฀climbcd฀an฀cqually฀
illlightcd฀ stairway฀ ol฀ wood,฀ carpctlcss฀ |sic|,฀ unpaintcd,฀ and฀ in฀ thc฀
gloom,฀sccmingly฀bcgrimcd฀with฀tobacco฀smokc.฀Vc฀lound฀oursclvcs฀in฀a฀
balcony฀ovcrlooking฀thc฀'pit'฀bclow,฀and฀thc฀stagc฀bcyond฀.฀it฀was฀about฀
as฀gloomy,฀illlightcd,฀and฀drcary฀a฀dcn฀as฀could฀bc฀imagincd."
13

฀ Unimprcssivc฀as฀it฀might฀bc,฀thc฀vcnuc฀dcscribcd฀by฀Matthcws฀was฀
probably฀thc฀nrst฀thcatrc฀housc฀cstablishcd฀by฀thc฀immigrant฀Chincsc฀
in฀what฀thcy฀callcd฀thc฀¯Saltwatcr฀City."฀\ancouvcr฀was฀incorporatcd฀
only฀ in฀ .îî6,฀ and฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀ population฀ at฀ thc฀ turn฀ ol฀ thc฀ ccntury฀
was฀about฀two฀thousand,฀barcly฀cnough฀to฀kccp฀this฀thcatrc฀housc฀in฀
intcrmittcnt฀opcration.
14
฀Thc฀visiting฀opcra฀troupcs฀could฀havc฀startcd฀

13
฀ J.S.฀Matthcws,฀¯Chincsc฀Thcatrc,"฀¡฀Ðcccmbcr฀.µ¡,,฀City฀ol฀\ancouvcr฀Archivcs,฀AM฀¸¡,฀vol.฀
.¸,฀¸c6c¸,฀nlc฀6.฀Matthcws฀did฀not฀mcntion฀thc฀namc฀and฀thc฀cxact฀location฀ol฀thc฀thcatrc฀
in฀thc฀piccc,฀but฀hc฀did฀say฀that฀thc฀lacility฀had฀bccn฀burncd฀down฀thc฀prcvious฀wcck,฀which฀
was฀what฀promptcd฀him฀to฀jot฀down฀his฀mcmory.฀According฀to฀ncws฀clippings฀locatcd฀in฀thc฀
City฀ol฀\ancouvcr฀Archivcs,฀:.¸6.c,฀this฀was฀thc฀old฀Sing฀Kcw฀Thcatrc฀in฀Shanghai฀Allcy.฀

14
฀ Thc฀only฀othcr฀piccc฀ol฀inlormation฀on฀this฀thcatrc฀housc฀may฀bc฀sccn฀in฀a฀picturc฀ol฀Shanghai฀
Allcy฀ takcn฀ altcr฀ thc฀ riot฀ ol฀ .µc,.฀ !t฀ shows฀ a฀ sign,฀ in฀ Chincsc,฀ pointing฀ to฀ thc฀ ¯Thcatrc฀
Upstairs."฀ !n฀ Paul฀ Ycc,฀ Salt.ater฀ City:฀ Æn฀ Illustrated฀ History฀ of฀ the฀ Chinese฀ in฀ !ancou.er฀
(\ancouvcr:฀Ðouglas฀&฀Mc!ntyrc,฀.µîî),฀¸..฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸c
¸z
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
thcir฀tours฀lrom฀San฀Francisco฀or฀lrom฀ncarby฀\ictoria,฀thc฀provincial฀
capital,฀whcrc฀thcrc฀had฀bccn฀a฀Chincsc฀scttlcmcnt฀sincc฀.î¸î.฀!ndccd,฀
a฀ rcccnt฀ study฀ by฀ Karric฀ Scbryk฀ has฀ idcntincd฀ nvc฀ Chincsc฀ thcatrc฀
houscs฀in฀and฀around฀\ictoria's฀Chinatown฀at฀various฀timcs฀bctwccn฀
thc฀.î6cs฀and฀about฀.îî¸.฀Howcvcr,฀altcr฀thc฀turn฀ol฀thc฀ccntury,฀thcsc฀
activitics฀ wcrc฀ gradually฀ to฀ shilt฀ to฀ \ancouvcr,฀ which฀ ovcrtook฀ thc฀
provincial฀ capital฀ as฀ thc฀ host฀ ol฀ thc฀ largcst฀ Chinatown฀ in฀ Canada.
15

As฀a฀rcsult฀ol฀continuous฀immigration,฀thc฀Chincsc฀population฀in฀thc฀
Saltwatcr฀City฀grcw฀to฀about฀¸,¸cc฀in฀.µ..฀and฀thcn฀to฀6,¸cc฀tcn฀ycars฀
latcr.฀Thc฀prospccts฀lor฀thc฀thcatrc฀busincss฀improvcd฀accordingly.฀8y฀
.µ.¸฀thcrc฀wcrc฀rcportcdly฀two฀thcatrc฀houscs฀opcrating฀in฀\ancouvcr's฀
Chinatown,฀ namcly,฀ Ko฀ Sing฀ on฀ ¡ast฀ Pcndcr฀ Strcct฀ and฀ Sing฀ Ping฀
around฀ thc฀corncr฀ on฀Columbia฀ Strcct.฀ Thcsc฀ thcatrcs฀wcrc฀catcring฀
to฀an฀cxpanding฀audicncc.
16

฀ Thc฀ carly฀ promotcrs฀ ol฀ Cantoncsc฀ opcra฀ in฀ \ancouvcr฀ wcrc฀
Chinatown฀ mcrchants฀ ol฀ considcrablc฀ rcputc฀ and฀ wcalth.฀ Loo฀ Gcc฀
Ving,฀lor฀instancc,฀had฀thcatrc฀houscs฀in฀\ancouvcr฀and฀\ictoria฀undcr฀
his฀managcmcnt,฀including฀thc฀abovcmcntioncd฀Ko฀Sing,฀which฀hc฀
owncd.฀Two฀cxtant฀actor's฀contracts,฀datcd฀Ðcccmbcr฀.µ.¡,฀idcntily฀him฀
as฀an฀imprcsario฀who฀had฀an฀agcnt฀in฀Hong฀Kong฀who฀rccruitcd฀playcrs฀
on฀his฀bchall.
17
฀Anothcr฀notablc฀backcr฀was฀also฀among฀thc฀wcalthicst฀
Chincsc฀mcrchants฀in฀wcstcrn฀Canada฀฀Chang฀Toy,฀bcttcr฀known฀to฀
his฀Chincsc฀and฀nonChincsc฀busincss฀associatcs฀by฀thc฀namc฀ol฀his฀
nrm,฀Sam฀Kcc.฀!n฀latc฀.µ.6฀Chang฀Toy฀and฀twcnty฀othcr฀sharcholdcrs฀sct฀
up฀thc฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Company.฀Vith฀an฀initial฀invcstmcnt฀
ol฀s¸,ccc,฀thcy฀asscmblcd฀a฀troupc฀ol฀twcntyninc฀mcmbcrs฀to฀pcrlorm฀
at฀ thc฀ Sing฀ Ping฀ Thcatrc,฀ which฀ bclongcd฀ to฀ Chang฀ Toy.฀ This฀ nrst฀
group,฀which฀includcd฀a฀lcw฀lrcsh฀rccruits฀lrom฀South฀China,฀nnishcd฀
its฀scason฀in฀May฀.µ.,.฀Altcr฀a฀summcr฀lull,฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀brought฀in฀
a฀dißcrcnt฀troupc,฀which฀pcrlormcd฀lrom฀Òctobcr฀.µ.,฀to฀May฀.µ.î.
18
฀ Thcrc฀arc฀traccs฀ol฀a฀lcw฀othcr฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀troupcs฀in฀town฀at฀
various฀timcs฀bctwccn฀.µ.¡฀and฀.µ.î.฀!n฀thc฀summcr฀ol฀.µ.¸,฀mcmbcrs฀
lrom฀ two฀ unnamcd฀ troupcs฀ joincd฀ lorccs฀ lor฀ a฀ pcrlormancc฀ whosc฀

15
฀ Karric฀M.฀Scbryk,฀¯A฀History฀ol฀Chincsc฀Thcatrc฀in฀\ictoria"฀(MA฀thcsis,฀Univcrsity฀ol฀
\ictoria,฀.µµ¸),฀...¡c.

16
฀ Chinese฀ Times,฀ ac฀ January฀ and฀ .6฀ Fcbruary฀ .µ.¸.฀ According฀ to฀ othcr฀ sourccs,฀ Ko฀ Sing฀ was฀
locatcd฀at฀.a¡฀¡ast฀Pcndcr฀Strcct,฀and฀Sing฀Ping฀was฀locatcd฀at฀¸¸6฀Columbia฀Avcnuc฀(also฀
idcntincd฀as฀¯at฀rcar฀ol฀.c6..¡฀¡ast฀Pcndcr฀Strcct,"฀pcrhaps฀bccausc฀ol฀its฀corncr฀location).฀
Scc฀thc฀lollowing฀paragraph.฀

17
฀ wni:v,฀nlcs฀.c...฀For฀a฀short฀rcport฀on฀Loo฀in฀thc฀Vcstcrn฀prcss,฀scc฀Ycc,฀Salt.ater฀City,฀
¸¸¡.฀Thanks฀to฀¡dgar฀Vickbcrg฀lor฀thc฀rclcrcncc.฀

18
฀ wni:v.฀Spccinc฀rclcrcnccs฀arc฀providcd฀bclow.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸:
¸¸
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
purposc฀ was฀ to฀ bcncnt฀ thc฀ victims฀ ol฀ ßooding฀ in฀ Guangdong.฀ Thc฀
local฀Chincsc฀8cncvolcnt฀Association฀sponsorcd฀thc฀cvcnt,฀and฀thcsc฀
kinds฀ ol฀ lundraiscrs,฀ which฀ wcrc฀ put฀ on฀ by฀ opcra฀ troupcs฀ to฀ support฀
local฀charitics฀or฀providc฀Chinabound฀rclicl,฀wcrc฀to฀bccomc฀lamiliar฀
Chinatown฀spcctaclcs,฀cspccially฀in฀thc฀.µ¸cs.
19
฀Chinatown฀thcatrcgocrs฀
may฀not฀havc฀bccn฀as฀discriminatory฀as฀thc฀morc฀sophisticatcd฀audicnccs฀
back฀in฀Hong฀Kong฀and฀Guangzhou,฀howcvcr,฀in฀carly฀ .µ.6฀scparatc฀
disturbanccs฀brokc฀out฀in฀Ko฀Sing฀and฀Sing฀Ping฀altcr฀vicwcrs฀cxprcsscd฀
thcir฀ disapproval฀ by฀ hurling฀ insults฀ and฀ hard฀ objccts฀ at฀ thc฀ actors.฀
Latcr฀that฀summcr฀a฀Chinatown฀ncwspapcr฀rcportcd฀a฀morc฀notorious฀
incidcnt,฀ which฀ involvcd฀ a฀ comic฀ actor's฀ bcing฀ scriously฀ woundcd฀ in฀
his฀dormitory฀duc฀to฀his฀assailant's฀¯scxual฀jcalousy."
20
฀Snapshots฀likc฀
thcsc฀ arc฀ indicativc฀ ol฀ how฀ Cantoncsc฀ opcra฀ ฀ both฀ its฀ production฀
and฀ its฀ consumption฀ ฀ slowly฀ wovc฀ its฀ way฀ into฀ thc฀ social฀ lilc฀ ol฀ an฀
immigrant฀ population฀ that฀ consistcd฀ prcdominantly฀ ol฀ adult฀ malcs.฀
Thc฀thcatrc฀lurnishcd฀a฀placc฀lor฀public฀socializing,฀lor฀having฀a฀good฀
timc฀and฀cscaping฀thc฀drudgcry฀ol฀migrant฀lilc.฀¡qually฀rcvcaling฀arc฀
thc฀ audicncc's฀ cmotional฀ rcactions฀ to฀ thc฀ plays,฀ whcthcr฀ thcsc฀ wcrc฀
lighthcartcd฀comcdics฀or฀scrious฀moral฀picccs฀drawn฀lrom฀historical฀
lcgcnds฀and฀popular฀talcs฀(usually฀locusing฀on฀sacrincc,฀dcdication,฀and฀
loyalty).฀Howcvcr,฀lar฀morc฀inlormativc฀arc฀thc฀busincss฀rccords฀ol฀thc฀
Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Company,฀which฀providc฀rarc฀glimpscs฀into฀
thc฀world฀ol฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀during฀thc฀initial฀phasc฀ol฀its฀cxpansion.฀
Thcy฀ prcscnt,฀ to฀ my฀ knowlcdgc,฀ thc฀ carlicst฀ documcntation฀ on฀ thc฀
organization฀ol฀thc฀thcatrc฀busincss,฀thc฀rolc฀ol฀mcrchant฀capital,฀thc฀
background฀and฀sojourning฀cxpcricncc฀ol฀thc฀actors,฀and฀thc฀conditions฀
undcr฀ which฀ thcsc฀ travclling฀ cntcrtaincrs฀ ncgotiatcd฀ thcir฀ cntry฀ into฀
Canada.
฀ First฀ ol฀ all,฀ thc฀ involvcmcnt฀ ol฀ Chinatown฀ mcrchant฀ capital฀ is฀
notcworthy,฀particularly฀thc฀participation฀ol฀somconc฀ol฀thc฀staturc฀ol฀
Chang฀Toy.฀As฀mcntioncd,฀Chang฀Toy฀was฀no฀common฀storckccpcr.฀
Paul฀ Ycc฀ has฀ documcntcd฀ his฀ cxtcnsivc฀ activitics฀ in฀ ¯imports฀ and฀
cxports,฀rctail฀salcs,฀charcoal฀and฀lucl฀salcs,฀labour฀contracting฀in฀thc฀
timbcr,฀ nshing,฀ and฀ sugar฀ industrics,฀ stcamship฀ tickct฀ salcs฀ and฀ rcal฀
cstatc฀dcvclopmcnt,"฀which฀rcndcrcd฀him฀thc฀crême฀de฀la฀crême฀among฀

19
฀ Chinese฀Times,฀a¡฀July฀.µ.¸.

20
฀ Chinese฀Times,฀a¸฀Fcbruary,฀.6฀April,฀and฀.¡.¸฀Junc฀.µ.6.฀Thc฀troupcs฀involvcd฀wcrc฀Kuo฀Tai฀
Ping,฀Hing฀Fung฀Lin,฀and฀Po฀Yu฀Ycc.฀Prcciscly฀what฀causcd฀thc฀uproar฀and฀rcaction฀cannot฀bc฀
asccrtaincd฀lrom฀thc฀rcports,฀but฀nowhcrc฀did฀thc฀situation฀in฀\ancouvcr฀match฀thc฀violcncc฀
in฀San฀Francisco฀and฀Ncw฀York,฀whcrc฀thc฀powcrlul฀tong฀organizations฀occasionally฀gunncd฀
down฀opponcnts฀in฀thcatrc฀houscs.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸:
¸¸
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
thc฀Chincsc฀mcrchant฀clitc.
21
฀As฀lar฀as฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀is฀conccrncd,฀
Chang฀ Toy's฀ rolc฀ was฀ pivotal.฀ As฀ thc฀ largcst฀ sharcholdcr,฀ hc฀ hostcd฀
thc฀monthly฀board฀mcctings฀at฀his฀busincss฀prcmiscs฀...฀¡ast฀Pcndcr฀
Strcct.฀Rcßccting฀thc฀wcight฀ol฀his฀opinions,฀thc฀omcial฀minutcs฀notc฀
his฀vicws฀and฀cndorscmcnt฀ol฀major฀dccisions,฀including฀thc฀rctcntion฀
ol฀ individual฀ actors฀ and฀ thc฀ call฀ to฀ raisc฀ anothcr฀ s¸,ccc฀ lor฀ a฀ sccond฀
scason.฀ Thc฀ samc฀ documcnt฀ lurthcr฀ indicatcs฀ that฀ Ving฀ Hong฀ Lin฀
paid฀him฀sacc฀lor฀thc฀monthly฀rcntal฀ol฀Sing฀Ping฀(his฀thcatrc฀housc).
22

Last฀but฀not฀lcast,฀undcrtaking฀thc฀important฀task฀ol฀rccruiting฀actors฀
lrom฀South฀China฀was฀Chang฀Toy's฀chicl฀busincss฀associatc฀in฀Hong฀
Kong,฀thc฀Sun฀Tong฀Chong฀Company.฀Sun฀Tong฀Chong฀bclongcd฀to฀
thc฀group฀ol฀¯Gold฀Mountain฀Firms,"฀which฀spccializcd฀in฀imports฀and฀
cxports฀to฀Chinatowns฀across฀North฀Amcrica,฀thcsc฀nrms฀also฀tappcd฀
thc฀multilatcral฀busincss฀conncctions฀to฀lurnish฀a฀host฀ol฀migration
rclatcd฀scrviccs,฀such฀as฀thc฀handling฀ol฀travcl฀documcnts,฀passcngcr฀
shipping,฀rcmittanccs,฀and฀thc฀likc.฀Vith฀instructions฀in฀hand,฀local฀
agcnts฀startcd฀scouting฀lor฀actors฀with฀thc฀dcsirablc฀skills฀and฀crcdcntials฀
in฀thc฀Hong฀KongGuangzhou฀arca.฀Òncc฀thc฀homc฀company฀approvcd฀
thc฀sclcction,฀thc฀agcnts฀thcn฀procccdcd฀to฀ncgotiatc฀thc฀contract,฀issuc฀
an฀ advancc,฀ apply฀ lor฀ travcl฀ documcnts,฀ and฀ arrangc฀ transportation฀
lor฀ thc฀ dcparting฀ actor.฀ Vhilc฀ locally฀ organizcd,฀ Chinatown฀ thcatrc฀
was฀ a฀ transPacinc฀ opcration฀ that฀ hingcd฀ on฀ and฀ strcngthcncd฀ thc฀
transnational฀nctworks฀ol฀thc฀migrant฀Chincsc.
23
฀ 8clorc฀ thc฀ bookcd฀ actors฀ wcrc฀ to฀ land,฀ Ving฀ Hong฀ Lin฀ and฀ othcr฀
Chincsc฀ thcatrc฀ companics฀ laccd฀ an฀ additional฀ hurdlc.฀ Apparcntly,฀
thc฀Canadian฀immigration฀authoritics฀lollowcd฀thc฀cxamplc฀ol฀thc฀US฀
authoritics฀ in฀ rclusing฀ to฀ considcr฀ ¯actors฀ and฀ thcatrical฀ pcrlormcrs"฀
labourcrs฀฀thc฀initial฀targct฀ol฀cxclusion.
24
฀Undcr฀Canada's฀antiChincsc฀

21
฀ Paul฀Ycc,฀¯Sam฀Kcc:฀A฀Chincsc฀8usincss฀in฀¡arly฀\ancouvcr,"฀BC฀Studies฀6µ,c฀(.µî6):฀,cµ6,฀
csp.฀ ,¸.฀ Ycc฀ has฀ cxamincd฀ only฀ thc฀ prc.µ.6฀ activitics฀ ol฀ thc฀ Sam฀ Kcc฀ Company฀ (though฀
Chang฀ Toy฀ dicd฀ in฀ .µac)฀ and,฀ thus,฀ has฀ omittcd฀ cntircly฀ Sam฀ Kcc's฀ involvcmcnt฀ in฀ Ving฀
Hong฀Lin.

22
฀ wni:v,฀¯Corporation฀rccord,"฀nlc฀.,฀cspccially฀minutcs฀lrom฀thc฀inaugural฀mccting฀(undatcd)฀
as฀wcll฀as฀two฀othcr฀mcctings฀on฀µ฀Ðcccmbcr฀.µ.6฀and฀.,฀May฀.µ.,,฀rcspcctivcly.฀Scc฀also฀¯Stock฀
ccrtincatcs,"฀nlc฀a.

23
฀ Thc฀ appointmcnt฀ ol฀ Sun฀ Tong฀ Chong฀ as฀ rccruitmcnt฀ agcnt฀ was฀ omcially฀ approvcd฀ at฀ thc฀
nrst฀board฀mccting.฀Scc฀wni:v,฀¯Corporation฀rccord,"฀nlc฀..฀Also,฀¯Lcascs,฀indcnturcs,฀and฀
corrcspondcncc,"฀nlc฀¸,฀holds฀a฀rcccipt฀lor฀a฀chcquc฀in฀thc฀amount฀ol฀nxs.,.ac,฀payablc฀to฀Sun฀
Tong฀Chong฀as฀commission,฀datcd฀.î฀January฀.µ.,.฀For฀a฀discussion฀ol฀thc฀¯Gold฀Mountain฀
Firms,"฀ scc฀ Madclinc฀ Y.฀ Hsu,฀ Dreaming฀ of฀ Gold,฀ Dreaming฀ of฀ Home:฀ Transnationalism฀ and฀
Migration฀bet.een฀the฀United฀States฀and฀South฀China,฀z88:-z,,¸฀(Stanlord:฀Stanlord฀Univcrsity฀
Prcss,฀accc),฀¸¡¡c.฀

24
฀ Thc฀ruling฀was฀rcndcrcd฀by฀thc฀US฀immigration฀authoritics฀in฀thc฀.îµcs฀as฀part฀ol฀thc฀cßort฀
to฀makc฀a฀nncr฀distinction฀bctwccn฀Chincsc฀labourcrs,฀thc฀primary฀targct฀ol฀cxclusion,฀and฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸,
¸¸
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
immigration฀policy,฀actors฀wcrc฀thcrclorc฀cxcmpt฀lrom฀thc฀s¸cc฀hcad฀tax,฀
instcad,฀both฀countrics฀rcquircd฀a฀local฀bona฀ndc฀busincss฀cntity฀to฀placc฀
a฀s¸cc฀bond฀on฀cach฀actor฀sccking฀cntry.฀Thcsc฀pcrmits฀wcrc฀valid฀lor฀six฀
months฀and฀could฀bc฀cxtcndcd฀lor฀up฀to฀thrcc฀ycars.฀Admittcdly฀a฀lavourcd฀
way฀ol฀doing฀things฀as฀thc฀moncy฀was฀rclundablc,฀thc฀bond฀rcquircmcnt฀
was฀no฀small฀cxpcnsc฀lor฀anyonc฀who฀sponsorcd฀a฀troupc฀ol฀ovcr฀twcnty฀
mcmbcrs.฀!n฀thc฀casc฀ol฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Company,฀it฀lcll฀to฀a฀
local฀surcty฀company฀to฀providc฀thc฀rcquircd฀bond฀lund.฀Chang฀Toy฀and฀
anothcr฀major฀partncr฀thcn฀signcd฀oß฀as฀guarantors฀in฀ordcr฀to฀indcmnily฀
thc฀surcty฀company฀against฀any฀loss฀in฀thc฀cvcnt฀that฀an฀actor฀should฀lail฀
to฀lcavc฀thc฀country฀upon฀thc฀cxpiration฀ol฀his฀or฀hcr฀pcrmit.
25

฀ Ònc฀can฀apprcciatc฀why฀managcmcnt฀was฀so฀adamant฀about฀having฀
control฀ovcr฀actors฀as฀soon฀as฀thcy฀arrivcd,฀and฀thc฀availablc฀cvidcncc฀ol฀
contracts฀should฀put฀to฀rcst฀any฀illusion฀that฀thcsc฀itincrant฀pcrlormcrs฀
wcrc฀ lrcc฀ agcnts.฀ Vong฀ Yin฀ Tscng฀ and฀ thrcc฀ lcllow฀ playcrs,฀ agc฀
twcntynvc฀to฀thirtynvc฀and฀nativcs฀ol฀Guangzhou฀and฀its฀vicinity,฀
signcd฀ thcir฀ contracts฀ with฀ Ving฀ Hong฀ Lin's฀ agcnt฀ in฀ Hong฀ Kong฀
on฀a¸฀Òctobcr฀.µ.6.฀Thcsc฀wcrc฀standard฀printcd฀documcnts฀that฀lclt฀
blank฀ spaccs฀ lor฀ individual฀ inlormation฀ such฀ as฀ pcrsonal฀ namcs฀ and฀
thc฀amount฀ol฀compcnsation.฀Thc฀lact฀that฀handwrittcn฀contracts฀had฀
bccn฀drawn฀up฀two฀ycars฀carlicr฀(with฀Loo฀Gcc฀Ving),฀with฀almost฀
thc฀cxact฀stipulations,฀suggcsts฀that,฀by฀this฀timc,฀ovcrscas฀cngagcmcnt฀
was฀bccoming฀both฀common฀and฀standardizcd.
26

฀ Thc฀contract฀can฀bc฀dividcd฀into฀thrcc฀parts,฀bcginning฀with฀thc฀tcrms฀
ol฀cmploymcnt.฀Thc฀playcr฀was฀hircd฀to฀pcrlorm฀onc฀or฀two฀principal฀
rolc฀typcs,฀but฀thc฀¯convcntions"฀obscrvcd฀by฀travclling฀troupcs฀rcquircd฀
hcr/him฀to฀bc฀¯amcnablc฀to฀any฀assignmcnt,"฀including฀rolc฀typcs฀in฀
which฀hc฀or฀shc฀was฀not฀traincd.฀Thc฀imprcsario฀had฀thc฀right฀to฀shumc฀
thc฀playcr฀to฀dißcrcnt฀locations฀around฀thc฀country.฀Vorking฀hours฀wcrc฀
lrom฀6:cc฀v:฀to฀.:cc฀~:฀daily,฀cxccpt฀ovcr฀Chincsc฀Ncw฀Ycar,฀whcn฀an฀
carly฀scssion฀commcnccd฀around฀noon.฀Finally,฀thc฀composition฀ol฀thc฀
troupc,฀¯whcthcr฀it฀bc฀a฀mixcd฀or฀alllcmalc฀company,"฀was฀no฀causc฀lor฀
objcction฀on฀thc฀part฀ol฀thc฀actor.
27
฀Thcsc฀stipulations฀show฀cvidcncc฀ol฀
othcr฀catcgorics฀ol฀Chincsc฀travcllcrs.฀Scc฀Maric฀Rosc฀Vong,฀S.eet฀Cakes,฀Long฀Journey:฀The฀
Chinato.ns฀of฀Portland,฀Oregon฀(Scattlc:฀Univcrsity฀ol฀Vashington฀Prcss,฀acc¡),฀6î฀and฀î¸.฀

25
฀ Guarantor฀lcttcr฀lrom฀Choc฀Ðuck฀to฀thc฀Canadian฀Surcty฀Company,฀î฀Novcmbcr฀.µ.6,฀in฀
wni:v,฀¯Corrcspondcncc,"฀nlc฀.¸.฀Thc฀sponsoring฀company฀had฀thc฀option฀to฀advancc฀thc฀
bond฀lund฀itscll.฀Òn฀occasion฀thc฀rcquircd฀bond฀amount฀was฀as฀high฀as฀a฀thousand฀dollar฀pcr฀
pcrson.฀Scc฀undatcd฀(.µa¸:)฀corrcspondcncc฀scnt฀to฀thc฀Canadian฀immigration฀authoritics,฀
obtaincd฀ by฀ Scbryk฀ lrom฀ thc฀ City฀ ol฀ \ictoria฀ Archivcs฀ and฀ appcndcd฀ in฀ hcr฀ ¯History฀ ol฀
Chincsc฀Thcatrc฀in฀\ictoria,"฀.6µ,c.

26
฀ wni:v,฀¯Actor's฀contracts,"฀nlcs฀.c...

27
฀ !bid.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸,
¸¸
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
adaptation฀as฀thc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀journcycd฀abroad.฀Thc฀rcquircmcnt฀
lor฀individual฀actors฀to฀play฀multiplc฀rolc฀typcs฀was฀a฀lunction฀ol฀rcduccd฀
troupc฀sizc.฀!n฀South฀China฀a฀lull฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀company฀had฀somc฀
scvcnty฀or฀morc฀playcrs,฀ovcrscas,฀thc฀logistics฀ol฀longdistancc฀travcl฀
and฀nnancial฀constraints฀rcsultcd฀in฀a฀much฀smallcr฀troupc.
28
฀Anothcr฀
cxamplc฀ol฀local฀variancc฀pcrtains฀to฀thc฀warm฀rcccption฀lor฀mixcd฀and฀
alllcmalc฀companics฀among฀Chincsc฀immigrant฀communitics.฀Sincc฀
mixcd฀troupcs฀rcmaincd฀banncd฀by฀thc฀authoritics฀in฀Guangzhou฀and฀
Hong฀Kong฀until฀thc฀.µ¸cs,฀somc฀pcrlormcrs฀may฀havc฀lound฀thc฀practicc฀
ol฀sharing฀thc฀stagc฀with฀mcmbcrs฀ol฀thc฀oppositc฀scx฀objcctionablc.฀My฀
rcscarch฀has฀uncovcrcd฀no฀such฀disputc,฀but฀it฀is฀dimcult฀to฀tcll฀whcthcr฀
thc฀rcason฀lor฀this฀might฀bc฀a฀prccmptivc฀clausc฀in฀thc฀contract,฀thc฀
vcrsatility฀and฀adaptability฀ol฀thc฀acting฀prolcssion,฀or฀both.
฀ Compcnsation,฀ ol฀ coursc,฀ varicd฀ among฀ actors,฀ and฀ it฀ rangcd฀ lrom฀
uss,îc฀to฀ussµ6c฀in฀thc฀casc฀ol฀Vong฀Yin฀Tscng฀and฀hcr฀thrcc฀lcllow฀
travcllcrs.฀ Thc฀ packagc฀ includcd฀ roundtrip฀ thirdclass฀ ship฀ larc,฀ plus฀
room฀ and฀ board฀ lor฀ thc฀ duration฀ ol฀ thc฀ contract.฀ Thc฀ uss¸cc฀ bond฀
moncy฀is฀notcd฀in฀thc฀contract฀as฀¯an฀advancc"฀madc฀by฀thc฀imprcsario฀
to฀thc฀immigration฀authoritics.฀Should฀thc฀action฀ol฀thc฀playcr฀causc฀thc฀
lorlciturc฀ol฀thc฀bond฀lund,฀shc฀would฀bc฀lully฀liablc฀lor฀rcimbursing฀thc฀
owncr.฀ Thc฀ contract฀ also฀ dctails฀ thc฀ paymcnt฀ schcdulc.฀ Traditionally,฀
actors฀in฀South฀China฀rcccivcd฀oncthird฀ol฀thc฀valuc฀ol฀thc฀contract฀at฀thc฀
bcginning฀ol฀thc฀annual฀pcrlorming฀scason฀in฀carly฀summcr฀and฀anothcr฀
oncthird฀bclorc฀Chincsc฀Ncw฀Ycar.฀Thc฀rcst฀was฀brokcn฀down฀into฀cqual฀
installmcnts฀disburscd฀twicc฀a฀month.฀Thc฀ovcrscas฀contract฀stipulatcs฀
somc฀intcrcsting฀modincations฀in฀that฀hall฀ol฀thc฀cntirc฀amount฀was฀to฀
bc฀issucd฀to฀thc฀playcr฀bclorc฀dcparturc฀but฀in฀Chincsc฀currcncy,฀with฀thc฀
rcmaindcr฀to฀bc฀paid฀in฀US฀dollars฀on฀a฀bimonthly฀basis.฀Sincc฀Chincsc฀
dollars฀wcrc฀worth฀lar฀lcss฀than฀US฀dollars฀(thc฀cxchangc฀ratc฀notcd฀on฀
thc฀contract฀put฀thc฀Chincsc฀dollar฀at฀hall฀that฀ol฀thc฀US฀dollar),฀shrcwd฀
Chinatown฀ busincsspcoplc,฀ who฀ wcrc฀ adcpt฀ at฀ working฀ transnational฀
opcrations,฀continucd฀to฀nnd฀ways฀to฀work฀thc฀systcm.
29

28
฀ Lai฀8ojiang฀and฀Huang฀Jianming,฀Yueju฀shi฀|History฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀Òpcra|฀(8cijing:฀Chincsc฀
Thcatrc฀Prcss,฀.µîî),฀aî.¸c..฀Thc฀authors฀also฀notc฀that,฀back฀in฀South฀China,฀troupcs฀working฀
on฀outlying฀rural฀circuits฀away฀lrom฀thc฀Pcarl฀Rivcr฀Ðclta฀corc฀wcrc฀smallcr฀in฀sizc,฀and฀thcir฀
mcmbcrs฀wcrc฀adcpt฀at฀playing฀multiplc฀rolc฀typcs.฀Morcovcr,฀ccrtain฀stagc฀practiccs฀in฀this฀
gcnrc฀฀such฀as฀thc฀dcploymcnt฀ol฀standard฀arias฀and฀highly฀convcntional฀sccnarios,฀not฀to฀
mcntion฀thc฀rcliancc฀on฀improvisation฀฀havc฀considcrably฀cnhanccd฀its฀ability฀to฀adjust฀to฀
dißcrcnt฀pcrlormancc฀contcxts,฀audicncc฀cxpcctations,฀and฀changing฀pcrsonncl.฀Scc฀Rao's฀
¯Songs฀ol฀thc฀¡xclusion฀¡ra,"฀¡c,,฀lor฀a฀succinct฀discussion฀ol฀thcsc฀artistic฀clcmcnts฀and฀how฀
thcy฀may฀account฀lor฀Cantoncsc฀opcra's฀ability฀to฀adapt฀ovcrscas.฀

29
฀ !n฀othcr฀words,฀lor฀a฀contract฀carrying฀a฀lacc฀valuc฀ol฀uss,îc,฀thc฀actor฀would฀nrst฀rcccivc฀
s¸µc฀ in฀ Chincsc฀ cash฀ and฀ only฀ thc฀ rcmaining฀ s¸µc฀ in฀ US฀ currcncy.฀ Òn฀ thc฀ contract฀ and฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸o
¸,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
฀ Thc฀last฀part฀ol฀thc฀contract฀spclls฀out฀lurthcr฀rcstrictions.฀Actors฀wcrc฀
not฀allowcd฀to฀cntcr฀a฀guild,฀join฀a฀brothcrhood,฀or฀lorm฀any฀lratcrnal฀
organization.฀Sick฀lcavc฀was฀paid฀up฀to฀tcn฀days,฀altcr฀which฀timc฀actors฀
had฀to฀makc฀up฀lor฀misscd฀pcrlormanccs.฀A฀voiding฀clausc฀vcstcd฀thc฀
imprcsario฀with฀thc฀authority฀to฀suspcnd฀thc฀actor฀and฀to฀rcturn฀him฀
or฀hcr฀to฀Hong฀Kong฀il฀s/hc฀provcd฀to฀bc฀¯indolcnt,฀insubordinatc,฀or฀
othcrwisc฀dcnant฀ol฀thc฀convcntions฀obscrvcd฀by฀thc฀troupc."
30
฀This฀was฀
not฀an฀cmpty฀thrcat.฀Ðuring฀thc฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Company's฀
sccond฀scason,฀onc฀actor,฀who฀was฀caught฀stcaling฀lrom฀his฀pccr,฀was฀
turncd฀ ovcr฀ to฀ thc฀ local฀ policc฀ and฀ thcn฀ dcportcd฀ altcr฀ scrving฀ jail฀
timc.฀ Anothcr฀ was฀ thought฀ to฀ bc฀ making฀ unwantcd฀ scxual฀ advanccs฀
towards฀a฀popular฀actrcss.฀Rumours฀soon฀sprcad฀about฀this฀¯womanizcr,"฀
and,฀during฀a฀pcrlormancc,฀hc฀was฀ridiculcd฀by฀somc฀mcmbcrs฀ol฀thc฀
audicncc.฀This฀rcsultcd฀in฀a฀physical฀altcrcation,฀which฀thc฀managcmcnt฀
citcd฀as฀sumcicnt฀causc฀lor฀abrogating฀his฀contract.
31

฀ Ònc฀may฀surmisc฀that฀actors฀did฀not฀cnjoy฀high฀rcgard฀and฀that,฀in฀
part,฀this฀rcßccts฀thc฀contcmpt฀in฀which฀thcy฀wcrc฀hcld฀by฀traditional฀
Chincsc฀socicty.฀Thc฀standard฀contracts฀uscd฀by฀thc฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀
Thcatrc฀ Company฀ bcgin฀ with฀ a฀ highly฀ dcmcaning฀ statcmcnt,฀ which฀
dcscribcs฀ thc฀ signatory฀ as฀ ¯bcing฀ dcstitutc฀ at฀ homc฀ and฀ thcrclorc฀
willing฀ to฀ pcrlorm฀ opcra฀ aboard."
32
฀ Vhcthcr฀ or฀ not฀ onc฀ takcs฀ this฀
projcction฀ol฀povcrty฀and฀powcrlcssncss฀litcrally,฀thc฀largc฀majority฀ol฀
actors฀who฀travcllcd฀abroad฀during฀this฀carly฀pcriod฀gcncrally฀bclongcd฀
to฀ thc฀ sccond฀ ticr,฀ having฀ lcsscr฀ lamc฀ and฀ coarscr฀ skills฀ than฀ thosc฀
who฀bclongcd฀to฀thc฀nrst฀ticr.฀Again,฀thc฀largcr฀transnational฀contcxt฀
oßcrs฀ clucs฀ as฀ to฀ why฀ this฀ would฀ bc฀ thc฀ casc.฀ !n฀ thc฀ latc฀ ninctccnth฀
ccntury,฀back฀in฀South฀China,฀thc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀had฀ßourishcd฀as฀an฀
itincrant฀thcatrical฀cntcrtainmcnt฀catcring฀to฀villagcs฀and฀markct฀towns฀
across฀ thc฀ Pcarl฀ Rivcr฀ Ðclta,฀ howcvcr,฀ altcr฀ thc฀ turn฀ ol฀ thc฀ ccntury,฀
rcmuncration฀systcm฀in฀South฀China,฀and฀thc฀dißcrcnt฀practicc฀lor฀ovcrscas฀cngagcmcnt,฀
notc฀thc฀rcminisccnccs฀by฀scvcral฀actors:฀Liu฀Guoxing,฀¯Yucju฀banzhu฀dui฀yircn฀dc฀baoxiao"฀
|Thc฀¡xploitation฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀Òpcra฀Actors฀by฀thc฀!mprcsarios|,฀Guang.hou฀.enshi฀.iliao฀
|Litcrary฀and฀Historical฀Sourccs฀on฀Guangzhou|฀¸฀(.µ6.):฀.a6,,฀Xinzhu,฀Pang฀Shunyao,฀Yc฀
Furuo,฀and฀Xin฀Xucmci,฀¯Yucju฀yircn฀zai฀Nanyang฀ji฀Mcizhou฀dc฀qingkuang"฀|Thc฀Situation฀
ol฀Cantoncsc฀Òpcra฀Actors฀in฀Southcast฀Asia฀and฀thc฀Amcricas|,฀Guangdong฀.enshi฀.iliao฀
|Litcrary฀and฀Historical฀Sourccs฀on฀Guangdong|฀a.฀(.µ6¸):฀.¸îµ,฀Liu฀Guoxing,฀¯Yucju฀yircn฀
zai฀haiwai฀dc฀shcnghuo฀ji฀huodong"฀|Thc฀Livcs฀and฀Activitics฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀Òpcra฀Actors฀
Òvcrscas|,฀Guangdong฀.enshi฀.iliao฀a.฀(.µ6¸):฀.îa.฀

30
฀ wni:v,฀¯Actor's฀Contracts,"฀nlcs฀.c...฀

31
฀ Minutcs฀ol฀mcctings,฀µ฀March฀.µ.î฀and฀¸฀April฀.µ.î,฀wni:v,฀¯Corporation฀Rccord,"฀nlc฀..฀
For฀a฀rcport฀on฀thc฀incidcnt฀in฀thc฀thcatrc฀housc,฀scc฀Chinese฀Times,฀µ฀March฀.µ.î.

32
฀ wni:v,฀¯Actor's฀Contracts,"฀nlcs฀.c...฀Scc฀Liu฀Guoxing's฀commcnt฀on฀thc฀lowly฀origins฀ol฀
thc฀opcra฀actors฀who฀travcllcd฀to฀North฀Amcrica฀during฀this฀carly฀pcriod฀in฀¯Yucju฀yircn฀zai฀
haiwai฀dc฀shcnghuo฀ji฀huodong,"฀.î.a.
I\฀'1IIII'
¸o
¸,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
it฀undcrwcnt฀a฀dccisivc฀urban฀shilt,฀capturing฀thc฀largcr฀audicnccs฀in฀
Hong฀Kong฀and฀Guangzhou.฀Thc฀urbanization฀and฀commcrcialization฀
ol฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀turncd฀thc฀twin฀citics฀into฀a฀hugc฀markct฀฀a฀markct฀
that฀oßcrcd฀abundant฀pcrlormancc฀opportunitics฀and฀that฀lunctioncd฀
as฀a฀magnct฀to฀cmcrging฀star฀pcrlormcrs฀who฀cnjoycd฀high฀incomcs฀and฀
closc฀to฀cclcbrity฀status.
33
฀Subscqucntly,฀throughout฀thc฀latc฀ninctccnth฀
ccntury฀ and฀ thc฀ nrst฀ two฀ dccadcs฀ ol฀ thc฀ twcnticth฀ ccntury,฀ it฀ was฀
mostly฀ sccondratc฀ playcrs฀ (and฀ maybc฀ thc฀ morc฀ advcnturous฀ typcs)฀
who฀acccptcd฀thc฀hardship฀ol฀pcrlorming฀in฀lorcign฀lands.฀Morcovcr,฀
il฀ovcrscas฀cngagcmcnt฀was฀an฀option,฀thcn฀ncarby฀Southcast฀Asia฀hcld฀
grcatcr฀appcal฀than฀did฀North฀Amcrica.฀Gcographical฀proximity฀asidc,฀
thc฀ prcscncc฀ ol฀ sizablc฀ Cantoncsc฀ communitics฀ among฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀
immigrant฀populations฀in฀Singaporc,฀thc฀Malay฀Pcninsula,฀and฀\ictnam฀
rcndcrcd฀thcsc฀placcs฀rclativcly฀morc฀attractivc฀dcstinations฀than฀wcrc฀
\ancouvcr฀or฀San฀Francisco.฀
฀ Thc฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Company's฀rccords฀providc฀somc฀idca฀
ol฀thc฀dcgrcc฀ol฀audicncc฀intcrcst.฀Òvcr฀thc฀coursc฀ol฀two฀scasons,฀lrom฀
thc฀cnd฀ol฀.µ.6฀to฀May฀.µ.î,฀thc฀company฀rcgularly฀ordcrcd฀,cc฀to฀.,acc฀
copics฀ol฀playbills฀to฀bc฀distributcd฀to฀patrons฀attcnding฀thc฀shows.
34

Admissions฀ staycd฀ within฀ thc฀ aßordablc฀ rangc฀ ol฀ tcn฀ to฀ nlty฀ ccnts.฀
8oth฀scasons฀wcnt฀through฀an฀almost฀idcntical฀cyclc฀rcgarding฀tickct฀
salcs฀and฀incomcs฀(scc฀Tablc฀.).฀A฀strong฀nrst฀month฀was฀lollowcd฀by฀
a฀ tcmporary฀ dip฀ and฀ thcn฀ two฀ to฀ thrcc฀ months฀ ol฀ rclativcly฀ hcalthy฀
attcndancc.฀ Pcrhaps฀ bccausc฀ thc฀ cast฀ rcmaincd฀ stationary,฀ audicncc฀
cnthusiasm฀ incvitably฀ wancd฀ and฀ incomc฀ dcclincd฀ in฀ thc฀ rcmaining฀
months.฀No฀nnal฀balancc฀shcct฀can฀bc฀gcncratcd฀lrom฀thc฀data,฀though฀
thc฀board฀claimcd฀minor฀losscs฀at฀thc฀cnd฀ol฀both฀scasons.฀!n฀latc฀.µ.î฀
thc฀ books฀ wcrc฀ closcd฀ and฀ thc฀ Ving฀ Hong฀ Lin฀ Thcatrc฀ Company฀
disappcarcd฀lrom฀thc฀sccnc.
35

฀ !l฀thc฀backcrs฀ol฀thc฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Company฀lound฀thc฀
thcatrc฀busincss฀to฀bc฀challcnging฀and฀dccidcd฀to฀lold,฀othcrs฀wcrc฀rcady฀
to฀stcp฀in.฀!mmcdiatcly,฀anothcr฀visiting฀troupc฀took฀ovcr฀thc฀Sing฀Ping฀
Thcatrc฀and฀staycd฀thcrc฀lor฀scvcn฀months.฀Namcd฀Chuk฀Sing฀Ping,฀
this฀company฀markcd฀thc฀nrst฀timc฀a฀daily฀advcrtiscmcnt฀appcarcd฀in฀
thc฀Chinese฀Times,฀cnunciating฀thc฀prcscncc฀ol฀thc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀in฀

33
฀ Scc฀Liu฀Guoxing,฀¯Xiban฀hc฀xiyuan"฀|Òpcra฀Troupcs฀and฀Thcatrc฀Houscs|,฀in฀Guangdong฀
Thcatrc฀Rcscarch฀Òmcc,฀cd.,฀Yueju฀yanjiu฀.iliao฀xuan฀|Sclcct฀Rcscarch฀Matcrials฀on฀Cantoncsc฀
Òpcra|฀(Guangzhou:฀Guangdong฀Thcatrc฀Rcscarch฀Òmcc,฀.µî¸),฀¸aî6¸.

34
฀ Scc฀rcccipts฀lrom฀two฀local฀printcrs,฀in฀wni:v,฀¯Rcccipts,"฀nlcs฀.¡.,.฀

35
฀ Minutcs฀ol฀mcctings,฀.,฀May฀.µ.,฀and฀¡฀May฀.µ.î,฀wni:v,฀¯Corporation฀rccord,"฀nlc฀..฀Ac
cording฀to฀payrolls,฀actor฀turnovcr฀during฀both฀scasons฀appcars฀to฀havc฀bccn฀minimal.฀Scc฀
¯Rcccipts฀signcd฀by฀actors฀and฀staß,"฀nlc฀î,฀wni:v.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸8
¸,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business

!ing฀Hong฀Lin´s฀income฀from฀ticket฀sales฀o.er฀t.o฀seasons,฀z,zo-z8
8iwvvxiv฀Rvcviv:s฀
u~:v฀vvvov:vu
Pvocvvus฀vvo:฀
:icxv:฀s~ivs฀´
No:vs
First฀Scason
.a.a..µ.6 sa,.c6.6¸ .c฀days
.a..6..µ.6 s.,cîc.c¸
.a.¸c..µ.6 s6¸6.¸c
...¸..µ., s.,cc,.¸c
..a,..µ., s.,6aa.¡c Chincsc฀Ncw฀Ycar
a..c..µ., s.,¸c¸.6a
a.a¡..µ., s.,¸µî.,¸
¸..c..µ., s.,c¸..¡¸
¸.a¡..µ., s,¸¸.îa
¡.,..c., sî6c.,,
¡.a...µ., s6¡,.¡a
¸.¸..µ., s¡6î.¸,
¸..6..µ., saµ6.¸c µ฀days
Sccond฀Scason
.c..¸..µ., sa,.,¸.,c µ฀days
.c.a,..µ., s.,¸.µ.6¸
....c..µ., sµîµ.¸c
...a¡..µ., s.,c¸¡.¸c
.a.î..µ., s.,.c¸..î
.a.aa..µ., sa,¸¸a.¸î
..¸..µ.î sa,a.a.ac
...µ..µ.î s.,a¸c.î¸
a.a..µ.î s.,aµ..î¸
a..6..µ.î s6,,.¸¸ Chincsc฀Ncw฀Ycar
¸.a..µ.î s,a¸.ac
¸..6..µ.î s6î..¸c
¸.¸c..µ.î s¸¸6..¸
¡..¸..µ.î s¸,6.µ¸
¡.a,..µ.î sa,,..¸
¸.a..µ.î s¸î.a¸ ¡฀days
Sourcc:฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Rccords,฀¯Ðaily฀incomc฀and฀cxpcnscs,"฀City฀
ol฀\ancouvcr฀Archivcs,฀Add.฀:ss฀¸,.,฀Sam฀Kcc฀Papcrs,฀¸66c¡,฀nlcs฀¸,.
฀´฀ Thcsc฀ngurcs฀arc฀bascd฀on฀daily฀intakcs฀minus฀misccllancous฀cxpcnscs,฀such฀as฀occasional฀tips฀
lor฀thc฀staß฀ol฀thc฀thcatrc฀housc,฀hcating฀utility฀chargcs฀during฀thc฀wintcr฀months,฀midnight฀
snacks฀lor฀actors฀altcr฀pcrlormanccs,฀minor฀rcpairs฀and฀supplics,฀and฀so฀on.
I\฀'1IIII'
¸8
¸,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
thc฀public฀arcna.
36
฀Anothcr฀intriguing฀incidcnt฀was฀thc฀public฀lormation฀
ol฀an฀actor's฀guild฀in฀carly฀.µ.µ.฀Thc฀announccmcnt฀took฀thc฀lorm฀ol฀a฀
list฀ol฀ninctythrcc฀individuals฀who฀occupicd฀various฀positions฀as฀omccrs฀
฀cnough฀to฀nll฀thc฀rostcrs฀ol฀thrcc฀opcra฀troupcs.฀Vhilc฀thc฀namcs฀ol฀
many฀ actual฀ actors฀ (and฀ musicians)฀ wcrc฀ on฀ thc฀ list,฀ thc฀ prcsidcnt฀ ol฀
thc฀organization฀was฀idcntincd฀as฀¯Mok฀Kuc฀Chcc,"฀mcaning,฀litcrally,฀
¯don't฀bc฀scarcd!"
37
฀As฀wc฀havc฀no฀morc฀inlormation฀about฀this฀group,฀
it฀ is฀ hard฀ to฀ tcll฀ whcthcr฀ Mok฀ Kuc฀ Chcc฀ was฀ nctivc฀ or฀ whcthcr฀ thc฀
guild฀was฀making฀a฀dcnant฀gcsturc฀against฀thc฀hcavyhandcd฀policics฀
ol฀thc฀managcmcnt.฀At฀any฀ratc,฀thc฀lact฀that฀actors฀wcrc฀csscntially฀a฀
population฀ ol฀ transicnts฀ hindcrcd฀ any฀ sustaincd฀ organizational฀ cßort.฀
Thcir฀travclling฀practicc฀was฀to฀bccomc฀morc฀pronounccd฀in฀thc฀lollowing฀
ycars฀as฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀cntcrcd฀an฀cxciting฀phasc฀ol฀growth.
I!1III!\฀1II฀\íIII!฀A\I฀íI฀
\II!A1í\!฀1IIA1II฀1II฀!'20'
!n฀an฀cra฀during฀which฀thc฀majority฀socicty฀continucd฀to฀shun฀Chinatown฀
lor฀its฀pcrccivcd฀alicnncss฀and฀prcsumcd฀dccadcncc,฀\ancouvcr's฀Chincsc฀
rcsidcnts฀ had฀ morc฀ opportunity฀ than฀ cvcr฀ to฀ cnjoy฀ thcir฀ lavouritc฀
cntcrtainmcnt.฀Ðuring฀thc฀nrst฀hall฀ol฀thc฀.µacs,฀nvc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀
troupcs฀landcd฀in฀\ancouvcr,฀two฀ol฀which฀staycd฀in฀town฀lor฀ovcr฀a฀
ycar.฀Thcrc฀wcrc฀pcriods฀whcn฀thcir฀scasons฀ovcrlappcd,฀rcsulting฀in฀
long฀strctchcs฀ol฀unintcrruptcd฀nightly฀pcrlormanccs,฀probably฀lor฀thc฀
nrst฀timc฀in฀this฀particular฀Chinatown's฀history฀(scc฀Tablc฀a).฀Thc฀Sing฀
Ping฀Thcatrc฀continucd฀to฀bc฀thc฀primary฀vcnuc,฀but฀two฀othcr฀lacilitics฀
joincd฀in,฀at฀lcast฀lor฀a฀short฀whilc:฀thc฀!mpcrial฀Thcatrc฀on฀Main฀Strcct,฀
which฀was฀rcnovatcd฀in฀thc฀lall฀ol฀.µa.,฀and฀thc฀old฀thcatrc฀in฀Shanghai฀
Allcy,฀which฀rcopcncd฀during฀.µa¸a¡.฀Sponsoring฀thc฀visiting฀troupcs฀
wcrc฀ companics฀ just฀ likc฀ Ving฀ Hong฀ Lin.฀ Thcatrc฀ advcrtiscmcnts฀
idcntily฀thcir฀tickct฀agcnts฀in฀thc฀ncighbourhood,฀and฀thcsc฀includcd฀
scvcral฀ importandcxport฀ gcncral฀ storcs,฀ onc฀ pharmacy฀ and฀ hcrbal฀
dispcnsary,฀and฀a฀jcwcllcr,฀all฀ol฀whom฀wcrc฀locatcd฀on฀Pcndcr฀Strcct.฀
฀ Ðriving฀such฀busincss฀intcrcst฀was,฀nrst฀ol฀all,฀an฀cxpanding฀clicntclc.฀
Thc฀ local฀ Chincsc฀ population฀ rcachcd฀ .¸,ccc฀ by฀ .µ¸c.฀ Although฀ thc฀
Chincsc฀!mmigration฀Act,฀.µa¸,฀all฀but฀shut฀thc฀door฀on฀ncw฀arrivals฀and฀
cvcntually฀causcd฀somc฀Chincsc฀to฀lcavc,฀initially,฀duc฀to฀thc฀rclocation฀
ol฀ immigrants฀ lrom฀ smallcr฀ scttlcmcnts,฀ \ancouvcr's฀ Chinatown฀

36
฀ Chinese฀Times,฀¸฀Scptcmbcr฀.µ.î฀to฀.a฀April฀.µ.µ.

37
฀ !bid.,฀..฀January฀.µ.µ.
I\฀'1IIII'
,c
,z
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
cxpcricnccd฀ a฀ boom.
38
฀ Canada's฀ largcst฀ Chinatown฀ aßordcd฀ thc฀
Chincsc฀a฀dcgrcc฀ol฀mutual฀protcction฀lrom฀a฀hostilc฀socicty฀as฀wcll฀as฀
thc฀cnjoymcnt฀ol฀cthnic฀lacilitics฀and฀rcsourccs,฀such฀as฀thc฀incrcasing฀
numbcr฀ol฀nativc฀placc฀and฀clan฀organizations,฀supplics฀ol฀lood฀itcms฀
and฀ goods฀ lrom฀ thc฀ homc฀ country,฀ and,฀ ol฀ coursc,฀ thc฀ opportunity฀
to฀ lrcqucnt฀ a฀ thcatrc฀ housc.฀ At฀ thc฀ samc฀ timc,฀ thc฀ brcwing฀ cthnic฀
scntimcnts฀in฀a฀ghcttolikc฀cnvironmcnt,฀as฀wcll฀as฀a฀disccrniblc฀tidc฀
ol฀nationalist฀lcclings฀rclatcd฀to฀cvcnts฀in฀China฀in฀thc฀.µacs,฀hclpcd฀
to฀hcightcn฀a฀dcsirc฀to฀consumc฀traditional฀thcatrc฀among฀nostalgic,฀il฀
not฀downright฀homcsick,฀pcoplc.
39
฀ Ncvcrthclcss,฀morc฀than฀audicncc฀intcrcst฀and฀busincss฀opportunity฀
arc฀rcquircd฀to฀cxplain฀why฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀in฀\ancouvcr฀rcachcd฀
a฀ncw฀hcight฀in฀thc฀carly฀.µacs.฀For฀rcasons฀that฀wcrc฀broadly฀similar฀
to฀thosc฀mcntioncd฀abovc,฀thc฀thcatrc฀markcts฀grcw฀simultancously฀in฀
Chincsc฀communitics฀across฀North฀Amcrica,฀bcginning฀with฀such฀kcy฀
locations฀as฀San฀Francisco฀and฀Ncw฀York฀as฀wcll฀as฀\ancouvcr.฀Togcthcr,฀
thcsc฀thrcc฀nodal฀points฀anchorcd฀an฀cxpanding฀transnational฀circuit฀ol฀
Cantoncsc฀opcra.฀Not฀only฀did฀thcsc฀communitics฀host฀cntirc฀troupcs฀
and฀rotatc฀individual฀actors฀through฀thcir฀stagcs฀but฀thcy฀also฀lcd฀thcsc฀

Cantonese฀opera฀troupes฀that฀performed฀
in฀!ancou.er´s฀Chinato.n,฀z,:c-¸¸฀
N~:vs฀ov฀:vouvvs Pvviou฀ov฀vvvvov:~xcvs Ticxv:฀~cvx:s
Sing฀Ping Ðcc.฀.µac฀฀Jan.฀.µaa Òn฀Hing฀Lun
Lok฀Man฀Lin Scpt.฀.µa.฀฀Fcb.฀.µaa Kcn฀Fung฀Co.
Kwok฀Fung฀Lin April฀฀Junc฀.µa¸ Foo฀Hung฀Co.
Chuk฀Man฀Òn March฀.µa¸฀฀May฀.µa¡ Man฀Sing฀Lun
Kwok฀Chung฀Hing Nov.฀.µa¡฀฀May฀.µa¸ Lucn฀Sing฀Jcwcllcr
Tai฀Mo฀Toi April฀.µa,฀฀April฀.µaî Gim฀Lcc฀Yuan
Van฀Kau฀Lok Scpt.฀฀Ðcc.฀.µ¸c Vatsang฀Ðrug฀Storc
Tai฀Law฀Tin Nov.฀฀Ðcc.฀.µ¸. ,฀
Fcb.฀฀May,
฀July฀฀Scpt.฀.µ¸a,
Ðcc.฀.µ¸a฀฀Jan.฀.µ¸¸
Vatsang฀Ðrug฀Storc
Sourcc:฀Chinese฀Times,฀.µac¸¸.

38
฀ For฀ trcnds฀ in฀ Chincsc฀ immigration฀ and฀ domcstic฀ movcmcnts,฀ scc฀ Ðavid฀ Chucnyan฀ Lai,฀
Chinato.ns:฀To.ns฀.ithin฀Cities฀in฀Canada฀(\ancouvcr:฀U8C฀Prcss,฀.µîî),฀¸66,.

39
฀ Scc฀Vickbcrg,฀From฀China฀to฀Canada,฀various฀chaptcrs฀in฀Part฀a฀and฀Part฀¸฀that฀dcal฀with฀
thc฀ycars฀right฀bclorc฀and฀altcr฀thc฀lcgislation฀ol฀thc฀Chincsc฀!mmigration฀Act฀ol฀.µa¸.฀Ycc฀
oßcrs฀a฀locuscd฀discussion฀on฀\ancouvcr฀during฀this฀pcriod฀in฀Salt.ater฀City,฀¡µ,¸.
I\฀'1IIII'
,c
,z
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
travclling฀ pcrlormcrs฀ into฀ sccondary฀ locations฀ and฀ transit฀ points฀ likc฀
Scattlc,฀Portland,฀Los฀Angclcs,฀Honolulu,฀Chicago,฀8oston,฀and฀cvcn฀
Chinatowns฀in฀Latin฀Amcrican฀countrics฀such฀as฀Mcxico,฀Cuba,฀and฀Pcru.฀
Thc฀lollowing฀two฀cxamplcs฀ol฀.µacs฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀troupcs฀dcmon
stratc฀thc฀intcrconncctcdncss฀ol฀various฀locations฀on฀a฀largc฀canvas.฀
฀ Òn฀¸฀Scptcmbcr฀.µa.฀an฀opcra฀company฀callcd฀Lok฀Man฀Lin฀landcd฀
in฀ \ancouvcr฀ and฀ immcdiatcly฀ startcd฀ pcrlorming฀ in฀ thc฀ rcccntly฀
rcnovatcd฀thcatrc฀on฀Main฀Strcct.฀!t฀was฀thc฀sccond฀troupc฀in฀town,฀
and฀it฀consistcd฀ol฀tcn฀malc฀and฀six฀lcmalc฀actors฀who฀wcrc฀trumpctcd฀
as฀hailing฀lrom฀¯Tang฀Shan"฀(i.c.,฀China),฀whcrc฀thc฀lcading฀mcmbcrs฀
had฀pcrlormcd฀with฀wcllknown฀opcra฀troupcs.฀!n฀particular,฀thc฀prima฀
donna฀was฀said฀to฀havc฀cnjoycd฀a฀succcsslul฀stint฀in฀\ictnam's฀Chincsc฀
cnclavc฀in฀SaigonCholon,฀charming฀thc฀audicncc฀with฀hcr฀cxquisitc฀
bcauty฀and฀clcgancc.฀Subscqucntly,฀nvc฀morc฀actors฀joincd฀Lok฀Man฀
Lin฀ and฀ took฀ turns฀ playing฀ thc฀ principal฀ rolc฀ until฀ thc฀ scason฀ cndcd฀
on฀6฀Fcbruary฀.µaa.
40
฀Altcr฀this฀timc฀thc฀whcrcabouts฀ol฀Lok฀Man฀Lin฀
would฀havc฀rcmaincd฀a฀mystcry฀il฀not฀lor฀thc฀inlormation฀uncarthcd฀
in฀San฀Francisco.฀Apparcntly,฀altcr฀\ancouvcr,฀whilc฀a฀lcw฀mcmbcrs฀
struck฀out฀on฀thcir฀own,฀thc฀majority฀ol฀thc฀troupc฀madc฀thcir฀way฀to฀
San฀Francisco฀and฀joincd฀lorccs฀with฀anothcr฀visiting฀group฀callcd฀Yan฀
Sau฀Lin.฀Undcr฀thc฀sponsorship฀ol฀thc฀Ying฀Mci฀Lcun฀Hop฀Company฀
in฀San฀Francisco,฀this฀movc฀ushcrcd฀in฀a฀ncw฀phasc฀in฀thc฀dcvclopmcnt฀
ol฀thc฀local฀Cantoncsc฀stagc.
41
฀ Cantoncsc฀opcra฀was฀ol฀coursc฀no฀novclty฀to฀thc฀Chincsc฀immigrant฀
community฀ in฀ thc฀ 8ay฀ Arca.฀ Riddlc's฀ chroniclc฀ has฀ traccd฀ thc฀
appcarancc฀ ol฀ Chincsc฀ thcatrc฀ to฀ thc฀ vcry฀ bcginning฀ ol฀ signincant฀
Chincsc฀ immigration฀ into฀ thc฀ wcstcrn฀ Unitcd฀ Statcs฀ in฀ thc฀ mid
ninctccnth฀ccntury.฀Thc฀Chincsc฀community฀in฀San฀Francisco฀boastcd฀
its฀nrst฀pcrmancnt฀thcatrc฀built฀lor฀thc฀cnjoymcnt฀ol฀its฀countrypcoplc฀
as฀carly฀as฀.î6,.฀Vith฀thc฀Chincsc฀population฀soon฀climbing฀to฀¸c,ccc,฀
thc฀community฀hostcd฀onc฀or฀morc฀opcra฀troupcs฀on฀a฀rcgular฀basis.฀
Ònly฀ in฀ thc฀ last฀ dccadc฀ ol฀ thc฀ ccntury,฀ undcr฀ thc฀ shadow฀ ol฀ anti
Chincsc฀cxclusion,฀did฀support฀lor฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀cbb.฀And฀thcn฀
camc฀thc฀dcvastating฀carthquakc฀ol฀.µc6.฀As฀thc฀survivors฀rcbuilt฀thcir฀
community,฀ thcatrc฀ houscs฀ wcrc฀ not฀ high฀ on฀ thc฀ agcnda,฀ and฀ thcrc฀

40
฀ Chinese฀ Times,฀ .฀ Scptcmbcr฀ .µa.฀ ฀ 6฀ Fcbruary฀ .µaa.฀ Thc฀ thcatrc฀ was฀ locatcd฀ at฀ ,ac฀ Main฀
Strcct,฀according฀to฀thc฀ncws฀clip฀¯Rcmcmbcr฀Òur฀Chincsc฀Òpcra:"฀a¸฀March฀.µ66,฀City฀ol฀
\ancouvcr฀Archivcs,฀:.¸,฀6.c.฀

41
฀ Cantoncsc฀opcra฀playbills,฀µ฀July฀฀a¸฀Òctobcr฀.µa¸,฀box฀F,฀¡thnic฀Studics฀Library,฀Univcrsity฀ol฀
Calilornia,฀8crkclcy.฀Ònc฀actor,฀Shca฀Chai฀Kit,฀wcnt฀to฀Havana฀and฀latcr฀joincd฀his฀comradcs฀
bricßy฀in฀Òctobcr฀.µa¸,฀whcn฀hc฀stoppcd฀ovcr฀at฀San฀Francisco฀on฀his฀way฀back฀to฀China.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
,:

Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
wcrc฀only฀occasional฀rcports฀ol฀opcra฀pcrlormanccs฀in฀various฀thcatrcs฀
around฀Chinatown฀until฀.µa¸.฀Howcvcr,฀with฀thc฀Chincsc฀population฀
rcbounding฀ lrom฀ about฀ î,ccc฀ in฀ .µ.¸฀ to฀ .c,ccc฀ in฀ .µac,฀ it฀ was฀ only฀ a฀
mattcr฀ol฀timc฀bclorc฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀rcgaincd฀its฀vitality.
42
฀ Thc฀ circumstanccs฀ surrounding฀ thc฀ arrival฀ ol฀ thc฀ Lok฀ Man฀ Lin฀
Troupc฀ in฀ San฀ Francisco฀ and฀ its฀ collaboration฀ with฀ Yan฀ Sau฀ Lin฀ arc฀
not฀clcar,฀but฀thc฀pcrlormanccs฀cvidcntly฀struck฀a฀chord.
43
฀!n฀lact,฀thc฀
rcccption฀was฀so฀cnthusiastic฀that฀two฀brand฀ncw฀thcatrc฀houscs฀wcrc฀
built฀in฀thc฀lollowing฀two฀ycars.฀!n฀Junc฀.µa¡฀thc฀Mandarin฀Thcatrc฀
opcncd฀ on฀ Grant฀ Avcnuc,฀ lollowcd฀ a฀ ycar฀ latcr฀ by฀ thc฀ Grcat฀ China฀
Thcatrc฀on฀Jackson฀Strcct,฀thc฀lattcr฀bcing฀undcrwrittcn฀by฀Lok฀Man฀
Lin's฀sponsor฀Ying฀Mci฀Lcun฀Hop.฀¡njoying฀substantial฀support฀lrom฀
dißcrcnt฀lactions฀in฀Chinatown,฀thc฀two฀thcatrcs฀bccamc฀rivals,฀and฀
thcir฀compctition฀has฀sincc฀bccn฀part฀ol฀San฀Francisco's฀Chinatown฀lorc฀
ol฀thc฀prcPacinc฀Var฀cra.
44฀
฀ Òn฀thc฀cast฀coast฀yct฀anothcr฀opcra฀troupc฀that฀had฀uscd฀\ancouvcr฀
as฀a฀point฀ol฀cntry฀triggcrcd฀a฀similar฀rcnaissancc.฀Chuk฀Man฀Òn฀had฀
bcgun฀thc฀scason฀at฀thc฀old฀thcatrc฀in฀Shanghai฀Allcy฀in฀March฀.µa¸฀
and฀had฀staycd฀through฀May฀.µa¡.
45
฀This฀company฀ol฀thirtytwo฀thcn฀
travcllcd฀to฀Ncw฀York฀City,฀marking฀a฀rcvival฀ol฀its฀Chinatown฀stagc฀
altcr฀ a฀ lull฀ ol฀ nltccn฀ ycars.฀ Notwithstanding฀ thc฀ pcriodic฀ shumc฀ ol฀
playcrs,฀thc฀troupc,฀bcaring฀thc฀samc฀namc,฀pcrlormcd฀in฀Ncw฀York฀
until฀March฀.µa,,฀whcn฀it฀mcrgcd฀with฀anothcr฀troupc฀to฀bccomc฀Ving฀
Ngai฀Shcung.฀Thc฀mcrgcr฀was฀rcportcdly฀nnanccd฀by฀thc฀Hop฀Hing฀
Company,฀ which฀ was฀ loundcd฀ by฀ local฀ Chinatown฀ mcrchants฀ with฀
capital฀ raiscd฀ in฀ various฀ Chincsc฀ communitics฀ in฀ thc฀ Unitcd฀ Statcs,฀
Canada,฀and฀Cuba.฀Altcr฀thc฀homc฀thcatrc฀burncd฀down฀in฀Junc฀.µaµ,฀
a฀ncw฀location฀was฀lound฀immcdiatcly฀and฀thc฀troupc฀pcrlormcd฀until฀
.µ¸c,฀using฀thc฀namc฀Sun฀Sai฀Gai.
46


42
฀ Riddlc,฀Flying฀Dragons,฀Flo.ing฀Streams,฀.,.c¸,฀.¸¸¡¸,฀and฀Chcn,฀Chinese฀San฀Francisco,฀µc¡.฀

43
฀ A฀local฀contact฀told฀thc฀lcdcral฀thcatrc฀projcct฀rcscarch฀tcam฀that฀thc฀troupc฀had฀comc฀to฀San฀
Francisco฀altcr฀rathcr฀¯indißcrcnt฀rcsults"฀in฀\ancouvcr.฀8usincss฀intclligcncc฀on฀box฀omcc฀
rcsults,฀actors'฀compcnsations,฀and฀thc฀likc฀is฀not฀thc฀most฀rcliablc฀as฀thc฀rumours฀could฀bc฀
part฀ol฀a฀publicity฀cßort฀or฀pcrhaps,฀in฀this฀casc,฀scrvc฀to฀undcrcut฀thc฀bargaining฀position฀
ol฀thc฀othcr฀party.฀Scc฀Chu,฀¯Chincsc฀Thcatrcs฀in฀Amcrica,"฀,6.฀

44
฀ Thc฀ rivalry฀ is฀ mcntioncd฀ in฀ many฀ dißcrcnt฀ placcs,฀ including฀ Chu,฀ ¯Chincsc฀ Thcatrcs฀ in฀
Amcrica,"฀ ,,,฀ Riddlc,฀ Flying฀ Dragons,฀ Flo.ing฀ Streams,฀ .¡¡¸,฀ Liu฀ Guoxing,฀ ¯Yucju฀ yircn฀
zai฀haiwai฀dc฀shcnghuo฀ji฀huodong,"฀.î¸,฀Suzhou฀Nu,฀¯Yucju฀zai฀Mciguo฀wangshi฀shiling"฀
|Skctchy฀Mcmorics฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀Òpcra฀in฀thc฀US|,฀Xiju฀yishu฀.iliao฀|Sourccs฀in฀Thcatrc฀
Art|฀..฀(.µî6):฀a¸µ,฀and฀Lai฀and฀Huang,฀Yueju฀shi,฀¸6µ,c.฀

45
฀ Chinese฀Times,฀ac฀March฀.µa¸฀฀.6฀May฀.µa¡.

46
฀ Scc฀Rao's฀discussion฀in฀¯Songs฀ol฀thc฀¡xclusion฀¡ra,"฀¡c¡¸,฀¡.¸,฀and฀Arthur฀8onncr,฀~i~s!฀
!hat฀Brought฀Thee฀Hither?฀The฀Chinese฀in฀Ne.฀York฀z8cc-z,¸c฀(Madison:฀Fairlcigh฀Ðickinson฀
Univcrsity฀Prcss,฀.µµ,),฀µ¸.
I\฀'1IIII'
,:

Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
฀ Thc฀routcs฀ol฀troupc฀migration฀arc฀traccd฀not฀to฀suggcst฀thc฀primacy฀
ol฀\ancouvcr฀among฀thc฀thrcc฀principal฀locations฀but,฀rathcr,฀to฀notc฀that฀
thc฀Canadian฀city฀was฀a฀convcnicnt฀point฀ol฀discmbarkation฀lor฀North฀
Amcricabound฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀troupcs.฀!l฀anything,฀thc฀sizc฀ol฀thc฀
Chincsc฀population฀in฀San฀Francisco฀and฀that฀city's฀dominant฀position฀
as฀thc฀hub฀ol฀cthnic฀Chincsc฀commcrcial฀capital,฀busincss฀intclligcncc,฀
and฀nctworks฀gavc฀its฀thcatrc฀markct฀thc฀cdgc.฀As฀thc฀.µacs฀worc฀on,฀
San฀Francisco's฀Chinatown฀clcarly฀posscsscd฀thc฀largcst฀sharc฀ol฀thcatrc฀
busincss,฀was฀homc฀to฀thc฀most฀opcra฀prolcssionals,฀had฀thc฀strongcr฀
bargaining฀position฀with฀rcgard฀to฀signing฀thc฀actors฀and฀troupcs฀ol฀its฀
choicc,฀and฀had฀thc฀most฀cxtcnsivc฀busincss฀nctworks฀through฀which฀
to฀lunncl฀playcrs฀into฀sccondary฀vcnucs฀and฀morc฀distant฀markcts.฀
฀ Finally,฀thc฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀boom฀in฀thc฀.µacs฀rcßcctcd฀conditions฀
across฀thc฀Pacinc฀in฀South฀China.฀Thc฀urbanization฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀
in฀thc฀prcccding฀dccadcs฀cntailcd฀cutthroat฀compctition฀in฀Guangzhou฀
and฀ Hong฀ Kong.฀ From฀ around฀ .µ.î.µ,฀ largcscalc฀ citybascd฀ and฀
citybound฀ companics฀ wcrc฀ lormcd,฀ with฀ hcavy฀ capital฀ invcstmcnt฀
and฀rcsidcnt฀supcrstars.฀Thcsc฀urban฀troupcs฀cntcrtaincd฀an฀audicncc฀
that฀had฀a฀sccmingly฀insatiablc฀appctitc฀lor฀thc฀latcst฀dramatization฀ol฀
historical฀plays,฀adaptations฀lrom฀Vcstcrn฀novcls฀and฀currcnt฀cvcnts,฀
improvcd฀ costuming฀ and฀ stagc฀ propcrtics,฀ thc฀ usc฀ ol฀ ncw฀ musical฀
instrumcnts,฀ and฀ thc฀ dcvclopmcnt฀ ol฀ ncw฀ arias.
47
฀ Compounding฀ thc฀
problcms฀ ol฀ rising฀ production฀ costs฀ and฀ intcnsc฀ compctition฀ was฀ thc฀
occasional฀ political฀ crisis฀ and฀ social฀ disturbancc,฀ such฀ as฀ thc฀ .µa¡฀
Mcrchant฀ Corps฀ incidcnt฀ in฀ Guangzhou฀ (a฀ clash฀ bctwccn฀ a฀ laction฀
ol฀ local฀ mcrchants฀ and฀ thc฀ cmcrgcnt฀ military฀ powcr฀ ol฀ Chiang฀ Kai
shck)฀and฀thc฀.µa¸a6฀gcncral฀strikc฀that฀paralyzcd฀thc฀8ritish฀colony฀
ol฀ Hong฀ Kong฀ lor฀ sixtccn฀ months.฀ Hcncc,฀ cvcn฀ bclorc฀ thc฀ nrst฀ sign฀
ol฀a฀major฀mcltdown฀ol฀thc฀thcatrc฀markct฀in฀South฀China฀at฀thc฀cnd฀
ol฀thc฀dccadc,฀a฀growing฀numbcr฀ol฀actors฀wcrc฀warm฀to฀thc฀idca฀ol฀
cngagcmcnt฀abroad.
48

฀ !t฀was฀not฀a฀coincidcncc฀thcn฀that฀thc฀carly฀.µacs฀markcd฀thc฀arrival฀
ol฀a฀growing฀contingcnt฀ol฀actors฀lrom฀South฀China.฀¡vidcncc฀lurthcr฀

47
฀ Lai฀and฀Huang,฀Yueju฀shi,฀¸a¡..

48
฀ Michacl฀ Tsin,฀ Nation,฀ Go.ernance,฀ and฀ Modernity฀ in฀ China:฀ Canton,฀ z,cc-z,:,฀ (Stanlord:฀
Stanlord฀ Univcrsity฀ Prcss,฀ .µµµ),฀ .c¸.c,฀ and฀ an฀ cxccrpt฀ lrom฀ Ðcng฀ Zhongxia's฀ classic฀
publishcd฀ in฀ .µ¸c,฀ Zhongguo฀ .higong฀ yundong฀ shi,฀ z,z,-z,:o฀ |A฀ History฀ ol฀ Chincsc฀ Tradc฀
Unionism|,฀in฀Ðavid฀Faurc,฀Society:฀Æ฀Documentary฀History฀of฀Hong฀Kong฀(Hong฀Kong:฀Hong฀
Kong฀Univcrsity฀Prcss,฀.µµ,),฀.66,¡.฀Thc฀lamous฀actor฀Pak฀Kcuk฀Ving฀mcntioncd฀thc฀strikc฀
ol฀.µa¸a6฀as฀his฀rcason฀lor฀going฀abroad.฀Scc฀Lcc฀Mcn,฀cd.,฀Yueju฀yishu฀dashi฀Bai฀Jurong฀|8ai฀
Jurong฀ Mastcr฀ Artist฀ ol฀ Cantoncsc฀ Òpcra|฀ (Guangzhou:฀ China฀ Ðramatist฀ Association,฀
Guangdong฀8ranch,฀.µµc),฀¸¸.
I\฀'1IIII'
,,

Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
indicatcs฀ thc฀ incrcascd฀ circulation฀ ol฀ thcsc฀ actors฀ through฀ dißcrcnt฀
ovcrscas฀localcs.฀!nstcad฀ol฀maintaining฀a฀stablc฀cast,฀as฀opcra฀companics฀
did฀in฀thc฀prcccding฀pcriod,฀thc฀troupcs฀ol฀thc฀.µacs฀adoptcd฀a฀dißcrcnt฀
modus฀opcrandi฀in฀that฀thcy฀rotatcd฀thcir฀kcy฀playcrs฀rcgularly฀through฀
thc฀thcatrc฀nctworks฀in฀ordcr฀to฀kccp฀thcir฀casts฀lrcsh฀and฀attractivc฀in฀
thc฀cycs฀ol฀thcir฀patrons.฀For฀instancc,฀during฀Chuk฀Min฀Òn's฀scason฀in฀
\ancouvcr฀in฀.µa¸a¡,฀morc฀than฀a฀dozcn฀playcrs฀tricklcd฀in฀onc฀or฀two฀
at฀a฀timc,฀whilc฀othcrs฀dcpartcd.
49
฀Anothcr฀cxamplc฀lrom฀\ancouvcr฀is฀
Ða฀Mo฀Toi:฀during฀its฀ycarlong฀scason฀in฀.µa,aî,฀as฀many฀as฀twcnty฀
ncw฀actors฀arrivcd฀and฀playcd฀lcading฀rolcs฀at฀dißcrcnt฀timcs.฀Among฀
thcm฀wcrc฀Kim฀Shan฀8ing฀and฀Sun฀Gui฀Fci฀(notc฀thc฀rclcrcncc฀to฀¯Kim฀
Shan"฀|lit.฀thc฀¯Gold฀Mountain",฀that฀is,฀thc฀Unitcd฀Statcs฀and฀Canada|฀
as฀part฀ol฀thc฀nrst฀actor's฀pscudonym.฀This฀was฀a฀naming฀practicc฀that฀
pcrlormcrs฀|cspccially฀malc฀pcrlormcrs|฀oltcn฀adoptcd฀and฀that฀lunctioncd฀
as฀a฀badgc฀ol฀cxpcricncc฀and฀honour).฀This฀couplc฀had฀pcrlormcd฀in฀thc฀
Mandarin฀Thcatrc฀in฀San฀Francisco฀in฀.µa¡a6,฀and,฀altcr฀a฀nvcmonth฀
stint฀in฀\ancouvcr,฀thcy฀lclt฀lor฀Ncw฀York,฀whcrc฀thcy฀spcnt฀ovcr฀a฀ycar฀
with฀Ving฀Ngai฀Shcung฀and฀its฀succcssor.
50
฀Thc฀cxpansion฀ol฀thc฀thcatrc฀
markct฀in฀thcsc฀thrcc฀Chincsc฀communitics฀in฀thc฀carly฀.µacs฀thus฀rcsultcd฀
in฀hcightcncd฀mobility฀among฀individual฀actors.฀
฀ Thc฀ goldcn฀ agc฀ ol฀ Chinatown฀ thcatrc฀ mcant฀ lucrativc฀ contracts,฀
particularly฀lor฀topnotch฀actors฀who,฀in฀thc฀past,฀had฀bccn฀rccruitcd฀
only฀with฀grcat฀dimculty.฀!ncrcasingly,฀thc฀.µacs฀saw฀wcll฀cstablishcd฀
actors฀parading฀across฀North฀Amcrican฀stagcs,฀and,฀unsurprisingly,฀thc฀
two฀ thcatrcs฀ in฀ San฀ Francisco฀ claimcd฀ thc฀ lion's฀ sharc.฀ An฀ cxccllcnt฀
cxamplc฀lrom฀this฀pcriod฀is฀Pak฀Kuck฀Ving.฀Vidcly฀acclaimcd฀as฀thc฀
lcading฀pcrlormcr฀ol฀thc฀rolc฀ol฀¯civil฀malc,"฀Pak฀was฀bascd฀at฀thc฀Grcat฀
China฀lrom฀Novcmbcr฀.µa¸฀to฀March฀.µa,.฀Anothcr฀outstanding฀actor฀
was฀thc฀ßamboyant฀Ma฀Scc฀Tscng,฀who,฀at฀a฀young฀agc,฀had฀launchcd฀
his฀carccr฀in฀8ritish฀Malaya฀and฀had฀clcctrincd฀thcatrcgocrs฀upon฀his฀
rcturn฀to฀Hong฀Kong฀and฀Guangzhou฀in฀.µa¡.฀Thc฀North฀Amcrican฀
host฀ lor฀ his฀ tour฀ lrom฀ .µ¸.฀ to฀ .µ¸¸฀ was฀ thc฀ Mandarin.
51
฀ Ðrawing฀ no฀

49
฀ Chinese฀Times,฀ac฀March฀.µa¸฀฀.6฀May฀.µa¡.

50
฀ Cantoncsc฀opcra฀playbills,฀a฀Ðcccmbcr฀.µa¡฀฀.µ฀January฀.µa6,฀box฀A,฀¡thnic฀Studics฀Library,฀
Univcrsity฀ol฀Calilornia,฀8crkclcy.฀Scc฀also฀Chinese฀Times,฀.a฀Scptcmbcr฀.µa,฀฀.¸฀Fcbruary฀
.µaî,฀Rao,฀¯Songs฀ol฀thc฀¡xclusion฀¡ra,"฀¡.µ.฀A฀Hong฀Kong฀scholar,฀Lcung฀Pui฀Kam,฀has฀
idcntincd฀thirtytwo฀playcrs฀(only฀two฀ol฀whom฀arc฀lcmalcs)฀bcaring฀thc฀titlc฀ol฀¯Kim฀Shan"฀
as฀part฀ol฀thcir฀pscudonyms.฀Scc฀Lcung,฀¯Yucju฀yanjiu"฀|A฀Study฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀Òpcra|฀(PhÐ฀
diss.,฀Univcrsity฀ol฀Hong฀Kong,฀.µîc),฀,c¸.

51
฀ Cantoncsc฀opcra฀playbills,฀boxcs฀Ð,฀¡,฀and฀G,฀¡thnic฀Studics฀Library,฀Univcrsity฀ol฀Cali
lornia,฀8crkclcy.฀Scc฀also฀Pak's฀biography฀by฀Lcc,฀Yueju฀yishu฀dashi฀Bai฀Jurong,฀¸¸î,฀bascd฀
on฀oral฀history.฀Òn฀Ma฀Scc฀Tscng,฀scc฀Shcn฀Ji,฀Ma฀Shi.eng฀de฀yishu฀shengya฀|Thc฀Artistic฀
Carccr฀ol฀Ma฀Shizcng|฀(Guangzhou:฀Guangdong฀Pcoplc's฀Prcss,฀.µ¸,),฀µ.µ.฀Prior฀to฀his฀trip฀
I\฀'1IIII'
,,

Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
lcss฀attcntion,฀and฀pcrhaps฀travclling฀cvcn฀morc฀widcly฀duc฀to฀popular฀
dcmand,฀wcrc฀a฀numbcr฀ol฀distinguishcd฀lcmalc฀actors.฀Chcung฀Suk฀
Kun,฀lor฀instancc,฀was฀hircd฀by฀Po฀Yu฀Ycc฀in฀\ancouvcr฀in฀.µ.î.µ,฀thc฀
Chinese฀Times฀put฀hcr฀twclvcmonth฀contract฀at฀s6,ccc.฀This฀amount฀
was฀ dwarlcd฀ by฀ thc฀ oßcr฀ shc฀ rcccivcd฀ lrom฀ thc฀ Mandarin฀ six฀ ycars฀
latcr,฀allcgcdly฀an฀annual฀salary฀ol฀s.,,ccc.฀Ðubbcd฀by฀a฀local฀magazinc฀
thc฀¯Mary฀Picklord฀ol฀southcrn฀China,"฀Chcung฀spcnt฀thc฀bulk฀ol฀hcr฀
sojourn฀in฀San฀Francisco,฀taking฀occasional฀road฀trips฀to฀Los฀Angclcs฀
and฀making฀a฀bricl฀visit฀to฀Ncw฀York฀City.
52
III฀II!\฀\í^IA!Y฀A!I฀
1II฀\IAIII!\I฀íI฀^A!A\I!\฀
1IA!'!A1Ií!AI฀\II!A1í\!฀1IIA1II
Lcst฀ wc฀ assumc฀ that฀ thc฀ transnational฀ Chinatown฀ thcatrc฀ simply฀
thrivcd฀ on฀ its฀ own,฀ thc฀ short฀ history฀ ol฀ thc฀ Kuc฀ Hing฀ Company฀
brings฀to฀light฀thc฀challcngcs฀ol฀managing฀a฀busincss฀that฀hingcd฀on฀
longdistancc฀mobility฀and฀communication.฀Kuc฀Hing฀was฀sct฀up฀in฀
January฀.µa¸฀by฀a฀group฀ol฀Chinatown฀mcrchants฀in฀8ritish฀Columbia.฀
Fortynvc฀sharcholdcrs,฀twcntytwo฀ol฀whom฀had฀cach฀contributcd฀sa¸c฀
or฀ morc,฀ sat฀ on฀ thc฀ board฀ ol฀ dircctors.฀ Thc฀ majority฀ ol฀ thc฀ invcstors฀
wcrc฀lrom฀\ancouvcr,฀including฀thc฀cldcrly฀Yip฀Sang,฀who฀was฀cvcry฀
bit฀as฀succcsslul฀and฀wcalthy฀as฀was฀Chang฀Toy,฀and฀two฀ol฀his฀sons,฀
Yip฀Kcw฀Mow฀and฀Yip฀Kcw฀Him.฀Also฀involvcd฀wcrc฀somc฀upand
coming฀ Chinatown฀ mcrchants฀ ol฀ thc฀ Yip฀ brothcrs'฀ gcncration,฀ likc฀
Lcc฀ 8ick,฀ whosc฀ Foo฀ Hung฀ Company฀ at฀ .c,฀ ¡ast฀ Pcndcr฀ Strcct฀ is฀
idcntincd฀in฀various฀documcnts฀as฀thc฀hcadquartcrs฀ol฀Kuc฀Hing,฀and฀
Vong฀Ycc฀Chun฀(alias฀Vong฀Òw),฀a฀Chincsc฀agcnt฀at฀thc฀Royal฀8ank.฀
Rcprcscnting฀\ictoria's฀Chinatown฀was฀a฀small฀contingcnt,฀including฀
Lim฀8ang฀(ol฀thc฀Gim฀Fook฀Yucn฀Ricc฀Mills)฀and฀Chan฀Hornc.฀8oth฀
thcsc฀mcn฀wcrc฀major฀sharcholdcrs฀and฀wcrc฀activcly฀involvcd฀in฀thc฀
aßairs฀ol฀thc฀thcatrc฀company.
53

to฀thc฀Unitcd฀Statcs,฀Ma฀had฀put฀togcthcr฀a฀small฀pamphlct฀cntitlcd฀Qianli฀.huangyou฀ji฀|A฀
Collcction฀ol฀¡ssays฀Publishcd฀on฀thc฀Òccasion฀ol฀This฀ThousandMilc฀Journcy|฀(Hong฀
Kong:฀Ðong฀Ya,฀n.d.).฀

52
฀ Chinese฀ Times,฀ a.฀ January฀ .µ.î,฀ Franklin฀ Clark,฀ ¯'Scat฀ Ðown฀ Front! '฀ Sincc฀ Vomcn฀ Havc฀
Appcarcd฀ on฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀ Stagc,฀ Chinatown's฀ Thcatcrs฀ arc฀ 8ooming,"฀ Sunset฀ Maga.ine,฀
April฀.µa¸,฀¸¸,฀¸¡.฀Thcsc฀monctary฀ngurcs฀oßcrcd฀to฀thc฀mcdia฀by฀intcrcstcd฀partics฀should฀
bc฀vicwcd฀with฀caution.฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀playbills,฀a฀Ðcccmbcr฀.µa¡฀฀µ฀May฀.µa6,฀box฀A,฀
¡thnic฀Studics฀Library,฀Univcrsity฀ol฀Calilornia,฀8crkclcy.฀

53
฀ ¯Kuc฀Hing฀Company's฀Sharc฀Ccrtincatcs,"฀in฀xncv~,฀nlc฀a.฀
I\฀'1IIII'
,o
,,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
฀ Kuc฀Hing's฀articlcs฀ol฀association,฀nrst฀nlcd฀with฀thc฀8C฀Rcgistrar฀
ol฀Joint฀Stock฀Companics฀in฀January฀.µa¸฀and฀thcn฀rcviscd฀in฀May,฀givc฀
us฀an฀idca฀ol฀how฀this฀busincss฀was฀conccivcd.
54
฀Thc฀company฀appcarcd฀
to฀bc฀bascd฀on฀a฀closcknit฀group,฀or฀at฀lcast฀it฀was฀intcndcd฀to฀bc.฀Kuc฀
Hing฀was฀a฀privatc฀company฀that฀had฀sac,ccc฀worth฀ol฀capital,฀which฀was฀
dividcd฀into฀lour฀hundrcd฀sharcs.฀Sharcholding฀was฀limitcd฀to,฀at฀most,฀
nlty฀pcoplc.฀!l฀a฀mcmbcr฀wantcd฀to฀translcr฀his฀sharc(s),฀or฀liquidatc฀
his฀invcstmcnt,฀thcn฀hc฀had฀nrst฀to฀oßcr฀it฀to฀thc฀currcnt฀sharcholdcrs.฀
!n฀any฀cvcnt,฀thc฀board฀ol฀dircctors฀had฀thc฀nnal฀authority฀to฀approvc฀
thc฀salc.฀!n฀thc฀samc฀spirit,฀additional฀lunding฀or฀bond฀moncy฀was฀to฀
bc฀raiscd฀intcrnally฀bclorc฀anyonc฀could฀rcsort฀to฀a฀bank฀or฀any฀othcr฀
outsidc฀sourcc.฀Though฀thc฀dctails฀arc฀unavailablc,฀thcsc฀stipulations฀
probably฀ sprang฀ lrom฀ thc฀ sharply฀ drawn,฀ kinshipbascd,฀ parochial฀
divisions฀and฀lactional฀politics฀ol฀Chinatown.
55
฀ Thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀was฀lormcd฀lor฀thc฀purposc฀ol฀cngaging฀
Cantoncsc฀opcra฀troupcs฀lrom฀¯Tang฀Shan"฀to฀pcrlorm฀in฀\ancouvcr฀
and฀ \ictoria,฀ and฀ possibly฀ clscwhcrc,฀ subjcct฀ to฀ thc฀ approval฀ ol฀ thc฀
dircctors.฀Thc฀rcvisions฀adoptcd฀in฀May฀contain฀an฀intcrcsting฀scction฀
conccrning฀thc฀managcmcnt฀ol฀a฀Honolulu฀oßshoot.฀Prcsumably,฀thc฀
company฀ had฀ dcvclopcd฀ good฀ contacts฀ in฀ Honolulu,฀ which฀ lcd฀ it฀ to฀
dccidc฀not฀only฀to฀scnd฀a฀troupc฀thcrc฀but฀also฀to฀run฀and฀staß฀a฀thcatrc฀
housc.฀According฀to฀thc฀rcviscd฀articlcs,฀a฀managcmcnt฀tcam฀ol฀thrcc฀
lrom฀thc฀homc฀omcc฀was฀to฀ovcrscc฀thc฀cxtcnsion฀ol฀thc฀company฀in฀
Hawaii.฀ As฀ a฀ guarantcc,฀ cach฀ cxpatriatc฀ was฀ rcquircd฀ to฀ own฀ s¸,ccc฀
worth฀ ol฀ rcal฀ cstatc,฀ and฀ thcir฀ oncycar฀ appointmcnt฀ was฀ rcncwablc฀
at฀thc฀discrction฀ol฀thc฀board.฀Thc฀staß฀was฀lurthcr฀instructcd฀to฀nlc฀
daily฀busincss฀rcports฀with฀\ancouvcr฀by฀rcgular฀mail฀and฀to฀kccp,฀at฀
most,฀sa,ccc฀on฀hand,฀thc฀rcst฀to฀bc฀rcmittcd฀to฀thc฀homc฀omcc.
56
฀As฀
wc฀shall฀scc,฀this฀longdistancc฀crossbordcr฀projcct฀would฀occupy฀all฀
thc฀attcntion฀ol฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀and,฀thc฀abovc฀prccautionary฀
mcasurcs฀ notwithstanding,฀ problcms฀ rcpcatcdly฀ thrcatcncd฀ to฀ dcrail฀
thc฀projcct.฀
฀ 8clorc฀wc฀unvcil฀this฀particular฀saga,฀it฀is฀lair฀to฀say฀that฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀
Company฀lookcd฀poiscd฀to฀takc฀advantagc฀ol฀thc฀busincss฀opportunity฀
prcscntcd฀ by฀ transnational฀ Chinatown฀ thcatrc.฀ Rcscarch฀ nndings฀

54
฀ 8oth฀documcnts฀arc฀availablc฀in฀xnunc.

55
฀ Thc฀individuals฀involvcd฀in฀Kuc฀Hing฀wcrc฀gcncrally฀aligncd฀with฀thc฀Guomindang฀laction฀
within฀Chinatown.฀For฀thc฀rivalry฀bctwccn฀thc฀Chincsc฀Frccmasons฀and฀thc฀Guomindang฀
within฀thc฀contcxt฀ol฀Chincsc฀organizational฀activitics,฀scc฀Vickbcrg,฀From฀China฀to฀Canada,฀
.c..¡,฀.¸,6î.฀

56
฀ ¯Kuc฀Hing฀Company,฀Articlcs฀ol฀Association,฀May฀.µa¸,"฀in฀xnunc.
I\฀'1IIII'
,o
,,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
comparablc฀ to฀ Paul฀ Ycc's฀ on฀ thc฀ Sam฀ Kcc฀ Company฀ arc฀ unavailablc฀
lor฀ any฀ ol฀ thc฀ major฀ busincss฀ partncrs฀ ol฀ thc฀ Kuc฀ Hing฀ Company.฀
Howcvcr,฀ somc฀ ol฀ thc฀ activitics฀ undcrtakcn฀ by฀ thc฀ company฀ lcavc฀
no฀ doubt฀ that฀ it฀ was฀ compriscd฀ ol฀ a฀ rcsourcclul฀ and฀ capablc฀ group฀
ol฀ Chinatown฀ mcrchants฀ with฀ cxtcnsivc฀ conncctions.฀ For฀ instancc,฀
likc฀thc฀Ving฀Hong฀Lin฀Thcatrc฀Company,฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀
had฀ its฀ own฀ agcnts฀ in฀ Hong฀ Kong฀ whosc฀ task฀ was฀ to฀ sign฀ up฀ actors.฀
!ts฀ corrcspondcncc฀ contains฀ busincss฀ intclligcncc฀ scnt฀ lrom฀ Scattlc,฀
San฀ Francisco,฀ Vashington,฀ ÐC,฀ and,฀ ol฀ coursc,฀ Honolulu.฀ Scattlc,฀
as฀a฀major฀point฀ol฀arrival฀and฀dcparturc฀lor฀travclling฀actors,฀scrvcd฀
Kuc฀ Hing฀ particularly฀ wcll฀ with฀ rcgard฀ to฀ gathcring฀ inlormation฀ on฀
troupc฀activitics฀and฀movcmcnts.฀Thc฀company฀rctaincd฀thc฀scrvicc฀ol฀
a฀Chincsc฀agcnt฀in฀Scattlc,฀whosc฀rcsponsibilitics฀includcd฀arranging฀
local฀pcrlormanccs฀lor฀thc฀troupc฀intransit,฀working฀with฀immigration฀
attorncys฀to฀rcsolvc฀lcgal฀glitchcs,฀and฀contacting฀dcparting฀actors฀to฀
scc฀ whcthcr฀ thcy฀ wcrc฀ intcrcstcd฀ in฀ a฀ shorttcrm฀ cngagcmcnt฀ with฀
Kuc฀ Hing.
57
฀ Thc฀ cthnic฀ nctworks฀ dcploycd฀ wcrc฀ vcry฀ broad,฀ as฀ was฀
illustratcd฀on฀onc฀occasion฀whcn฀a฀Chincsc฀cook฀working฀on฀a฀coastal฀
lincr฀ running฀ bctwccn฀ \ancouvcr฀ and฀ Scattlc฀ was฀ askcd฀ to฀ couricr฀
company฀ documcnts.
58
฀ Thc฀ Kuc฀ Hing฀ Company฀ was฀ also฀ in฀ contact฀
with฀its฀countcrparts฀in฀thc฀Unitcd฀Statcs,฀a฀rclationship฀that,฀although฀
markcd฀by฀somc฀collaboration,฀was฀mainly฀compctitivc.฀!n฀thc฀spring฀ol฀
.µa¡,฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀ncgotiatcd฀with฀thc฀Ying฀Mci฀Lucn฀Hop฀
Company฀in฀San฀Francisco฀about฀lurthcring฀thcir฀coopcration,฀including฀
swapping฀actors,฀whilc฀simultancously฀prcparing฀lor฀a฀contincntal฀tour฀
by฀its฀Honolulubascd฀crcws.฀Nccdlcss฀to฀say,฀thc฀arrangcmcnt,฀along฀
with฀ thc฀ planncd฀ itincrary,฀ was฀ kcpt฀ lrom฀ Ying฀ Mci฀ Lcun฀ Hop฀ and฀
othcr฀local฀compctitors.
59
฀Latcr฀in฀thc฀summcr฀Kuc฀Hing฀clandcstincly฀
approachcd฀an฀actrcss฀undcr฀contract฀with฀Ying฀Mci฀Lcun฀Hop.฀Vhcn฀
thc฀San฀Francisco฀company฀lound฀out฀about฀this,฀its฀managing฀dircctor฀
scnt฀a฀strongly฀wordcd฀lcttcr฀to฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company,฀stating฀that฀it฀
should฀havc฀nrst฀rcqucstcd฀thc฀right฀to฀contact฀thc฀playcr฀as฀its฀ovcrturc฀
now฀aßordcd฀hcr฀lcvcragc฀to฀bargain฀lor฀a฀biggcr฀contract.
60

57
฀ Scc฀¯Kuc฀Hing฀Company,฀Corrcspondcnccs,"฀in฀xncv~,฀nlc฀.,฀covcring฀mainly฀thc฀pcriod฀
JuncAugust฀.µa¸.฀Anothcr฀sct฀ol฀lcttcrs฀and฀tclcgrams฀lrom฀August฀.µa¸฀to฀July฀ol฀.µa¡฀arc฀
availablc฀in฀xnunc.

58
฀ Lim฀8ang฀to฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.,฀tclcgram,฀aî฀Junc฀.µa¸,฀in฀xncv~,฀nlc฀..

59
฀ Corrcspondcnccs฀ on฀ this฀ busincss฀ movc฀ bctwccn฀ a6฀ January฀ and฀ a,฀ Fcbruary฀ .µa¡,฀ in฀
xnunc.฀

60
฀ Ying฀Mci฀Lucn฀Hop฀Co.฀to฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.,฀lcttcr,฀¸.฀May฀.µa¡,฀in฀xnunc.
I\฀'1IIII'
,8
,,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
฀ ฀!n฀its฀carly฀days฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀sccmcd฀to฀run฀smoothly.฀
Vithin฀thrcc฀months฀altcr฀incorporation,฀thc฀Kwok฀Fung฀Lin฀Troupc฀
arrivcd฀ in฀ \ancouvcr฀ lrom฀ South฀ China฀ on฀ schcdulc฀ and฀ dcbutcd฀ at฀
thc฀ Sing฀ Ping฀ Thcatrc.฀ !n฀ thc฀ mcantimc,฀ thc฀ othcr฀ troupc฀ in฀ town,฀
Chuk฀Man฀Òn,฀staycd฀at฀thc฀oldcr฀lacility฀in฀Shanghai฀Allcy.
61
฀Ònc฀
can฀ imaginc฀ thc฀ smilc฀ on฀ thc฀ lacc฀ ol฀ thc฀ local฀ sharcholdcrs฀ as฀ thcy฀
ßashcd฀thcir฀scason's฀passcs฀and฀took฀thcir฀scats฀nightly฀at฀thc฀shows.฀
Littlc฀would฀thcy฀havc฀cxpcctcd฀thc฀troublcs฀awaiting฀thcm฀altcr฀thc฀
troupc฀nnishcd฀its฀last฀pcrlormancc฀and฀packcd฀its฀trunks฀lor฀Honolulu.฀
Thc฀lollowing฀day,฀Saturday,฀a¸฀Junc฀.µa¸,฀whcn฀thc฀group฀ol฀twcnty
thrcc฀ actors฀ sought฀ cntry฀ into฀ thc฀ Unitcd฀ Statcs฀ in฀ Scattlc,฀ thc฀ local฀
immigration฀omcials฀rcjcctcd฀thcir฀crcdcntials฀and฀dctaincd฀thcm฀lor฀
lurthcr฀invcstigation.฀
฀ Fcaring฀ hugc฀ nnancial฀ loss,฀ thc฀ Kuc฀ Hing฀ Company฀ at฀ oncc฀ dis
patchcd฀thc฀bilingual฀Lim฀8ang฀and฀two฀othcr฀dircctors฀to฀Scattlc.฀An฀
initial฀appcal฀was฀quickly฀dismisscd฀by฀lcdcral฀immigration฀omcials,฀
allcgcdly฀on฀thc฀grounds฀that฀thcrc฀wcrc฀alrcady฀thrcc฀othcr฀Chincsc฀
opcra฀troupcs฀in฀thc฀country฀(San฀Francisco,฀Los฀Angclcs,฀and฀8oston)฀
and฀ two฀ similar฀ applications฀ that฀ had฀ bccn฀ nlcd฀ lrom฀ San฀ Francisco฀
had฀bccn฀dcnicd.
62
฀Lim฀and฀his฀collcagucs,฀howcvcr,฀wcrc฀undctcrrcd,฀
and฀ thcir฀ rcscuc฀ cßorts฀ in฀ thc฀ lollowing฀ days฀ wcrc฀ twoprongcd.฀
First,฀thcy฀contactcd฀thc฀Chincsc฀Lcgation฀in฀Vashington฀undcr฀Ðr.฀
Allrcd฀ Szc฀ and฀ askcd฀ him฀ to฀ intcrvcnc.฀ Lim฀ also฀ insistcd฀ that฀ thc฀
homc฀ omcc฀ pctition฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀ diplomats฀ in฀ Canada฀ lor฀ support.฀
Sccond,฀thcy฀hircd฀Scattlc฀immigration฀attorncy฀Paul฀Houscr฀and฀his฀
Vashington,฀ ÐC,฀ associatc฀ Rogcr฀ Ò'Ðonncll฀ to฀ rcprcscnt฀ thc฀ Kuc฀
Hing฀Company.฀For฀two฀wccks฀tclcgrams฀wcnt฀back฀and฀lorth฀bctwccn฀
Scattlc฀and฀\ancouvcr฀฀at฀timcs฀morc฀than฀oncc฀a฀day฀฀addrcssing฀
lcgal฀stratcgics,฀discussing฀thc฀latcst฀dcvclopmcnt,฀and฀inquiring฀about฀
copics฀ol฀company฀documcnts฀to฀substantiatc฀nnancial฀sponsorship฀and฀
thc฀group฀mcmbcrs'฀status฀as฀bona฀ndc฀opcra฀pcrlormcrs.฀¡vcntually,฀
thc฀casc฀was฀dccidcd฀in฀lavour฀ol฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀at฀a฀lcdcral฀
rcvicw฀board฀hcaring.฀Òn฀.a฀July฀Lim฀8ang฀wircd฀a฀sixword฀mcssagc฀
to฀\ancouvcr:฀¯Troublc฀just฀ovcr฀wholc฀troupc฀landcd."
63
฀ This฀twcntyday฀ordcal฀is฀a฀rcmindcr฀that฀Chinatown฀thcatrc,฀likc฀
thc฀ rcst฀ ol฀ thc฀ immigrant฀ community,฀ was฀ subjcct฀ to฀ thc฀ suspicious฀
impulsc฀and฀vigilant฀scrutiny฀ol฀cxclusioncra฀immigration฀authoritics.฀

61
฀ Chinese฀Times,฀,฀April฀฀aa฀Junc฀.µa¸.

62
฀ Lim฀8ang฀to฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.,฀tclcgram,฀a,฀Junc฀.µa¸,฀in฀xncv~,฀nlc฀..

63
฀ Scc฀corrcspondcnccs฀lrom฀Junc฀a,฀to฀July฀.a,฀.µa¸,฀in฀xncv~,฀nlc฀..
I\฀'1IIII'
,8
,,
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
Many฀ ncldlcvcl฀ immigration฀ inspcctors฀ and฀ cxamincrs฀ wcrc฀ armcd฀
with฀ cthnoccntric฀ assumptions฀ about฀ racc,฀ gcndcr,฀ and฀ citizcnship,฀
thcy฀sharcd฀a฀widcsprcad฀bclicl฀that฀thc฀Chincsc฀madc฀libcral฀usc฀ol฀
lakc฀ documcnts฀ and฀ lalsincd฀ idcntitics,฀ and฀ thcy฀ could฀ wrcak฀ havoc฀
to฀thc฀thcatrc฀busincss฀at฀thc฀point฀ol฀nrst฀cncountcr.฀Thc฀succcsslul฀
rcscuc฀ol฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀lcnds฀support฀to฀rcccnt฀scholarship,฀
which฀ cmphasizcs฀ thc฀ agcncy฀ and฀ rcsourcclulncss฀ ol฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀
migrants฀ in฀ nghting฀ injusticc฀ and฀ bcttcring฀ thcir฀ conditions฀ undcr฀
cxclusion.
64
฀ Ncvcrthclcss,฀ onc฀ cannot฀ ovcrlook฀ what฀ this฀ cost฀ thc฀
Chincsc฀community฀in฀both฀nnancial฀and฀human฀tcrms.฀Thc฀incidcnt฀
rcvcalcd฀and฀cxaccrbatcd฀tcnsions฀within฀thc฀company.฀No฀sooncr฀had฀
Lim฀8ang฀and฀his฀two฀associatcs฀arrivcd฀in฀Scattlc฀than,฀in฀scparatc฀
communications฀ back฀ to฀ \ancouvcr,฀ thcy฀ bcgan฀ to฀ tradc฀ accusations฀
ol฀ incompctcncc.
65
฀ Not฀ to฀ bc฀ lorgottcn฀ is฀ thc฀ lrightlul฀ cxpcricncc฀ ol฀
thc฀dctainccs.฀As฀lar฀as฀!฀know,฀thc฀actors฀involvcd฀havc฀not฀lclt฀any฀
rccord฀ ol฀ what฀ happcncd.฀ Òthcrs฀ who,฀ in฀ oral฀ historics฀ or฀ mcmoirs,฀
havc฀rcminisccd฀about฀thcir฀dcalings฀with฀immigration฀typically฀rccall฀
thcir฀ill฀trcatmcnt฀and฀thcir฀indignation฀towards฀thc฀authoritics.
66
฀ So,฀altcr฀much฀dclay,฀thc฀Kwok฀Fung฀Lin฀Troupc฀nnally฀arrivcd฀in฀
Hawaii฀and฀bcgan฀its฀scason฀on฀a฀August฀.µa¸.฀For฀somc฀rcason,฀this฀
vcnturc฀continucd฀to฀bc฀a฀disappointmcnt฀riddlcd฀with฀human฀drama.฀
!n฀lcss฀than฀thrcc฀wccks,฀attcndancc฀droppcd฀prccipitously฀and฀tickct฀
salcs฀bccamc฀crratic,฀dcspitc฀thc฀arrival฀ol฀additional฀playcrs฀to฀boost฀
thc฀cast.฀Thc฀homc฀omcc฀soon฀turncd฀on฀thc฀local฀managcmcnt.฀!n฀a฀
string฀ol฀lcttcrs฀to฀thc฀board,฀thc฀oncc฀triumphant฀Lim฀8ang฀cxprcsscd฀
his฀conccrns฀ovcr฀thc฀dcclinc฀in฀incomc฀and฀qucstioncd฀thc฀plan฀to฀scnd฀
ovcr฀morc฀actors.฀Hc฀was฀particularly฀upsct฀with฀thc฀apparcnt฀lack฀ol฀
communication฀lrom฀thc฀local฀staß฀and฀thcir฀withholding฀ol฀thc฀surplus฀
lund.
67
฀8caring฀thc฀brunt฀ol฀Lim's฀accusations฀wcrc฀Low฀Chung฀and฀
Y.C.฀Lcong,฀two฀\ancouvcrbascd฀dircctors฀who฀had฀bccn฀appointcd฀to฀
cscort฀thc฀troupc฀and฀to฀ovcrscc฀thc฀busincss฀in฀Hawaii.฀!n฀rcsponsc,฀thc฀
lattcr฀blamcd฀scvcral฀actors฀lor฀bcing฀uncoopcrativc฀and฀troublcsomc.฀
Morc฀spccincally,฀thcy฀pointcd฀out฀that฀thc฀thcatrc฀housc฀was฀locatcd฀
in฀a฀vcry฀poor฀part฀ol฀town฀and฀that฀local฀scoundrcls฀had฀scvcral฀timcs฀
intcrruptcd฀pcrlormanccs,฀thus฀crcating฀bad฀publicity.฀Howcvcr,฀thcy฀

64
฀ Scc฀a฀most฀rcccnt฀cxamplc฀in฀¡rika฀Lcc,฀Æt฀Æmerica´s฀Gates:฀Chinese฀Immigration฀During฀the฀
Exclusion฀Era,฀z88:-z,,¸฀(Chapcl฀Hill:฀Univcrsity฀ol฀North฀Carolina฀Prcss,฀acc¸).

65
฀ !n฀a฀lcttcr฀to฀Kuc฀Hing's฀agcnt฀in฀Scattlc,฀Houscr฀chargcd฀Kuc฀Hing฀s¡.c฀lor฀his฀handling฀ol฀thc฀
casc.฀Paul฀Houscr฀to฀Vong฀Òn,฀.,฀Scptcmbcr฀.µa¸,฀in฀xnunc.฀Òn฀thc฀brcwing฀intcrnal฀conßict,฀
scc฀Y.C.฀Lcong฀and฀Lcong฀Kai฀Tip฀to฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.,฀lcttcr,฀.฀July฀.µa¸,฀in฀xncv~,฀nlc฀..

66
฀ For฀instancc,฀Suzhou฀Nu,฀¯Yucju฀zai฀Mciguo฀wangshi฀shiling,"฀a6c.

67
฀ Lim฀8ang฀to฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.,฀lcttcrs,฀a.,฀a,฀August฀and฀a฀Scptcmbcr฀.µa¸,฀in฀xnunc.
I\฀'1IIII'
¸c
¸z
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
did฀say฀that฀arrangcmcnts฀wcrc฀undcr฀way฀to฀movc฀to฀a฀morc฀dcsirablc฀
vcnuc.
68
฀Noncthclcss,฀dissatislaction฀with฀thc฀duo฀cscalatcd฀so฀rapidly฀
that฀ thc฀ board฀ grantcd฀ Lim฀ 8ang's฀ rcqucst฀ lor฀ powcr฀ ol฀ attorncy฀ so฀
that฀hc฀could฀undcrtakc฀an฀invcstigation฀in฀Hawaii.฀No฀clcar฀picturc฀
cmcrgcs.฀ Lcong฀ was฀ said฀ to฀ havc฀ arbitrarily฀ lowcrcd฀ admission฀ altcr฀
µ:cc฀PM,฀which฀was฀actually฀a฀common฀practicc฀among฀Chinatown฀
thcatrcs,฀its฀purposc฀bcing฀to฀draw฀a฀largcr฀audicncc,฀howcvcr,฀Lcong฀
apparcntly฀had฀donc฀this฀without฀thc฀board's฀conscnt.฀For฀Low's฀part,฀hc฀
admittcd฀to฀having฀spcnt฀much฀ol฀his฀timc฀starting฀a฀rcstaurant฀busincss,฀
and฀ this฀ rcndcrcd฀ him฀ liablc฀ to฀ thc฀ chargc฀ ol฀ ncgligcncc฀ (which฀ hc฀
dcnicd),฀but฀no฀cvidcncc฀surlaccd฀to฀support฀thc฀morc฀scrious฀allcgation฀
ol฀cmbczzlcmcnt.฀!n฀thc฀cnd,฀both฀mcn฀wcrc฀rclcascd฀and฀ncw฀dircctors฀
arrivcd฀to฀takc฀ovcr฀thc฀managcmcnt.
69
฀ !t฀ was฀ in฀ thc฀ altcrmath฀ ol฀ such฀ uphcaval฀ that฀ thc฀ Kuc฀ Hing฀
Company฀ attcmptcd฀ to฀ scnd฀ thc฀ Kwok฀ Fung฀ Lin฀ Troupc฀ on฀ a฀ tour฀
ol฀ major฀ Chinatowns฀ on฀ thc฀ mainland.฀ Thc฀ itincrary฀ was฀ to฀ includc฀
Scattlc,฀ Portland,฀ Los฀ Angclcs,฀ Chicago,฀ and฀ Ncw฀ York,฀ and฀ it฀ was฀
to฀ostcntatiously฀cxcludc฀San฀Francisco.฀Thc฀company's฀attorncy฀had฀
obtaincd฀pcrmission฀lrom฀immigration฀authoritics฀and฀thc฀managcmcnt฀
was฀in฀thc฀proccss฀ol฀ncgotiating฀with฀local฀thcatrc฀houscs฀whcn฀thc฀plan฀
lcll฀through฀duc฀to฀nnancial฀problcms.
70
฀Thc฀rcpcatcd฀sctbacks฀must฀havc฀
takcn฀a฀toll฀on฀thc฀moralc฀ol฀thc฀troupc฀as,฀in฀thc฀spring฀ol฀.µa¡,฀groups฀ol฀
actors฀dccidcd฀to฀opt฀out฀ol฀thcir฀contracts฀with฀thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company.฀
Adding฀insult฀to฀injury,฀all฀thirtccn฀actors฀involvcd฀joincd฀a฀rival฀thcatrc฀
in฀Honolulu.฀Thc฀dclcction฀had฀scrious฀nnancial฀and฀longtcrm฀busincss฀
conscqucnccs.฀ Should฀ thcsc฀ actors฀ rclusc฀ to฀ lcavc฀ thc฀ country฀ at฀ thc฀
cxpiration฀ ol฀ thcir฀ pcrmits,฀ thc฀ Kuc฀ Hing฀ Company,฀ as฀ thc฀ original฀
guarantor,฀ could฀ bc฀ lorccd฀ to฀ rclinquish฀ its฀ bond฀ moncy.฀ Morcovcr,฀
such฀an฀occurrcncc฀could฀havc฀so฀badly฀damagcd฀thc฀crcdibility฀ol฀thc฀
company฀with฀thc฀Amcrican฀and฀Canadian฀govcrnmcnts฀that฀any฀luturc฀
busincss฀plan฀would฀havc฀bccn฀put฀in฀jcopardy.฀Thc฀Kuc฀Hing฀Company฀
was฀nghting฀lor฀its฀survival฀whcn฀it฀instructcd฀Attorncy฀Paul฀Houscr฀to฀
bcgin฀lcgal฀procccdings฀to฀havc฀thc฀alorcmcntioncd฀actors฀dcportcd.
71


68
฀ Low฀Chung฀and฀Y.C.฀Lcong฀to฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.,฀lcttcr,฀.6฀Òctobcr฀.µa¸,฀in฀xnunc.

69
฀ Thc฀authorization฀to฀conduct฀thc฀invcstigation฀was฀givcn฀in฀Kuc฀Hing฀Co.฀to฀Lim฀8ang,฀
lcttcrs,฀.¸฀and฀.6฀Òctobcr฀.µa¸,฀in฀xnunc.฀Scc฀also฀thc฀amdavit฀signcd฀by฀thc฀dircctors฀on฀a,฀
Òctobcr฀.µa¸.฀No฀lormal฀indictmcnt฀or฀rcport฀can฀bc฀lound฀in฀thc฀cxisting฀rccords,฀and฀my฀
nndings฀arc฀bascd฀on฀various฀corrcspondcncc,฀all฀lrom฀thc฀samc฀nlc.฀Thc฀ncw฀managcmcnt฀
consistcd฀ol฀Ðavid฀Lcc,฀Vong฀Òw,฀and฀Chan฀Hornc.฀

70
฀ Scc฀rclcvant฀corrcspondcnccs,฀a6฀January฀through฀a,฀Fcbruary฀.µa¡,฀in฀xnunc.

71
฀ Thc฀nrst฀sign฀ol฀troublc฀appcarcd฀as฀carly฀as฀latc฀Ðcccmbcr.฀Kuc฀Hing฀tricd฀to฀havc฀an฀actor฀
by฀thc฀namc฀ol฀Fai฀Hong฀Quon฀dcportcd.฀Vhilc฀thc฀casc฀was฀pcnding,฀a฀dozcn฀othcr฀actors฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸c
¸z
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
!t฀is฀no฀coincidcncc฀that฀thc฀rccords฀cnd฀soon฀thcrcaltcr,฀lcaving฀us฀no฀
lurthcr฀tracc฀ol฀thc฀company.฀
\II!A1í\!฀1IIA1II฀1í฀1II฀
IVI฀íI฀1II฀IA\II\฀\AI
Vhilc฀ thc฀ Kuc฀ Hing฀ Company฀ may฀ havc฀ bccn฀ bankruptcd฀ by฀ its฀
Hawaiian฀ vcnturc,฀ thc฀ Cantoncsc฀ stagc฀ in฀ \ancouvcr฀ lcaturcd฀ at฀
lcast฀lour฀morc฀troupcs฀until฀thc฀carly฀.µ¸cs.฀Howcvcr,฀thc฀dclctcrious฀
cßccts฀ ol฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀ !mmigration฀ Act,฀ .µa¸,฀ and฀ thc฀ onsct฀ ol฀ thc฀
Grcat฀ Ðcprcssion฀ nnally฀ took฀ a฀ toll฀ on฀ thc฀ thcatrc฀ sccnc.฀ Altcr฀ thc฀
last฀ troupc฀ lclt฀ in฀ January฀ .µ¸¸,฀ thc฀ only฀ rcmaining฀ thcatrc฀ housc฀ in฀
Chinatown฀฀Sing฀Ping฀฀closcd฀its฀doors.฀Two฀ycars฀passcd฀bclorc฀it฀
was฀rcmodcllcd฀and฀rcnamcd฀¯thc฀Òricnt,"฀its฀only฀purposc฀bcing฀to฀
show฀movics.
72
฀!ndccd,฀as฀Yung฀Sai฀Shing฀argucs,฀altcr฀thc฀turn฀ol฀thc฀
ccntury฀thc฀advcnt฀ol฀thc฀gramophonc,฀radio,฀and฀sound฀movics฀ushcrcd฀
in฀a฀ncw฀dimcnsion฀ol฀aural฀and฀visual฀cntcrtainmcnt฀in฀urban฀China.฀
Thcsc฀modcrn฀mcdia฀hclpcd฀popularizc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra,฀but฀thcy฀also฀
undcrcut฀thc฀appcal฀ol฀thc฀stagc฀as฀its฀primary฀vcnuc.
73

฀ Morc฀important,฀thc฀downturn฀ol฀thc฀.µ¸cs฀cnvclopcd฀othcr฀Chincsc฀
communitics.฀Thc฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀thcatrc฀sccms฀to฀havc฀disappcarcd฀
lrom฀Ncw฀York฀City฀altcr฀.µ¸..฀!n฀San฀Francisco,฀thc฀two฀powcrhouscs฀
ol฀thc฀.µacs฀฀Grcat฀China฀and฀thc฀Mandarin฀฀strugglcd฀to฀stay฀aßoat.฀
Thc฀lormcr฀shut฀down฀in฀thc฀mid.µ¸cs฀and฀thc฀lattcr฀scrapcd฀by฀with฀
occasional฀ opcra฀ pcrlormanccs,฀ which฀ it฀ altcrnatcd฀ with฀ movics฀ and฀
varicty฀ shows.฀ Thc฀ contraction฀ ol฀ thc฀ transnational฀ thcatrc฀ markct฀
rcvcrscd฀thc฀trcnds฀ol฀thc฀.µacs,฀rcports฀on฀opcra฀pcrlormanccs฀wcrc฀
sporadic,฀and฀thc฀numbcr฀ol฀actors฀on฀thc฀road฀dwindlcd.฀For฀a฀pcriod฀
ol฀timc฀thc฀morc฀visiblc฀signs฀฀or,฀rathcr,฀audiblc฀sounds฀฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀
opcra฀in฀thc฀thrcc฀main฀North฀Amcrican฀Chincsc฀communitics฀camc฀
not฀lrom฀thc฀stagc฀but฀lrom฀thc฀halls฀ol฀musical฀socictics฀sct฀up฀by฀local฀
dccidcd฀to฀join฀thc฀dclcction.฀Scc฀rclcvant฀corrcspondcnccs฀in฀xnunc,฀cspccially฀Kuc฀Hing฀
Co.฀to฀Paul฀Houscr,฀lcttcr,฀.¸฀April฀.µa¡.฀

72
฀ Chinese฀ Times,฀ .¸฀ January฀ .µ¸¸฀ and฀ a฀ March฀ .µ¸¸.฀ Thc฀ architcctural฀ drawing฀ prcparcd฀ lor฀
thc฀altcration฀is฀availablc฀in฀thc฀City฀ol฀\ancouvcr฀Archivcs,฀job฀no.฀¸6¸,฀.µ¸¡,฀in฀Townlcy,฀
Mathcson฀and฀Partncrs฀londs,฀Add.฀Mss฀.¸µµ,฀µ.,F.

73
฀ Yung฀ Sai฀ Shing,฀ ¯Qingmo฀ minchu฀ dc฀ yucyuc฀ changpanyc฀ yu฀ Guangdong฀ quyi฀ (.µc¸.µ.¸)"฀
|Thc฀Gramophonc฀Rccord฀!ndustry฀at฀thc฀Turn฀ol฀thc฀Ccntury฀and฀Cantoncsc฀Musical฀Art|,฀
Zhongguo฀ .enhua฀ yanjiu.uo฀ xuebao฀ |Journal฀ ol฀ thc฀ Chincsc฀ Cultural฀ Rcscarch฀ !nstitutc|฀ ¡.฀
(acc.):฀ ¸..¸î,฀ and฀ ¯Kcji฀ yu฀ ganguan:฀ 'shcng฀ guang฀ hua฀ dian'฀ dui฀ jindai฀ Zhongguo฀ xiqu฀ dc฀
yinxiang"฀|Tcchnology฀and฀Scnsation:฀¯Sound,฀Light,฀Chcmistry,฀¡lcctricity"฀and฀Thcir฀!mpact฀
on฀Chincsc฀Thcatrc|,฀papcr฀prcscntcd฀at฀thc฀Symposium฀on฀Chincsc฀Thcatrc฀Pcrlormancc:฀
Past,฀Prcscnt฀and฀Futurc,฀Chincsc฀Univcrsity฀ol฀Hong฀Kong,฀¸c฀April฀฀a฀May฀acc¡.
I\฀'1IIII'
¸:
¸¸
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
lans฀and฀amatcur฀musicians.฀Thc฀most฀notablc฀among฀thcsc฀includc฀Jin฀
Vah฀Sing฀and฀Sing฀Kcw฀in฀\ancouvcr,฀Nam฀Chung฀in฀San฀Francisco,฀
and฀thc฀Chincsc฀Musical฀and฀Thcatrical฀Association฀in฀Ncw฀York.
74
฀ Thc฀ casc฀ ol฀ Jin฀ Vah฀ Sing฀ is฀ notcworthy฀ in฀ that,฀ in฀ thc฀ latc฀ .µ¸cs,฀
it฀brought฀lorth฀a฀rcvival฀ol฀Chincsc฀thcatrc฀in฀\ancouvcr.฀Thc฀group฀
startcd฀in฀.µ¸¡฀as฀a฀gathcring฀ol฀amatcurs฀who฀wcrc฀also฀mcmbcrs฀ol฀thc฀
Chincsc฀Frccmasons.฀Scnsing฀thc฀void฀lclt฀bchind฀by฀thc฀prolcssional฀
troupcs,฀Jin฀Vah฀Sing฀bcgan฀to฀prcscnt฀occasional฀public฀pcrlormanccs฀
in฀April฀.µ¸¸,฀but฀not฀as฀commcrcial฀thcatrc,฀rathcr,฀its฀plays฀wcrc฀stagcd฀
as฀ part฀ ol฀ such฀ community฀ cvcnts฀ as฀ annivcrsary฀ cclcbrations฀ put฀ on฀
by฀traditional฀organizations฀and฀lundraiscrs฀lor฀charitics฀and฀Chincsc฀
languagc฀ schools.฀ ¡ncouragcd฀ by฀ its฀ warm฀ rcccption,฀ Jin฀ Vah฀ Sing฀
gradually฀shiltcd฀gcar,฀invitcd฀prolcssional฀actors฀lrom฀South฀China,฀and฀
had฀its฀own฀mcmbcrs฀play฀along฀as฀a฀supporting฀cast.฀8y฀.µ¸î,฀Jin฀Vah฀
Sing฀had฀bccomc฀a฀dc฀lacto฀thcatrc฀busincss฀nrm.฀Undcr฀its฀sponsorship,฀
nvc฀opcra฀troupcs฀camc฀to฀\ancouvcr฀bclorc฀thc฀outbrcak฀ol฀thc฀Pacinc฀
Var.฀Thc฀days฀ol฀lulltimc฀nightly฀pcrlormancc฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀had฀
rcturncd฀to฀\ancouvcr's฀Chinatown฀lor฀onc฀last฀timc.฀Joining฀this฀cßort฀
was฀thc฀Sing฀Kcw฀Ðramatic฀Socicty,฀which฀was฀bascd฀in฀thc฀rcnovatcd฀
thcatrc฀housc฀in฀Shanghai฀Allcy.
75

฀ Thc฀rcsumption฀ol฀thc฀rcgular,฀prolcssional฀pcrlormancc฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀
opcra฀ shows฀ that฀ thc฀ undcrlying฀ intcrcst฀ in฀ thcatrc฀ in฀ \ancouvcr's฀
Chinatown฀ was฀ most฀ rcsilicnt.฀ !n฀ particular,฀ critical฀ support฀ lor฀ thc฀
thcatrc฀camc฀lrom฀Chinatown฀organizations.฀Ðuring฀thc฀initial,฀amatcur฀
phasc฀ol฀Jin฀Vah฀Sing,฀thc฀Chincsc฀Frccmasons฀and฀its฀amliatcs฀oßcrcd฀
nnancial฀ and฀ moral฀ support,฀ publicity฀ in฀ its฀ mouthpiccc฀ thc฀ Chinese฀
Times,฀ and฀ opportunitics฀ lor฀ pcrlormanccs.฀ This฀ alignmcnt฀ with฀ thc฀
partisan฀politics฀and฀powcr฀structurc฀ol฀Chinatown฀rcmaincd฀stcadlast฀
in฀thc฀cnsuing฀ycars฀and฀cnablcd฀thc฀Cantoncsc฀stagc฀to฀bccomc฀a฀vchiclc฀
ol฀ popular฀ mobilization฀ and฀ community฀ activism฀ altcr฀ thc฀ Japancsc฀
aggrcssion฀cscalatcd฀into฀a฀lullscalc฀war฀in฀China฀in฀thc฀summcr฀ol฀.µ¸,.฀
Ònc฀is฀tcmptcd฀to฀arguc฀that฀at฀no฀othcr฀timc฀had฀thc฀thcatrc฀bccn฀so฀
dccply฀cnmcshcd฀in฀thc฀labric฀ol฀Chinatown฀politics฀and฀public฀lilc.
76

74
฀ Òn฀Ncw฀York,฀scc฀8onncr,฀~i~s!฀!hat฀Brought฀Thee฀Hither?฀µ¸,฀and฀Ðuchcsnc,฀¯A฀Collcction's฀
Richcs."฀For฀San฀Francisco,฀rclcr฀to฀Riddlc,฀Flying฀Dragons,฀Flo.ing฀Streams,฀.¡µ¸î.฀Anothcr฀
musical฀socicty฀in฀\ancouvcr฀was฀Ching฀Von,฀which฀was฀loundcd฀in฀.µ¸¸,฀howcvcr,฀inlormation฀
on฀its฀activitics฀is฀minimal.฀¡mail฀corrcspondcncc฀lrom฀¡lizabcth฀Johnson,฀a.฀April฀acc¸.

75
฀ Chinese฀Times,฀various฀issucs฀lrom฀April฀ol฀.µ¸¸฀to฀thc฀cnd฀ol฀.µ¡..

76
฀ Thc฀vibrancy฀ol฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀in฀thc฀latc฀.µ¸cs฀and฀during฀thc฀war฀may฀havc฀anothcr฀
intcrcsting฀dimcnsion:฀thc฀incrcasing฀prcscncc฀ol฀womcn฀and฀childrcn฀among฀thc฀audicncc.฀
Vayson฀Choy฀and฀authors฀such฀as฀Jadc฀Snow฀Vong฀and฀Ðcnisc฀Chong฀havc฀all฀givcn฀such฀
imprcssion฀ in฀ thcir฀ writings.฀ Vhcthcr฀ thc฀ thcatrc฀ indccd฀ providcd฀ an฀ avcnuc฀ by฀ which฀
I\฀'1IIII'
¸:
¸¸
Chinato.n฀Theatre฀as฀Transnational฀Business
฀ From฀ thc฀ limitcd฀ cxtant฀ accounts,฀ thc฀ Cantoncsc฀ stagc฀ in฀ San฀
Francisco฀ and฀ Ncw฀ York฀ City฀ both฀ witncsscd฀ a฀ rcncwal฀ ol฀ sorts฀ at฀
thc฀cnd฀ol฀thc฀.µ¸cs.฀!t฀is฀likcly฀that฀thc฀political฀instability฀in฀China฀
continucd฀to฀spur฀actors฀to฀go฀ovcrscas฀both฀bclorc฀and฀altcr฀thc฀outbrcak฀
ol฀thc฀antiJapancsc฀war,฀and฀latcr,฀altcr฀Pcarl฀Harbor฀and฀thc฀lall฀ol฀
Hong฀Kong฀in฀Ðcccmbcr฀.µ¡.,฀somc฀actors฀wcrc฀rcportcdly฀strandcd฀in฀
thc฀Unitcd฀Statcs฀and฀Canada.
77
฀Howcvcr,฀thc฀troupcs฀no฀longcr฀camc฀
and฀lclt฀as฀thcy฀had฀during฀thc฀prcccding฀pcriod.฀Nor฀did฀thc฀actors฀
travcl฀as฀much,฀circulating฀through฀thc฀stagcs฀ol฀dißcrcnt฀Chinatowns.฀
Thc฀troupcs฀that฀pcrlormcd฀in฀\ancouvcr฀all฀lcaturcd฀a฀stablc฀cast,฀and฀
thc฀actors฀no฀longcr฀rotatcd฀lrom฀onc฀localc฀to฀anothcr.฀Thc฀goldcn฀agc฀
ol฀transnational฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀had฀passcd.
฀ !n฀ conclusion,฀ Chinatown฀ thcatrc฀ ol฀ thc฀ cxclusion฀ cra฀ was฀ not฀ a฀
marginal฀institution,฀dcspitc฀its฀long฀ncglcct฀by฀scholars.฀Ncw฀cvidcncc฀
lrom฀ \ancouvcr's฀ Chinatown฀ dcmonstratcs฀ that฀ highly฀ succcsslul฀
and฀ wcalthy฀ mcrchants฀ wcrc฀ involvcd฀ in฀ thc฀ busincss฀ ol฀ providing฀
aßordablc฀cntcrtainmcnt฀to฀thcir฀own฀pcoplc.฀As฀is฀shown฀in฀thc฀casc฀
ol฀ Ving฀ Hong฀ Lin฀ and฀ Kuc฀ Hing,฀ Chinatown฀ mcrchants฀ lurnishcd฀
thc฀ capital,฀ thc฀ managcrial฀ cxpcricnccs,฀ and฀ thc฀ busincss฀ nctworks฀
that฀ allowcd฀ thcsc฀ companics฀ to฀ bring฀ in฀ opcra฀ troupcs฀ lrom฀ South฀
China.฀Ðißcrcnt฀aspccts฀ol฀this฀busincss฀opcration฀oßcr฀a฀compclling฀
illustration฀ol฀Chincsc฀transnationalism,฀lrom฀thc฀rccruitmcnt฀ol฀thc฀
actors฀lrom฀Hong฀Kong฀and฀thc฀dctails฀ol฀thcir฀compcnsation฀to฀thcir฀
ncgotiatcd฀cntry฀into฀Canada฀and฀thc฀Unitcd฀Statcs฀and฀thcir฀subscqucnt฀
itincrary,฀which฀touchcd฀thc฀principal฀hubs฀and฀kcy฀scttlcmcnts฀ol฀thc฀
immigrant฀Chincsc.฀8ascd฀on฀ncwly฀uncovcrcd฀busincss฀rccords,฀as฀wcll฀
as฀sourccs฀such฀as฀thcatrc฀advcrtiscmcnts฀and฀playbills,฀!฀arguc฀that฀thc฀
transnational฀ thcatrc฀ ol฀ Chinatown฀ rcachcd฀ its฀ high฀ tidc฀ during฀ thc฀
.µacs,฀whcn฀opcra฀troupcs฀and฀individual฀actors฀circulatcd฀widcly฀and฀
routincly฀ to฀ pcrlorm฀ lor฀ thcir฀ countrypcoplc฀ in฀ various฀ localcs.฀ Thc฀
historical฀ invisibility฀ ol฀ ovcrscas฀ Cantoncsc฀ opcra฀ has฀ to฀ do,฀ in฀ part,฀
with฀just฀such฀mobility,฀and฀taking฀account฀ol฀this฀mobility,฀as฀!฀havc฀
attcmptcd฀to฀do฀in฀this฀articlc,฀is฀csscntial฀to฀any฀cßort฀to฀undcrstand฀
thc฀history฀ol฀Chinatown฀thcatrc.฀
฀ ฀Thc฀transnational฀mobility฀ol฀Cantoncsc฀opcra฀was฀a฀vital฀componcnt฀
ol฀immigrant฀agcncy฀among฀thc฀Chincsc.฀!฀havc฀oßcrcd฀cxamplcs฀ol฀
thc฀ ups฀ and฀ downs฀ ol฀ Chinatown฀ thcatrc,฀ thc฀ hurdlcs฀ poscd฀ by฀ thc฀
immigrant฀ womcn฀ could฀ cntcr฀ Chinatown's฀ public฀ spacc,฀ and฀ what฀ rolcs฀ thc฀ stagc฀ playcd฀
in฀community฀building฀and฀mobilization,฀will฀bc฀among฀thc฀issucs฀cxplorcd฀in฀my฀coming฀
work฀on฀thc฀thcatrc฀and฀cultural฀politics฀ol฀Chinatown.

77
฀ Scc฀Notc฀,¡.
I\฀'1IIII'
¸,
¸¸ nc฀s:uuivs,฀no.฀.¡î,฀Vintcr฀acc¸/c6

cxclusionary฀practiccs฀ol฀statc฀authoritics,฀thc฀hazards฀ol฀crossbordcr฀
coopcration฀ and฀ longdistancc฀ managcmcnt,฀ and฀ thc฀ cßorts฀ ol฀
Chincsc฀ mcrchants฀ to฀ ovcrcomc฀ thcsc฀ barricrs.฀ Not฀ to฀ bc฀ lorgottcn฀
arc฀thc฀pcrsonal฀cxpcricnccs฀ol฀thc฀touring฀actors,฀cvcn฀though฀thcir฀
publishcd฀rcminisccnccs฀arc฀lcw฀and฀thc฀opportunity฀to฀intcrvicw฀thcm฀
has฀passcd.฀
฀ Finally,฀in฀making฀thc฀casc฀lor฀Chinatown฀thcatrc฀as฀a฀quintcsscntial฀
transnational฀opcration,฀!฀oßcr฀nndings฀that฀hclp฀to฀placc฀thc฀trans
national฀practiccs฀ol฀immigrant฀Chincsc฀in฀historical฀pcrspcctivc.฀This฀
prcliminary฀mapping฀ol฀a฀mobilc฀thcatrc฀suggcsts฀that฀thosc฀who฀writc฀
about฀ this฀ transnational฀ history฀ should฀ changc฀ thcir฀ cmphasis.฀ Thc฀
carlicr฀gcncration฀ol฀historical฀scholarly฀writing฀on฀thc฀Chincsc฀in฀North฀
Amcrica฀(and฀clscwhcrc฀in฀thc฀diaspora)฀manilcsts฀an฀insular฀quality฀in฀
that฀it฀locuscs฀on฀singlc฀migrant฀scttlcmcnts฀or฀communitics.฀Thc฀risc฀
ol฀intcrcst฀in฀transnationalism฀has฀shiltcd฀this฀paradigm,฀cnabling฀us฀
to฀takc฀into฀account฀thc฀ongoing฀multistrandcd฀rclationships฀bctwccn฀
thc฀migrants฀and฀thcir฀nativc฀homcs.฀¡vidcntly,฀thc฀conncctions฀lorgcd฀
by฀thc฀Chincsc฀in฀thc฀coursc฀ol฀thcir฀dispcrsal฀cnablcd฀thcm฀to฀cngagc฀
in฀multilatcral฀nctworking฀and฀transbordcr฀activitics.฀Thc฀history฀ol฀
thc฀ diaspora฀ involvcs฀ not฀ simply฀ thc฀ rcsilicnt฀ tics฀ bctwccn฀ migrant฀
outposts฀ and฀ nativc฀ homc฀ but฀ also฀ thc฀ myriad฀ conncctions฀ bctwccn฀
thosc฀outposts.

26

BC STUDIES

absorbing narrative and masterly embellishment of Chinatown theatre became the backdrop to a piece of deeply unsettling personal history. 1 Not to belittle Choy's personal anguish at his shocking discovery, the mystery behind his biological parents reminds us of the large void in our understanding of Chinatown theatre in North America during the exclusion era. Despite the Cantonese opera's once commanding popularity as a favourite entertainment for Chinatown residents, the subject continues to elude in-depth historical analysis. The only partial exception is Ronald Riddle's pioneering and sympathetic study of musical life among the Chinese in San Francisco, which contains valuable information on opera theatres, gleaned from tourist writings and news reports; however, his reliance on English-language sources has limited his perspective to that of an outside gaze.2 The gap in serious scholarship is glaring in light of the attention concerned scholars have given to Chinese migrant communities' myriad ethnic institutions - such as newspapers, language schools, and the ever-evolving world of voluntary organizations - all of which are being scrutinized in order to delineate the process of immigrant adaptation, community formation, and the texture of social life. As far as Chinatown theatre is concerned, whereas novelists seem to be able to evoke its meanings and significance with regard to the early immigrant experience, historians seem to have little to offer beyond a general outline." An encouraging recent development involves new research materials and their gradual incorporation into historical work. Yong Chen's study of Chinese San Francisco, in which he argues for the importance of
1

2

3

Wayson Choy, Paper Shadows: A Memoir of a Past Lost and Found (N ew York: Penguin Group, 1999),41- 56, 28r. Ronald Riddle, Flying Dragons, Flowing Streams: Music in the Life of San Francisco's Chinese (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1983).One source of particular importance to Riddle is a 38o-page typescript report by Peter Chu, Lois M. Foster, Nadia Lavrova, and Steven C. Moy entitled "Chinese Theatres in America," which was commissioned as part of the federal theatre project and was finished in 1936. he bulk of this document pertains to San T Francisco. Given the dearth of Chinese sources, the report derives its historical information largely from Western reportage, of which it says: "Most of our records of Chinese theatres in this city are grotesque colorations of fleeting visits by amused sight-seers, or occasional newspaper items forced into print by reason of indisputably news-valuable occurrences or a temporary paucity of subjects for reporting" (17-8). The document contains useful fieldwork observations regarding the theatre houses and stage practices of the mid-1930S. See the following two standard references on Chinese American and Chinese Canadian history: Him Mark Lai, Cong huaqiao dao huaren: ershi shiji Meiguo huaren shehui Jazhanshi [From Overseas Chinese to Ethnic Chinese: A History of Chinese American Society in the Twentieth Century] (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, 1992);and Edgar Wickberg, ed., From China to Canada: A History of the Chinese Communities in Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1982).Apart from Choy, other writers, such as Jade Snow Wong, Denise Chong, and Paul Yee, have also written about Chinatown theatre.

Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business

27

native language materials and draws on a collection of opera playbills from the 1920S in order to provide a brief analysis of the social and cultural functions of the theatre, is a case in point." The contributions of musicologist Nancy Rao represent even bolder steps, both empirically and conceptually. Through a careful reading of theatre advertisements in New York's Chinatown newspaper the Chinese Nationalist Daily, Rao offers a succinct account of the lively Cantonese stage in this important east coast Chinese community from the early 1920S to about 1930. She observes that, for too long, the lens of racial prejudice and the exclusionist impulse of the host society had rendered Chinatown theatre not just historically invisible but also inadmissible to mainstream American musical discourse. An especially intriguing moment - one that illustrates the cultural dynamics behind such invisibility - is the visit of the Peking opera superstar Mei Lanfang to the United States in early 1930. As Rao poignantly argues, New York highbrow society's fascination with Mei as a representative of the beauty and cultural essence of China's historical civilization only underscores its persistent disregard and dismissal of Chinatown's own musical tradition.l In my view, what makes the juxtaposition doubly interesting is the self-centring posture of Mei, who attempted to appropriate Chineseness for his art at the expense of other regional theatres. Hence, in the diaspora, the Cantonese opera much enjoyed by southern Chinese immigrants was relegated to the margins not once but twice." Deep-seated cultural prejudice on both sides of the Pacific has contributed to the neglect of Cantonese opera; however, to take another hint from the disappearance of Wayson Choy's father, an underlying difficulty in writing the history of the Cantonese opera overseas has to
4

5

6

Yong Chen, Chinese San Francisco, I850 - I943: A Trans- Pacific Community (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000),90 -5, 225-8. The collection of playbills was first gathered by Him Mark Lai and is now available at the Ethnic Studies Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Chen's use of the collection appears to be cursory, as indicated by his preliminary remarks. Wei Chi Poon, head librarian, has kindly given me access to the collection during three short research trips, all over holiday breaks, and permission to arrange the materials in some order. Nancy Yunhwa Rao, "Racial Essences and Historical Invisibility: Chinese Opera in New York, 1930," Cambridge OperaJournalu, 2 (2000): 135-62; and "Songs of the Exclusion Era: New York Chinatown's Opera Theaters in the 1920S," American Music 20, 4 (2002): 399 -444. On Mei Lanfang's US tour and his collaboration with scholar-dramatist Qj Rushan to articulate a larger cultural claim, see Joshua Goldstein, "Mei Lanfang and the Nationalization of Peking Opera, 1912-1930," Positions 702 (1999): 377-420. Such cultural hierarchy remains evident in Chinese scholarship, as is indicated in the following recent work by Xu Yaxiang, "Jindai Zhongguo xiban zai guowai de chuanbo" [The Activities of Chinese Opera Troupes Overseas in Modern Times] in 2002 liangan xiqu dazhan xueshu yantaohui lunwenji [Proceedings of the 2002 Cross-Straits Symposium on Chinese theatre] (Taiwan: Center of Traditional Art, 2003), 151-86.

See Isabelle Duchesne. British Columbia .26' Be STUDIES do with its transnational mobility. 57-60. I993). Opera on the Road: Traveling Opera Troupes in the United States. without any additional documentation.60 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. how their careers constantly converged and diverged. they were transients among transients.and by fleshing out the resulting itinerary with additional data . s In preparing for an exhibition of Cantonese opera costumes and theatrical paraphernalia owned by a musical society in New York's Chinatown. seven elaborate costumes in this collection are also stamped with the name of an opera troupe that once performed in Vancouver in I92I. as travelling entertainers performing among immigrants. and "Opera Costumes in Canada. how widely they traveled. Katherine Preston recalls encountering the same problem in her research on European travelling troupes operating in the ante-bellum United States: "Names pop up in secondary sources ." Arts of Asia 27 (I997): II2-25· 7 .can we begin to understand just how active these singers were. I825. Among these sources is an extensive run of theatre advertisements and related news items that appeared in the Chinatown newspaper the Chinese Times" The information contains the most complete record available of the Katherine Preston. However." By delving into sources in Vancouver." in Red Boat on the Canal: Cantonese Opera in New York Chinatown. 42. 9 Theatre advertisements and relevant news items in the Chinese Times have been extracted and copied from microfilms by Professor Huang Jinpei as part of a research effort to support a major exhibit entitled "A Rare Flower: A Century of Cantonese Opera in Canada. Only by accumulating such isolated bits of information . the exhibit (I993. and in such primary sources as playbills or music and theater periodicals."? With regard to studying Chinatown theatre. Duchesne (New York: Museum of Chinese in the Americas.this article seeks to tackle questions concerning the Cantonese opera's transnational mobility.22. For highlights of the exhibit. and how important their activities were in American life. "Cantonese Opera in its Canadian Context: The Contemporary Vitality of an Old Tradition." Organized by the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Isabelle Duchesne has come across evidence of "costume migration. how frequently they performed. 5I. Individual actors and entire opera troupes came and left. the task is rendered all the more difficult because of the relative paucity ofboth primary and secondary sources.sources that have only recently become available .for example in studies of the history of music or the theater in specific American cities.I (I996): 24-45." Some of the items acquired by the society before the Pacific War bear the stamps of their original makers in Guangzhou. Elizabeth Johnson kindly allowed me to duplicate a set of the Chinese Times materials during a research trip in 2000. the routes and means by which these items journeyed east remain a matter of speculation. Intriguingly. see Elizabeth Johnson.96) features the largest collection of Cantonese opera costumes in North America. ed. 1. "A Collection's Riches: Into the Fabric of a Community. 2000). Tracking their itineraries demands a multi-sited research effort to collect and collate the existing evidence. Connecting the dots in order to map out the performing circuits is easier said than done." Theatre Research in Canada 17. It is quite possible that this troupe initially imported these costumes into Canada as Duchesne suggests.

but I will wait for another occasion to delineate its integration into the socio-politicallife of Chinatown .F -'[. 1993). Hemmings.W. which offer an understanding of the internal workings of such transnational operations. file 3. Anselm Gerhard. The above sources predispose me to analyze Chinatown theatre as a business organization.l" The second consists almost entirely of internal correspondence that shows the logistical. and "Theatre Management . 6u. Add Mss n08. and legal difficulties of running a theatre business and how the company sought to address them. The Theater Industry in Nineteenth." Journal of Asian Studies 62. eds. fo1.Kue Hing Co. 3 (2003): 753-79· .9 actrvities of Cantonese opera troupes in Vancouver during the first half of the twentieth century. and miscellaneous items such as receipts. it is hard not to insert a comment or two on the theatre as a cultural institution.. respectively. University of British Columbia Library (hereafter cited as KHUBC). A New History of Early English Drama (New York: Columbia University Press. City of Vancouver Archives (hereafter cited as KHCVA).The collection of essays in] ohn Cox and David Scott Kastan.F The primary purpose of this article is to discern the transnational nature of Chinatown theatre by focusing on various facets of its operation. These records pertain to two theatre companies established by Chinatown merchants in Vancouver in 1916-18 and 1923-24. The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. eds. The findings concerning the performing itineraries of Cantonese opera.J. The first set contains details of incorporation. The records are deposited in two separate collections: "Kue Hing Company File regarding a Chinese Acting Troupe. 1998). information on ticket sales and payrolls.. The Urbanization of Opera: Music Theater in Paris in the I9th Century (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. for the purpose of bringing in opera troupes from South China.P Similar archival materials regarding the history of Cantonese opera have thus far not been found on either side of the Pacific.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business 2. several actor's contracts. Add MSS 571. fonds. Rare Books and Special Collections. Opera Production and Its Resources (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. John Rosselli.Century France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. A recent attempt to apply the latter perspective to the China field is] oshua Goldstein's "From Teahouse to Playhouse: Theaters as Social Texts in Early-Twentieth-Century China. Chung Collection." Sam Kee Papers. 1992). is a fine example of the social history approach. Ltd.a subject that deserves full treatment on its own." in Yip Family and Yip Sang Ltd. 1984). minutes of board meetings. Admittedly." in Yip Sang Family Series. and F. City of Vancouver Archives (hereafter cited as WHLTR). and the underlying business and social networks that supported such 10 11 12 "Wing Hong Lin Theatre Records. 566 -G-4.. The following studies of European operas from a business history perspective are inspiring models: Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli. om8. Even more valuable are the business records. financial. The data further allow us to document the circuits of touring actors and troupes by comparing notes with material that surfaced earlier (albeit in much lesser amounts) in the two major Chinese settlements in San Francisco and New York. 1997).

1898-1919 The first written account of Chinese theatre in Vancouver is similar to many of those furnished by Western tourists and reporters who had visited Chinese opera houses in San Francisco since the first performing troupe arrived from South China in 1852. it was about as gloomy. According to news clippings located in the City of Vancouver Archives. [sitting] on every bench .l" The visiting opera troupes could have started 13 14 J.. which was what prompted him to jot down his memory. in Chinese.5.31. this was the old Sing Kew Theatre in Shanghai Alley. serve as a testimony to the historical agency of the migrant Chinese. . and dreary a den as could be imagined. Matthews did not mention the name and the exact location of the theatre in the piece. There were no ushers. ill-lighted. Matthews did not understand the music or the play but was intrigued by the off-stage spectacle of "drably dressed Chinamen . AND THE WING HONG LIN THEATRE COMPANY IN EARLY CHINATOWN. file 6. 13." In Paul Yee.S.JO BC STUDIES mobility. the venue described by Matthews was probably the first theatre house established by the immigrant Chinese in what they called the "Saltwater City. Local historianJ. M156ro.5°6 . Saltwater City: An Illustrated History of the Chinese in Vancouver (Vancouver: Douglas &McIntyre. AM 54."13 Unimpressive as it might be. Elusive as it may seem. According to a short reminiscence written almost half a century later. seemingly begrimed with tobacco smoke.It shows a sign." 4 December 194/\ City of Vancouver Archives. The only other piece of information on this theatre house may be seen in a picture of Shanghai Alley taken after the riot of 1907.... barely enough to keep this theatre house in intermittent operation. THEATRE HOUSE. Inside we climbed an equally ill-lighted stairway of wood. carpetless [sic]. loosely grouped. "Chinese Theatre." Aside from the apparent casualness of the audience.. but he did say that the facility had been burned down the previous week. Matthews was struck by the physical conditions of the facility: "one might compare it with going with a lantern to the woodshed or the barn . 1988). vol..." Vancouver was incorporated only in 1886. and in the gloom. pointing to the "Theatre Upstairs.c .S. Matthews remembered following a Chinese guide to an old Chinatown theatre house in Shanghai Alley on a dark and rainy evening in the winter of 1898. unpainted. IMPORTED ACTORS. We found ourselves in a balcony overlooking the 'pit' below. Chinatown theatre was indeed a most demonstrably transnational undertaking in the diaspora experience of these migrants. and the stage beyond .. and the Chinese population at the turn of the century was about two thousand. the audience merely stayed and departed at their own will. Matthews.

This first group. which he owned. Chinese Times. WHLTR. 20 January and 16 February 1915. these activities were gradually to shift to Vancouver. where there had been a Chinese settlement since 1858. including the above-mentioned Ko Sing. which included a few fresh recruits from South China. The prospects for the theatre business improved accordingly.18 to There are traces of a few other Cantonese opera troupes in town at various times between 1914and 1918. files ro=rr. they assembled a troupe of twenty-nine members to perform at the Sing Ping Theatre. namely. which performed from October 1917 May 1918. "A History of Chinese Theatre in Victoria" (MA thesis. 33 -4· Thanks to Edgar Wickberg for the reference. dated December 1914. Ko Sing on East Pender Street and Sing Ping around the corner on Columbia Street. had theatre houses in Vancouver and Victoria under his management. III-40. These theatres were catering to an expanding audience. which overtook the provincial capital as the host of the largest Chinatown in Canada.000. In late 1916Chang Toy and twenty other shareholders set up the Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company. Loo Gee Wing. see Yee." perhaps because of its corner location).Indeed. Sebryk. Wing Hong Lin brought in a different troupe. By 1915 there were reportedly two theatre houses operating in Vancouver's Chinatown.500 in 19II and then to 6. Saltwater City. Two extant actor's contracts. and Sing Ping was located at 536 Columbia Avenue (also identified as "at rear of ro6 -II4 East Pender Street. Ko Sing was located at 124 East Pender Street.500 ten years later. . finished its season in May 19I7After a summer lull. WHLTR.In the summer of 1915.However.identify him as an impresario who had an agent in Hong Kong who recruited players on his behalf. According to other sources.'? Another notable backer was also among the wealthiest Chinese merchants in western Canada . For a short report on Loo in the Western press." The early promoters of Cantonese opera in Vancouver were Chinatown merchants of considerable repute and wealth. 1995). Specific references are provided below. which belonged to Chang Toy.members from two unnamed troupes joined forces for a performance whose 15 16 17 18 Karrie M. the Chinese population in the Saltwater City grew to about 3. for instance. the provincial capital. IS As a result of continuous immigration. University of Victoria.Chang Toy. better known to his Chinese and non-Chinese business associates by the name of his firm. Sam Kee. a recent study by Karrie Sebryk has identified five Chinese theatre houses in and around Victoria's Chinatown at various times between the 1860s and about 1885. after the turn of the century.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business JI their tours from San Francisco or from nearby Victoria. With an initial investment of $5. See the following paragraph.

slowly wove its way into the social life of an immigrant population that consisted predominantly of adult males. far more informative are the business records of the Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company. steamship ticket sales and real estate development. the background and sojourning experience of the actors. were to become familiar Chinatown spectacles. to my knowledge. and I4 -IS June 1916. As mentioned.both its production and its consumption . 16 April. where the powerful tong organizations occasionally gunned down opponents in theatre houses." which rendered him the creme de fa creme among 19 20 Chinese Times. Precisely what caused the uproar and reaction cannot be ascertained from the reports. the role of merchant capital. labour contracting in the timber. and sugar industries. First of all. The troupes involved were Kuo Tai Ping. Later that summer a Chinatown newspaper reported a more notorious incident. . especially in the 1930S. whether these were light. The theatre furnished a place for public socializing. particularly the participation of someone of the stature of Chang Toy. the earliest documentation on the organization of the theatre business. but nowhere did the situation in Vancouver match the violence in San Francisco and New York. fishing. Hing Fung Lin.J2 Be STUDIES purpose was to benefit the victims of flooding in Guangdong.19 Chinatown theatregoers may not have been as discriminatory as the more sophisticated audiences back in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. which involved a comic actor's being seriously wounded in his dormitory due to his assailant's "sexual jealousy. 24 July 1915. 23 February. Paul Yee has documented his extensive activities in "imports and exports. Chang Toy was no common storekeeper. and the conditions under which these travelling entertainers negotiated their entry into Canada. charcoal and fuel sales. Equally revealing are the audience's emotional reactions to the plays. which were put on by opera troupes to support local charities or provide China-bound relief. and Po Yu Yee. and these kinds of fundraisers. the involvement of Chinatown merchant capital is noteworthy. retail sales. They present. for having a good time and escaping the drudgery of migrant life. however. and loyalty). Chinese Times. The local Chinese Benevolent Association sponsored the event. dedication.hearted comedies or serious moral pieces drawn from historical legends and popular tales (usually focusing on sacrifice. which provide rare glimpses into the world of Chinatown theatre during the initial phase of its expansion. However. in early 1916 separate disturbances broke out in Ko Sing and Sing Ping after viewers expressed their disapproval by hurling insults and hard objects at the actors."2o Snapshots like these are indicative of how Cantonese opera .

Chinese 21 22 23 24 Paul Yee. remittances.22 Last but not least. Wing Hong Lin and other Chinese theatre companies faced an additional hurdle. the Canadian immigration authorities followed the example of the US authorities in refusing to consider "actors and theatrical performers" labourers . Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China. Hsu.P Before the booked actors were to land. Chang Toy's role was pivotal." BC Studies 69-70 (I986):70-96." which specialized in imports and exports to Chinatowns across North America." file I. "Leases. dated I8 January I9I7. Reflecting the weight of his opinions. Sun Tong Chong belonged to the group of "Gold Mountain Firms.For a discussion of the "Gold Mountain Firms. issue an advance.I20. See WHLTR.the initial target of exclusion." see Madeline Y. local agents started scouting for actors with the desirable skills and credentials in the Hong Kong. such as the handling of travel documents. including the retention of individual actors and the call to raise another $5. Corporation record. the primary target of exclusion."Corporation record. he hosted the monthly board meetings at his business premises III East Pender Street. Apparently.Guangzhou area. holds a receipt for a cheque in the amount of HK$I. has omitted entirely Sam Kee's involvement in Wing Hong Lin. thus.000 for a second season. the official minutes note his views and endorsement of major decisions. 2000). 34-40. 73. The ruling was rendered by the US immigration authorities in the I890Sas part of the effort to make a finer distinction between Chinese labourers. and arrange transportation for the departing actor. Also. With instructions in hand. passenger shipping." file 3. The appointment of Sun Tong Chong as recruitment agent was officially approved at the first board meeting. esp. indentures.payable to Sun Tong Chong as commission.respectively. especially minutes from the inaugural meeting (undated) " as well as two other meetings on 9 December I9I6 and I7May I9I/'. 24 Under Canada's anti . and correspondence. Dreaming of Gold. Chinatown theatre was a trans-Pacific operation that hinged on and strengthened the transnational networks of the migrant Chinese.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business JJ the Chinese merchant elite. While locally organized. these firms also tapped the multilateral business connections to furnish a host of migrationrelated services.P As far as Wing Hong Lin is concerned. The same document further indicates that Wing Hong Lin paid him $200 for the monthly rental of Sing Ping (his theatre house). WHLTR. the agents then proceeded to negotiate the contract. See also "Stock certificates. and ." file 1. and the like. I882-I943 (Stanford: Stanford University Press. apply for travel documents. the Sun Tong Chong Company. Yee has examined only the pre-I9I6 activities of the Sam Kee Company (though Chang Toy died in I920) and." file 2. Once the home company approved the selection. "Sam Kee: A Chinese Business in Early Vancouver. undertaking the important task of recruiting actors from South China was Chang Toy's chief business associate in Hong Kong. As the largest shareholder.

when an early session commenced around noon. On occasion the required bond amount was as high as a thousand dollar per person. See undated (I923?) correspondence sent to the Canadian immigration authorities. 8 November I9I6. actors were therefore exempt from the $500 head tax. In the case of Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company. Finally. Admittedly a favoured way of doing things as the money was refundable. The sponsoring company had the option to advance the bond fund itself. The fact that handwritten contracts had been drawn up two years earlier (with Loo Gee Wing). the bond requirement was no small expense for anyone who sponsored a troupe of over twenty members. signed their contracts with Wing Hong Lin's agent in Hong Kong on 23 October 1916. Oregon (Seattle: University of Washington Press.:" The contract can be divided into three parts. Sweet Cakes. "whether it be a mixed or all-female company. These were standard printed documents that left blank spaces for individual information such as personal names and the amount of compensation. obtained by Sebryk from the City of Victoria Archives and appended in her "History of Chinese Theatre in Victoria.F These stipulations show evidence of other categories of Chinese travellers. with almost the exact stipulations. The impresario had the right to shuffle the player to different locations around the country. but the "conventions" observed by travelling troupes required her/him to be "amenable to any assignment.v One can appreciate why management was so adamant about having control over actors as soon as they arrived." files IO -II. suggests that. LongJourney: The Chinatowns of Portland. and the available evidence of contracts should put to rest any illusion that these itinerant performers were free agents. overseas engagement was becoming both common and standardized." was no cause for objection on the part of the actor. Guarantor letter from Choe Duck to the Canadian Surety Company. WHLTR." file I3. These permits were valid for six months and could be extended for up to three years. "Correspondence. both countries required a local bona fide business entity to place a $500 bond on each actor seeking entry. beginning with the terms of employment.J4 BC STUDIES immigration policy. "Actor's contracts. 68 and 83. The player was hired to perform one or two principal role types. See Marie Rose Wong. Wong Yin Tseng and three fellow players. except over Chinese New Year. in WHLTR. age twenty-five to thirty-five and natives of Guangzhou and its vicinity." including role types in which he or she was not trained. by this time. Ibid. it fell to a local surety company to provide the required bond fund. Working hours were from 6:00 PM to 1:00 AM daily." I69 -70. Chang Toy and another major partner then signed off as guarantors in order to indemnify the surety company against any loss in the event that an actor should fail to leave the country upon the expiration of his or her perrnit. 25 26 27 . the composition of the troupe. 2004). instead.

for a succinct discussion of these artistic elements and how they may account for Cantonese opera's ability to adapt overseas. the logistics oflong-distance travel and financial constraints resulted in a much smaller troupe. The US$500 bond money is noted in the contract as "an advance" made by the impresario to the immigration authorities. audience expectations.some performers may have found the practice of sharing the stage with members of the opposite sex objectionable. In other words. and changing personnel. My research has uncovered no such dispute. and their members were adept at playing multiple role types. shrewd Chinatown businesspeople. backin South China. certain stage practices in this genre . The overseas contract stipulates some interesting modifications in that half of the entire amount was to be issued to the player before departure but in Chinese currency.have considerably enhanced its ability to adjust to different performance contexts. she would be fully liable for reimbursing the owner. Since mixed troupes remained banned by the authorities in Guangzhou and Hong Kong until the 1930S. continued to find ways to work the system. See Rao's "Songs of the Exclusion Era. overseas. In South China a full Cantonese opera company had some seventy or more players. of course. varied among actors. Yuejushi [History of Cantonese Opera] (Beijing: Chinese Theatre Press.such as the deployment of standard arias and highly conventional scenarios. On the contract and . 28I-301. not to mention the reliance on improvisation . the versatility and adaptability of the acting profession. Traditionally. The contract also details the payment schedule. but it is difficult to tell whether the reason for this might be a pre-emptive clause in the contract.e" Another example oflocal variance pertains to the warm reception for mixed and all-female companies among Chinese immigrant communities. actors in South China received one-third of the value of the contract at the beginning of the annual performing season in early summer and another one-third before Chinese New Year. or both. The package included round-trip third-class ship fare." 407.f? 28 29 Lai Bojiang and HuangJianming. plus room and board for the duration of the contract. Moreover.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business JS adaptation as the Cantonese opera journeyed abroad. who were adept at working transnational operations. The requirement for individual actors to play multiple role types was a function of reduced troupe size. The authors also note that. for a contract carrying a face value of US$780. the actor would first receive $390 in Chinese cash and only the remaining $390 in US currency. and it ranged from US$J8o to US$960 in the case of Wong Yin Tseng and her three fellow travellers. The rest was broken down into equal installments disbursed twice a month. Should the action of the player cause the forfeiture of the bond fund. with the remainder to be paid in US dollars on a bimonthly basis. troupes working on outlying rural circuits away from the Pearl River Delta core were smaller in size. Since Chinese dollars were worth far less than US dollars (the exchange rate noted on the contract put the Chinese dollar at half that of the US dollar). Compensation. I988).

WHLTR. Another was thought to be making unwanted sexual advances towards a popular actress." files IO -II. WHLTR.9. "Actor's Contracts. which describes the signatory as "being destitute at home and therefore willing to perform opera aboard. Xinzhu. See Liu Guoxing's comment on the lowly origins of the opera actors who travelled to North America during this early period in "Yueju yiren zai haiwai de shenghuo ji huodong. or otherwise defiant of the conventions observed by the troupe. Pang Shunyao. The standard contracts used by the Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company begin with a highly demeaning statement. Guangdong wenshi ziliao [Literary and Historical Sources on Guangdong] 2I (I96S): IS8 . and the different practice for overseas engagement. see Chinese Times. 9 March I9I8. Liu Guoxing." files IO -II. remuneration system in South China. Sick leave was paid up to ten days. Minutes of meetings. Guangzhou wenshi ziliao [Literary and Historical Sources on Guangzhou] 3 (I96I): I26 -7. in part. "Yueju yiren zai N anyang ji Meizhou de qingkuang" [The Situation of Cantonese Opera Actors in Southeast Asia and the Americas]. during a performance. however. and Xin Xuemei. 31 One may surmise that actors did not enjoy high regard and that. after which time actors had to make up for missed performances. For a report on the incident in the theatre house. this reflects the contempt in which they were held by traditional Chinese society." and. Again. 9 March I9I8 and 3 April I9I8. WHLTR. Actors were not allowed to enter a guild. Guangdong wenshi ziliao 2I (I96S): I82." I8I-2. having lesser fame and coarser skills than those who belonged to the first tier. the large majority of actors who travelled abroad during this early period generally belonged to the second tier.P? This was not an empty threat. "Corporation Record. "Yueju banzhu dui yiren de baoxiao" [The Exploitation of Cantonese Opera Actors by the Impresarios]. insubordinate. A voiding clause vested the impresario with the authority to suspend the actor and to return him or her to Hong Kong if s/he proved to be "indolent. the Cantonese opera had flourished as an itinerant theatrical entertainment catering to villages and market towns across the Pearl River Delta. which the management cited as sufficient cause for abrogating his contract." file I. During the Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company's second season. who was caught stealing from his peer. join a brotherhood.Jtl BC STUDIES The last part of the contract spells out further restrictions. or form any fraternal organization. This resulted in a physical altercation. was turned over to the local police and then deported after serving jail time. "Yueju yiren zai haiwai de shenghuo ji huodong" [The Lives and Activities of Cantonese Opera Actors Overseas]. after the turn of the century. note the reminiscences by several actors: Liu Guoxing. 30 31 32 . In the late nineteenth century. one actor. Rumours soon spread about this "womanizer. back in South China. the larger transnational context offers clues as to why this would be the case."32 Whether or not one takes this projection of poverty and powerlessness literally. he was ridiculed by some members of the audience. "Actor's Contracts. Ye Furuo.

in Guangdong Theatre Research Office. Minutes of meetings. The urbanization and commercialization of Cantonese opera turned the twin cities into a huge market . actor turnover during both seasons appears to have been minimal.. if overseas engagement was an option. the company regularly ordered 700 to 1.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business J. WHLTR." files L4 -q. . A strong first month was followed by a temporary dip and then two to three months of relatively healthy attendance. the Malay Peninsula. enunciating the presence of the Cantonese opera in 33 34 35 See Liu Guoxing. No final balance sheet can be generated from the data. Named Chuk Sing Ping. "Corporation record. WHLTR. Immediately. ed. and Vietnam rendered these places relatively more attractive destinations than were Vancouver or San Francisco. The Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company's records provide some idea of the degree of audience interest. 328 . According to payrolls. q May 19q and 4 May 1918.:" Admissions stayed within the affordable range of ten to fifty cents. then nearby Southeast Asia held greater appeal than did North America. Yueju yanjiu ziliao xuan [Select Research Materials on Cantonese Opera] (Guangzhou: Guangdong Theatre Research Office. 33 Subsequently. audience enthusiasm inevitably waned and income declined in the remaining months. it was mostly second-rate players (and maybe the more adventurous types) who accepted the hardship of performing in foreign lands." file 8. Geographical proximity aside. this company marked the first time a daily advertisement appeared in the Chinese Times. though the board claimed minor losses at the end of both seasons. throughout the late nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth century. from the end of 1916 to May 1918. See receipts from two local printers.200 copies of playbills to be distributed to patrons attending the shows. Moreover." file 1. Perhaps because the cast remained stationary. Both seasons went through an almost identical cycle regarding ticket sales and incomes (see Table I). In late 1918 the books were closed and the Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company disappeared from the scene. the presence of sizable Cantonese communities among the Chinese immigrant populations in Singapore.a market that offered abundant performance opportunities and that functioned as a magnet to emerging star performers who enjoyed high incomes and close to celebrity status. "Xiban he xiyuan" [Opera Troupes and Theatre Houses]. capturing the larger audiences in Hong Kong and Guangzhou.7 it underwent a decisive urban shift. another visiting troupe took over the Sing Ping Theatre and stayed there for seven months. others were ready to step in.P If the backers of the Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company found the theatre business to be challenging and decided to fold. 1983). in WHLTR. See "Receipts signed by actors and staff. "Receipts.65. Over the course of two seasons.

532. Sam Kee Papers.13.1918 3. Add.5° $1.57 $296.I06.16. minor repairs and supplies.1918 3. heating utility charges during the winter months.85 $677-35 $725. 566-G-4.I03·18 $2.58 $2.65 $1.3° $1.054. .1916 12.16.1916 12.24·1917 12.5·1918 I.1918 2.2?1917 II. * These figures are based on daily intakes minus miscellaneous expenses.IO. "Daily income and expenses.22.1917 3·IO.1917 2. files 5-7.16.1917 Second Season IO.230.175.1918 4.25 NOTES IO days Chinese New Year 9 days 9 days Chinese New Year 4 days Source: Wing Hong Lin Theatre Records.24.3°.13·1917 IO.16.1917 3.IO.3°. I9I6-I8 BIWEEKLY RECEIPTS DATE REPORTED First Season 12.212.5°3.24.080·°5 $656.95 $277-15 $58.20 $68I.007-30 $1.62 $1.1918 3.5° $556.2.7° $1.1917 5. 27-1917 2.30 $1.JJ> Be STUDIES TABLE 1: Wing Hong Lin's income from ticket sales over two seasons.20 $1.1918 PROCEEDS FROM TICKET SALES * $2.27-1918 5.319.82 $860·77 $647-42 $468.1917 5.73 $1.398.85 $1.1917 1I.2.1916 I. such as occasional tips for the staff of the theatre house. MSS 57!. and so on.1917 12.09·45 $753.1917 4·7-I017 4·2I.5.50 $2.8.19·1918 2.65 $989.1917 I.622." City of Vancouver Archives.15 $376. midnight snacks for actors after performances.40 $1.2.13·1917 I.2.1918 4.29I.

. literally. and a jeweller. Driving such business interest was. five Cantonese opera troupes landed in Vancouver. 1918 to 12 April 1919. due to the relocation of immigrants from smaller settlements. it is hard to tell whether Mok Kue Chee was fictive or whether the guild was making a defiant gesture against the heavy-handed policies of the management.000 by 1930. Although the Chinese Immigration Act. Theatre advertisements identify their ticket agents in the neighbourhood. While the names of many actual actors (and musicians) were on the list. At any rate. all of whom were located on Pender Street. and the old theatre in Shanghai Alley. 1923.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business JfJ the public arena. resulting in long stretches of uninterrupted nightly performances. which was renovated in the fall of 1921. all but shut the door on new arrivals and eventually caused some Chinese to leave. initially. first of all. and these included several import-and-export general stores. an expanding clientele. The local Chinese population reached 13.." meaning. Their travelling practice was to become more pronounced in the following years as Chinatown theatre entered an exciting phase of growth. which reopened during 1923 . one pharmacy and herbal dispensary. The Sing Ping Theatre continued to be the primary venue. but two other facilities joined in. the president of the organization was identified as "Mok Kue Chee. nJanuary 1919. probably for the first time in this particular Chinatown's history (see Table 2). two of which stayed in town for over a year. There were periods when their seasons overlapped. Sponsoring the visiting troupes were companies just like Wing Hong Lin. "don't be scared!"37 As we have no more information about this group.24. During the first half of the 1920S. ENTERING THE GOLDEN AGE OF CHINATOWN THEATRE: THE 19205 In an era during which the majority society continued to shun Chinatown for its perceived alienness and presumed decadence.enough to fill the rosters of three opera troupes. Vancouver's Chinese residents had more opportunity than ever to enjoy their favourite entertainment. 36Another intriguing incident was the public formation of an actor's guild in early 1919. 5 September Ibid. Vancouver's Chinatown 36 37 Chinese Times. at least for a short while: the Imperial Theatre on Main Street. The announcement took the form of a list of ninety-three individuals who occupied various positions as officers . the fact that actors were essentially a population of transients hindered any sustained organizational effort.

May 1924 Nov. 1920 . of course. 1922 Sept.Sept. . the theatre markets grew simultaneously in Chinese communities across North America. Feb. these three nodal points anchored an expanding transnational circuit of Cantonese opera. the opportunity to frequent a theatre house._.Dec. 1932. I920-33 NAMES OF TROUPES PERIOD OF PERFORMANCES TICKET AGENTS Sing Ping Lok Man Lin Kwok Fung Lin Chuk Man On Kwok Chung Hing T ai Mo T oi Wan Kau Lok Tai Law Tin Dec. various chapters in Part 2 and Part 3 that deal with the years right before and after the legislation of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923. 1922 April-June 1923 March 1923 .Jan. 1988). -May. Man Sing Lun Luen Sing Jeweller Gim Lee Yuan Watsang Drug Store Watsang Drug Store Source: Chinese Times. if not downright homesick. 1931. . July . 1924 . and. beginning with such key locations as San Francisco and New York as well as Vancouver. helped to heighten a desire to consume traditional theatre among nostalgic.i" Canada's largest Chinatown afforded the Chinese a degree of mutual protection from a hostile society as well as the enjoyment of ethnic facilities and resources. 1930 Nov.Jan. 49-73. more than audience interest and business opportunity are required to explain why Chinatown theatre in Vancouver reached a new height in the early 1920S.May 1925 April 1927 . such as the increasing number of native place and clan organizations. supplies of food items and goods from the home country. For reasons that were broadly similar to those mentioned above. Dec.to Be STUDIES TABLE 2: Cantonese opera troupes that performed in Vancouver's Chinatown. Yee offers a focused discussion on Vancouver during this period in Saltwater City. . 1920 -33. 1932 .56 . From China to Canada.April 1928 Sept.Feb. Chinatowns: Towns within Cities in Canada (Vancouver: VEC Press." Nevertheless.Dec.67See Wickberg. see David Chuenyan Lai. 1921 . experienced a boorn. At the same time. Not only did these communities host entire troupes and rotate individual actors through their stages but they also fed these 38 39 For trends in Chinese immigration and domestic movements. as well as a discernible tide of nationalist feelings related to events in China in the 1920S. the brewing ethnic sentiments in a ghetto-like environment. Together. 1933 On Hing Lun Ken Fung Co. people. Foo Hung Co.

000.23October 1923. Cuba.known opera troupes. One actor. and Peru. Riddle's chronicle has traced the appearance of Chinese theatre to the very beginning of significant Chinese immigration into the western United States in the midnineteenth century. and it consisted of ten male and six female actors who were trumpeted as hailing from "Tang Shan" (i. this move ushered in a new phase in the development of the local Cantonese stage. hen he stopped over at San Francisco on his way back to China. five more actors joined Lok Man Lin and took turns playing the principal role until the season ended on 6 February 1922. Portland.With the Chinese population soon climbing to 30. Boston.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business 41 travelling performers into secondary locations and transit points like Seattle. Honolulu. while a few members struck out on their own.6 February 1922. Subsequently. I September 1921. As the survivors rebuilt their community. 6ro. 9July. the prima donna was said to have enjoyed a successful stint in Vietnam's Chinese enclave in Saigon-Cholon. Chicago. Berkeley. did support for Chinatown theatre ebb. In particular. Los Angeles. On 5 September 1921 an opera company called Lok Man Lin landed in Vancouver and immediately started performing in the recently renovated theatre on Main Street.The theatre was located at 720 Main Street. where the leading members had performed with well. China). ox F. theatre houses were not high on the agenda. Under the sponsorship of the Ying Mei Leun Hop Company in San Francisco. according to the news clip "Remember Our Chinese Opera?" 25March 1966.City of Vancouver Archives. Shea Chai Kit.40 After this time the whereabouts of Lok Man Lin would have remained a mystery if not for the information unearthed in San Francisco. And then came the devastating earthquake of 1906. University of b California. the community hosted one or more opera troupes on a regular basis." Cantonese opera was of course no novelty to the Chinese immigrant community in the Bay Area. It was the second troupe in town.. and there 40 41 Chinese Times.e. Cantonese opera playbills. under the shadow of antiChinese exclusion. The Chinese community in San Francisco boasted its first permanent theatre built for the enjoyment of its countrypeople as early as 1867. w . and even Chinatowns in Latin American countries such as Mexico. the majority of the troupe made their way to San Francisco and joined forces with another visiting group called Yan Sau Lin. went to Havana and later joined his comrades briefly in October 1923. charming the audience with her exquisite beauty and elegance. Ethnic Studies Library. Apparently. after Vancouver. Only in the last decade of the century. The following two examples of 1920S Cantonese opera troupes demonstrate the interconnectedness of various locations on a large canvas. MIS.

Flowing Streams. 369 -70. "Chinese Theatres in America. in this case. including Chu. A local contact told the federal theatre project research team that the troupe had come to San Francisco after rather "indifferent results" in Vancouver. However. the troupe.46 42 43 44 45 46 Riddle. 135-43. Notwithstanding the periodic shuffle of players. Chuk Man On had begun the season at the old theatre in Shanghai Alley in March 1923 and had stayed through May 1924. Suzhou Nu. Chinese San Francisco. the two theatres became rivals. In June 1924 the Mandarin Theatre opened on Grant Avenue. it was only a matter of time before Chinatown theatre regained its vitality. The rivalry is mentioned in many different places." 183. "Yueju zai Meiguo wangshi shiling" [Sketchy Memories of Cantonese Opera in the US]. Enjoying substantial support from different factions in Chinatown.f The circumstances surrounding the arrival of the Lok Man Lin Troupe in San Francisco and its collaboration with Yan Sau Lin are not clear. and Lai and Huang. 44-5.000 in 1913 to IO. actors' compensations. and Chen. Il-I03. performed in New York until March 192. See Chu." 404 -5. followed a year later by the Great China Theatre on Jackson Street. with the Chinese population rebounding from about 8. Xiju yishu ziliao [Sources in Theatre Art] II (1986): 259. Yueju shi.45 This company of thirty-two then travelled to New York City. See Rao's discussion in "Songs of the Exclusion Era.413. Chinese Times.16 May 1924. the reception was so enthusiastic that two brand new theatre houses were built in the following two years. and the like is not the most reliable as the rumours could be part of a publicity effort or perhaps. a new location was found immediately and the troupe performed until 1930. the latter being underwritten by Lok Man Lin's sponsor Ying Mei Leun Hop.I950 (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. Flowing Streams. The merger was reportedly financed by the Hop Hing Company.." 77. and Arthur Bonner. serve to undercut the bargaining position of the other party. Business intelligence on box office results. . marking a revival of its Chinatown stage after a lull of fifteen years.:" On the east coast yet another opera troupe that had used Vancouver as a point of entry triggered a similar renaissance..Pacific War era. 93. 1997). using the name Sun Sai Gai. After the home theatre burned down in June 1929. "Yueju yiren zai haiwai de shenghuo ji huodong. "Chinese Theatres in America. bearing the same name. which was founded by local Chinatown merchants with capital raised in various Chinese communities in the United States. when it merged with another troupe to become Wing Ngai Sheung. Flying Dragons. and their competition has since been part of San Francisco's Chinatown lore of the pre. Riddle. and Cuba.a BC STUDIES were only occasional reports of opera performances in various theatres around Chinatown until 1923. 20 March 1923 . Flying Dragons. but the performances evidently struck a chord. Canada. Liu Guoxing. 90 -4." 76.OOO in 1920. ALAS! What Brought Thee Hither? The Chinese in New York I800 .." In fact.

See Lee Men.t'' It was not a coincidence then that the early 1920S marked the arrival of a growing contingent of actors from South China. 35. Yueju shi. business intelligence. Evidence further 47 48 Lai and Huang. If anything. Governance. with heavy capital investment and resident superstars."? Compounding the problems of rising production costs and intense competition was the occasional political crisis and social disturbance. ed. As the 1920S wore on. 1999). I03-IO. a growing number of actors were warm to the idea of engagement abroad. and Modernity in China: Canton. the size of the Chinese population in San Francisco and that city's dominant position as the hub of ethnic Chinese commercial capital. Guangdong Branch. even before the first sign of a major meltdown of the theatre market in South China at the end of the decade. large-scale city-based and city-bound companies were formed. had the stronger bargaining position with regard to signing the actors and troupes of its choice. such as the 1924 Merchant Corps incident in Guangzhou (a clash between a faction of local merchants and the emergent military power of Chiang Kaishek) and the 1925-26 general strike that paralyzed the British colony of Hong Kong for sixteen months. 1990). the use of new musical instruments. I9I9-I926 [A History of Chinese Trade Unionism]. and the development of new arias. 32-4I. was home to the most opera professionals. I9oo-I927 (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 166-74. The urbanization of Cantonese opera in the preceding decades entailed cut-throat competition in Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Michael Tsin. and an excerpt from Deng Zhongxia's classic published in 1930. Finally. The famous actor Pak Keuk Wing mentioned the strike of 1925-26 as his reason for going abroad.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business -if] The routes of troupe migration are traced not to suggest the primacy of Vancouver among the three principal locations but. Yueju yishu dashi BaiJurong [Bai Jurong Master Artist of Cantonese Opera] (Guangzhou: China Dramatist Association. These urban troupes entertained an audience that had a seemingly insatiable appetite for the latest dramatization of historical plays. and networks gave its theatre market the edge. . From around 1918-19. in David Faure. Hence. Zhongguo zhigong yundong shi. Society: A Documentary History of Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. 1997). adaptations from Western novels and current events. the Chinatown theatre boom in the 1920S reflected conditions across the Pacific in South China. rather. San Francisco's Chinatown clearly possessed the largest share of theatre business. improved costuming and stage properties. and had the most extensive business networks through which to funnel players into secondary venues and more distant markets. to note that the Canadian city was a convenient point of disembarkation for North America-bound Cantonese opera troupes. Nation..

19 January 1926. boxes D. Instead of maintaining a stable cast. in the past. where they spent over a year with Wing Ngai Sheung and its successor. See also Chinese Times.8. as opera companies did in the preceding period. more than a dozen players trickled in one or two at a time. 20 March 1923 . Prior to his trip . Widely acclaimed as the leading performer of the role of "civil male. The golden age of Chinatown theatre meant lucrative contracts. A Hong Kong scholar. based on oral history.Another outstanding actor was the flamboyant Ma See Tseng. had launched his career in British Malaya and had electrified theatregoers upon his return to Hong Kong and Guangzhou in 1924. as many as twenty new actors arrived and played leading roles at different times. "Yueju yanjiu" [A Study of Cantonese Opera] (PhD diss.16 May 1924." Another example from Vancouver is Da Mo Toi: during its year-long season in 1927-28. E. Berkeley. 91-9. The North American host for his tour from 1931 to 1933 was the Mandarm. at a young age. during Chuk Min On's season in Vancouver in 1923. the two theatres in San Francisco claimed the lion's share. and G.13 February 1928." Pak was based at the Great China from November 1925 to March 1927.I'' The expansion of the theatre market in these three Chinese communities in the early 1920S thus resulted in heightened mobility among individual actors. had been recruited only with great difficulty. who.24. 12 September 1927 . On Ma See Tseng. that is. For instance. see Shen Ji.. Yueju yishu dashi Bai Jurong. 703. This was a naming practice that performers [especially male performers] often adopted and that functioned as a badge of experience and honour). 35 . and. Cantonese opera playbills. University of Hong Kong. Rao. while others departed. Among them were Kim Shan Bing and Sun Gui Fei (note the reference to "Kim Shan" [lit. 1957). box A. Ma Shizeng de yishu shengya [The Artistic Career ofMa Shizeng] (Guangzhou: Guangdong People's Press. and. University of California. Leung Pui Kam. has identified thirty-two players (only two of whom are females) bearing the title of "Kim Shan" as part of their pseudonyms. particularly for top-notch actors who. See Leung. Cantonese opera playbills. 2 December 1924 . Berkeley." 419. This couple had performed in the Mandarin Theatre in San Francisco in 1924-26. Increasingly. unsurprisingly. the United States and Canada] as part of the first actor's pseudonym.44 BC STUDIES indicates the increased circulation of these actors through different overseas locales. "Songs of the Exclusion Era. University of California. Ethnic Studies Library. An excellent example from this period is Pak Kuek Wing. they left for New York. See also Pak's biography by Lee. Ethnic Studies Library. the "Gold Mountain". 1980).P Drawing no 49 50 51 Chinese Times. the troupes of the 1920S adopted a different modus operandi in that they rotated their key players regularly through the theatre networks in order to keep their casts fresh and attractive in the eyes of their patrons. the 1920S saw well established actors parading across North American stages. after a five-month stint in Vancouver.

and Wong Yee Chun (alias Wong Ow). Also involved were some up-andcoming Chinatown merchants of the Yip brothers' generation. the short history of the Kue Hing Company brings to light the challenges of managing a business that hinged on long-distance mobility and communication. These monetary figures offered to the media by interested parties should be viewed with caution. Chinatown's Theaters are Booming. 21 January 1918. Cheung Suk Kun. box A.9 May 1926. Dubbed by a local magazine the "Mary Pickford of southern China.000. Both these men were major shareholders and were actively involved in the affairs of the theatre company. a Chinese agent at the Royal Bank. twenty-two of whom had each contributed $250 or more. University of California. Chinese Times. Kue Hing was set up in January 1923 by a group of Chinatown merchants in British Columbia." Sunset Magazine. . Ethnic Studies Library. sat on the board of directors. file 2." in KHCVA. n.53 52 53 to the United States. was hired by Po Yu Yee in Vancouver in 1918 -19. Cantonese opera playbills. Berkeley. 54. 33. whose Foo Hung Company at !O7 East Pender Street is identified in various documents as the headquarters of Kue Hing.d. '''Seat Down Front!' Since Women Have Appeared on the Chinese Stage. allegedly an annual salary of $17>000.).Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business 4S less attention. the Chinese Times put her twelve-month contract at $6. were a number of distinguished female actors." Cheung spent the bulk of her sojourn in San Francisco. Representing Victoria's Chinatown was a small contingent. and two of his sons. Forty-five shareholders. This amount was dwarfed by the offer she received from the Mandarin six years later. April 1925. for instance. Franklin Clark. and perhaps travelling even more widely due to popular demand. taking occasional road trips to Los Angeles and making a brief visit to New York City. "Kue Hing Company's Share Certificates. 2 December 1924 . who was every bit as successful and wealthy as was Chang Toy. like Lee Bick.52 KUE HING COMPANY AND THE CHALLENGE TRANSNATIONAL OF MANAGING CHINATOWN THEATRE Lest we assume that the transnational Chinatown theatre simply thrived on its own. The majority of the investors were from Vancouver. Ma had put together a small pamphlet entitled Qianli zhuangyou ji [A Collection of Essays Published on the Occasion of This Thousand-Mile Journey J (Hong Kong: Dong Ya. Yip Kew Mow and Yip Kew Him. including the elderly Yip Sang. including Lim Bang (of the Gim Fook Yuen Rice Mills) and Chan Horne.

For the rivalry between the Chinese Freemasons and the Guomindang within the context of Chinese organizational activities. Research findings 54 55 56 Both documents are available in KHUBC. the company had developed good contacts in Honolulu. I57 . additional funding or bond money was to be raised internally before anyone could resort to a bank or any other outside source. the above precautionary measures notwithstanding. these stipulations probably sprang from the sharply drawn." in KHUBC. As a guarantee.000 worth of real estate.. $2. Though the details are unavailable.68.. the board of directors had the final authority to approve the sale. which was divided into four hundred shares. kinship-based. or liquidate his investment. a management team of three from the home office was to oversee the extension of the company in Hawaii. According to the revised articles. The individuals involved in Kue Hing were generally aligned with the Guomindang faction within Chinatown. which led it to decide not only to send a troupe there but also to run and staff a theatre house. WI . 55 The Kue Hing Company was formed for the purpose of engaging Cantonese opera troupes from "Tang Shan" to perform in Vancouver and Victoria. 54 The company appeared to be based on a close-knit group. Articles of Association.56 As we shall see. Before we unveil this particular saga. each expatriate was required to own $5. it is fair to say that the Kue Hing Company looked poised to take advantage of the business opportunity presented by transnational Chinatown theatre. give us an idea ofhow this business was conceived. subject to the approval of the directors.000 on hand. "Kue Hing Company.000 worth of capital. . Presumably. fifty people. If a member wanted to transfer his sharefs). see Wickberg. at most. then he had first to offer it to the current shareholders. In any event. and possibly elsewhere. and their one-year appointment was renewable at the discretion of the board. In the same spirit. first filed with the BC Registrar ofJoint Stock Companies in January 1923 and then revised in May. the rest to be remitted to the home office. problems repeatedly threatened to derail the project. From China to Canada. May I923. this long-distance cross-border project would occupy all the attention of the Kue Hing Company and. parochial divisions and factional politics of Chinatown. Shareholding was limited to.. at most. Kue Hing was a private company that had $20.I4. The revisions adopted in May contain an interesting section concerning the management of a Honolulu offshoot. The staff was further instructed to file daily business reports with Vancouver by regular mail and to keep.6 BC STUDIES Kue Hing's articles of association. or at least it was intended to be.

Another set of letters and telegrams from August 1923 to July of 1924 are available in KHUBC. like the Wing Hong Lin Theatre Company. was kept from Ying Mei Leun Hop and other local competitors. including swapping actors. as a major point of arrival and departure for travelling actors. in KHUBC. Correspondences on this business move between 26 January and 27 February 1924.v? 57 58 59 See "Kue Hing Company. although marked by some collaboration. . of course. served Kue Hing particularly well with regard to gathering information on troupe activities and movements. and. file I.. Washington. However. as was illustrated on one occasion when a Chinese cook working on a coastal liner running between Vancouver and Seattle was asked to courier company documents. was mainly competitive. Its correspondence contains business intelligence sent from Seattle. telegram. and contacting departing actors to see whether they were interested in a short-term engagement with Kue Hing.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business 4/ comparable to Paul Yee's on the Sam Kee Company are unavailable for any of the major business partners of the Kue Hing Company. Lim Bang to Kue Hing Co.? The ethnic networks deployed were very broad. DC.. some of the activities undertaken by the company leave no doubt that it was comprised of a resourceful and capable group of Chinatown merchants with extensive connections. file I. covering mainly the period June-August 1923. its managing director sent a strongly worded letter to the Kue Hing Company. stating that it should have first requested the right to contact the player as its overture now afforded her leverage to bargain for a bigger contract. a relationship that. When the San Francisco company found out about this. in KHCVA. whose responsibilities included arranging local performances for the troupe in -transit. letter. 28 June 1923. For instance. 58 The Kue Hing Company was also in contact with its counterparts in the United States. In the spring of 1924. Needless to say. the arrangement. Correspondences. The company retained the service of a Chinese agent in Seattle. 60 Ying Mei Luen Hop Co. San Francisco. along with the planned itinerary. Seattle. the Kue Hing Company had its own agents in Hong Kong whose task was to sign up actors. 31 May 1924. Honolulu. 59 Later in the summer Kue Hing clandestinely approached an actress under contract with Ying Mei Leun Hop. working with immigration attorneys to resolve legal glitches." in KHCVA. to Kue Hing Co. in KHUBC. while simultaneously preparing for a continental tour by its Honolulu-based crews. the Kue Hing Company negotiated with the Ying Mei Luen Hop Company in San Francisco about furthering their cooperation.

was subject to the suspicious impulse and vigilant scrutiny of exclusion-era immigration authorities. In the meantime. like the rest of the immigrant community. 7 April .22 June 1923. in KHCVA. telegram. Fearing huge financial loss. For two weeks telegrams went back and forth between Seattle and Vancouver .5> BC STUDIES In its early days the Kue Hing Company seemed to run smoothly. the case was decided in favour of the Kue Hing Company at a federal review board hearing." One can imagine the smile on the face of the local shareholders as they flashed their season's passes and took their seats nightly at the shows. Chuk Man On. DC. On 12 July Lim Bang wired a six-word message to Vancouver: "Trouble just over whole troupe landed. were undeterred. and Boston) and two similar applications that had been filed from San Francisco had been denied. 1. Alfred Sze and asked him to intervene. Lim also insisted that the home office petition the Chinese diplomats in Canada for support. Los Angeles. the Kwok Fung Lin Troupe arrived in Vancouver from South China on schedule and debuted at the Sing Ping Theatre. the local immigration officials rejected their credentials and detained them for further investigation.f Lim and his colleagues."63 This twenty-day ordeal is a reminder that Chinatown theatre. Saturday. file See correspondences from June 27 to July 12. in KHCVA. Little would they have expected the troubles awaiting them after the troupe finished its last performance and packed its trunks for Honolulu. 23 June 1923.4. Second.addressing legal strategies.. . they hired Seattle immigration attorney Paul Houser and his Washington.1923. they contacted the Chinese Legation in Washington under Dr. when the group of twentythree actors sought entry into the United States in Seattle. The following day. stayed at the older facility in Shanghai Alley. Lim Bang to Kue Hing Co. 27 June 1923. allegedly on the grounds that there were already three other Chinese opera troupes in the country (San Francisco. discussing the latest development. file 1. An initial appeal was quickly dismissed by federal immigration officials. and inquiring about copies of company documents to substantiate financial sponsorship and the group members' status as bona fide opera performers. 61 62 63 Chinese Times. however. Eventually.at times more than once a day . associate Roger O'Donnell to represent the Kue Hing Company. and their rescue efforts in the following days were two-pronged. the Kue Hing Company at once dispatched the bilingual Lim Bang and two other directors to Seattle. First. the other troupe in town. Within three months after incorporation.

However. Leong and Leong Kai Tip to Kue Hing Co. and they could wreak havoc to the theatre business at the point of first encounter. in KHCVA.. thus creating bad publicity. The home office soon turned on the local management. Paul Houser to Wong On. in oral histories or memoirs. and citizenship. As far as I know. see Y. He was particularly upset with the apparent lack of communication from the local staff and their withholding of the surplus fund. Others who. . they began to trade accusations of incompetence. The successful rescue of the Kue Hing Company lends support to recent scholarship. attendance dropped precipitously and ticket sales became erratic.9 Many field-level immigration inspectors and examiners were armed with ethnocentric assumptions about race. in KHUBC. the actors involved have not left any record of what happened. For instance. in KHUBC. two Vancouver-based directors who had been appointed to escort the troupe and to oversee the business in Hawaii. I882-I943 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. No sooner had Lim Bang and his two associates arrived in Seattle than. In less than three weeks. they pointed out that the theatre house was located in a very poor part of town and that local scoundrels had several times interrupted performances. have reminisced about their dealings with immigration typically recall their ill treatment and their indignation towards the authorities. letters. this venture continued to be a disappointment riddled with human drama. they shared a widespread belief that the Chinese made liberal use of fake documents and falsified identities. In a letter to Kue Hing's agent in Seattle. On the brewing internal conflict.v" So. Lim Bang to Kue Hing Co. In a string ofletters to the board. Leong. the latter blamed several actors for being uncooperative and troublesome.v' Nevertheless. For some reason. "Yueju zai Meiguo wangshi shiling.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business 4. Houser charged Kue Hing $410 for his handling of the case. despite the arrival of additional players to boost the cast. I7 September I923.v' Not to be forgotten is the frightful experience of the detainees.C. gender. the Kwok Fung Lin Troupe finally arrived in Hawaii and began its season on 2 August 1923. Suzhou Nu. file I. one cannot overlook what this cost the Chinese community in both financial and human terms. I July I923. after much delay. The incident revealed and exacerbated tensions within the company. 2003).." 260. the once triumphant Lim Bang expressed his concerns over the decline in income and questioned the plan to send over more actors. 27 August and 2 September I923. More specifically. they 64 65 66 67 See a most recent example in Erika Lee.67 Bearing the brunt of Lim's accusations were Low Chung and Y'C. which emphasizes the agency and resourcefulness of the Chinese migrants in fighting injustice and bettering their conditions under exclusiori. In response. letter. At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era. 2I. in separate communications back to Vancouver.

Wong Ow. Adding insult to injury. in KHUBC. Should these actors refuse to leave the country at the expiration of their permits.v' It was in the aftermath of such upheaval that the Kue Hing Company attempted to send the Kwok Fung Lin Troupe on a tour of major Chinatowns on the mainland. The company's attorney had obtained permission from immigration authorities and the management was in the process of negotiating with local theatre houses when the plan fell through due to financial problems. which was actually a common practice among Chinatown theatres. Chicago. and Chan Horne. as the original guarantor. Los Angeles. In the end. letters. No formal indictment or report can be found in the existing records. groups of actors decided to opt out of their contracts with the Kue Hing Company. to Lim Bang. all thirteen actors involved joined a rival theatre in Honolulu. such an occurrence could have so badly damaged the credibility of the company with the American and Canadian governments that any future business plan would have been put in jeopardy.f" Nonetheless.C. The itinerary was to include Seattle. could be forced to relinquish its bond money. No clear picture emerges.. Leong to Kue Hing Co. in the spring of 1924. The defection had serious financial and long-term business consequences. and my findings are based on various correspondence." 68 69 70 71 Low Chung and Y. See also the affidavit signed by the directors on 27 October I923. however. Leong apparently had done this without the board's consent. its purpose being to draw a larger audience. but no evidence surfaced to support the more serious allegation of embezzlement. he admitted to having spent much of his time starting a restaurant business. Kue Hing tried to have an actor by the name ofFai Hong Quon deported. IS and I6 October I923. Leong was said to have arbitrarily lowered admission after 9: 00 PM. 26 January through 27 February I924. letter. both men were released and new directors arrived to take over the management. The new management consisted of David Lee. and this rendered him liable to the charge of negligence (which he denied). all from the same file. The authorization to conduct the investigation was given in Kue Hing Co. The Kue Hing Company was fighting for its survival when it instructed Attorney Paul Houser to begin legal proceedings to have the aforementioned actors deported. the Kue Hing Company. dissatisfaction with the duo escalated so rapidly that the board granted Lim Bang's request for power of attorney so that he could undertake an investigation in Hawaii. The first sign of trouble appeared as early as late December. Portland.i? The repeated setbacks must have taken a toll on the morale of the troupe as. While the case was pending. and it was to ostentatiously exclude San Francisco.SO BC STUDIES did say that arrangements were under way to move to a more desirable venue. I6 October I923. a dozen other actors . Moreover. For Low's part. in KHUBC. and New York. See relevant correspondences. in KHUBC.

and the onset of the Great Depression finally took a toll on the theatre scene. audible sounds . After the last troupe left in January 1933.or.However.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business Sf It is no coincidence that the records end soon thereafter. See relevant correspondences in KHUBC. 30 April. especially Kue Hing Co.Great China and the Mandarin . rather. Present and Future. Electricity" and Their Impact on Chinese Theatre]. in Townley. Add. 72 73 ." Indeed. The Cantonese opera theatre seems to have disappeared from New York City after 193I.Sing Ping .2 May 2004.of Cantonese opera in the three main North American Chinese communities came not from the stage but from the halls of musical societies set up by local decided to join the defection. and "Keji yu ganguan: 'sheng guang hua dian' dui jindai Zhongguo xiqu de yinxiang" [Technology and Sensation: "Sound. Chinese Times. These modern media helped popularize Cantonese opera. but they also undercut the appeal of the stage as its primary venue." its only purpose being to show movies.the only remaining theatre house in Chinatown . For a period of time the more visible signs . and sound movies ushered in a new dimension of aural and visual entertainment in urban China. "Qingmo minchu de yueyue changpanye yu Guangdong quyi (19°3-1913)" [The Gramophone Record Industry at the Turn of the Century and Cantonese Musical Art]. the downturn of the 1930Senveloped other Chinese communities. CHINATOWN THEATRE TO THE EVE OF THE PACIFIC WAR While the Kue Hing Company may have been bankrupted by its Hawaiian venture. Two years passed before it was remodelled and renamed "the Orient.struggled to stay afloat. Zhongguo wenhua yanjiuzuo xuebao U ournal of the Chinese Cultural Research Institute] 41 (20m): 5II-38. Chinese University of Hong Kong. the two powerhouses of the 1920S. Light. leaving us no further trace of the company. Chemistry. 1934. Matheson and Partners fonds.In San Francisco. 9Q-F. 13 January 1933 and 2 March 1935. The former shut down in the mid-1930S and the latter scraped by with occasional opera performances. and the number of actors on the road dwindled." More important.closed its doors. radio. after the turn of the century the advent of the gramophone. Yung Sai Shing. as Yung Sai Shing argues. job no. The architectural drawing prepared for the alteration is available in the City of Vancouver Archives. IS April 1924. the Cantonese stage in Vancouver featured at least four more troupes until the early 1930S. letter.reports on opera performances were sporadic. the deleterious effects of the Chinese Immigration Act. Mss 1399. 1923. which it alternated with movies and variety shows. 563. The contraction of the transnational theatre market reversed the trends of the 1920S. paper presented at the Symposium on Chinese Theatre Performance: Past. to Paul Houser.

E-mail correspondence from Elizabeth Johnson. ALAS! What Brought Thee Hither? 95. Jin Wah Sing gradually shifted gear. The most notable among these include Jin Wah Sing and Sing Kew in Vancouver. which was founded in 1935." For San Francisco. five opera troupes came to Vancouver before the outbreak of the Pacific War. information on its activities is minimal. it brought forth a revival of Chinese theatre in Vancouver. see Bonner. This alignment with the partisan politics and power structure of Chinatown remained steadfast in the ensuing years and enabled the Cantonese stage to become a vehicle of popular mobilization and community activism after the Japanese aggression escalated into a full. 149 . rather." The case of Jin Wah Sing is noteworthy in that. publicity in its mouthpiece the Chinese Times. During the initial.76 74 75 76 On New York. The vibrancy of Chinatown theatre in the late 1930S and during the war may have another interesting dimension: the increasing presence of women and children among the audience. Chinese Times. Sensing the void left behind by the professional troupes. amateur phase ofJin Wah Sing. Flying Dragons. Another musical society in Vancouver was Ching Won. The days of full-time nightly performance of Cantonese opera had returned to Vancouver's Chinatown for one last time. and the Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association in New York. 75 The resumption of the regular. Nam Chung in San Francisco. critical support for the theatre came from Chinatown organizations. which was based in the renovated theatre house in Shanghai Alley. in the late 1930S.)2 BC STUDIES fans and amateur musicians. The group started in 1934 as a gathering of amateurs who were also members of the Chinese Freemasons. and opportunities for performances. professional performance of Cantonese opera shows that the underlying interest in theatre in Vancouver's Chinatown was most resilient. however. Wayson Choy and authors such as Jade Snow Wong and Denise Chong have all given such impression in their writings. 21 April 2005. and had its own members play along as a supporting cast. its plays were staged as part of such community events as anniversary celebrations put on by traditional organizations and fundraisers for charities and Chinese language schools. In particular. and Duchesne. Joining this effort was the Sing Kew Dramatic Society.scale war in China in the summer of 1931 One is tempted to argue that at no other time had the theatre been so deeply enmeshed in the fabric of Chinatown politics and public life. Flowing Streams. the Chinese Freemasons and its affiliates offered financial and moral support. but not as commercial theatre. refer to Riddle. Jin Wah Sing had become a de facto theatre business firm. various issues from April of 1935 to the end of 194I. invited professional actors from South China.58. Jin Wah Sing began to present occasional public performances in April 1935. "A Collection's Riches. Under its sponsorship. Whether the theatre indeed provided an avenue by which . By 1938.. Encouraged by its warm reception.

circulating through the stages of different Chinatowns. It is likely that the political instability in China continued to spur actors to go overseas both before and after the outbreak of the anti-Japanese war. Chinatown merchants furnished the capital. The transnational mobility of Cantonese opera was a vital component of immigrant agency among the Chinese. As is shown in the case of Wing Hong Lin and Kue Hing. after Pearl Harbor and the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941. when opera troupes and individual actors circulated widely and routinely to perform for their countrypeople in various locales. The historical invisibility of overseas Cantonese opera has to do. the Cantonese stage in San Francisco and New York City both witnessed a renewal of sorts at the end of the 1930S. I have offered examples of the ups and downs of Chinatown theatre. I argue that the transnational theatre of Chinatown reached its high tide during the 1920S. Chinatown theatre of the exclusion era was not a marginal institution. In conclusion. and the actors no longer rotated from one locale to another. the troupes no longer came and left as they had during the preceding period. and taking account of this mobility. New evidence from Vancouver's Chinatown demonstrates that highly successful and wealthy merchants were involved in the business of providing affordable entertainment to their own people. from the recruitment of the actors from Hong Kong and the details of their compensation to their negotiated entry into Canada and the United States and their subsequent itinerary. Nor did the actors travel as much. as I have attempted to do in this article. despite its long neglect by scholars. and later. The golden age of transnational Chinatown theatre had passed. is essential to any effort to understand the history of Chinatown theatre. Different aspects of this business operation offer a compelling illustration of Chinese transnationalism. and what roles the stage played in community building and mobilization. The troupes that performed in Vancouver all featured a stable cast.'? However. with just such mobility. in part. See Note 74. which touched the principal hubs and key settlements of the immigrant Chinese. Based on newly uncovered business records. and the business networks that allowed these companies to bring in opera troupes from South China. 77 . as well as sources such as theatre advertisements and playbills. some actors were reportedly stranded in the United States and Canada.Chinatown Theatre as Transnational Business SJ From the limited extant accounts. will be among the issues explored in my coming work on the theatre and cultural politics of Chinatown. the managerial experiences. the hurdles posed by the immigrant women could enter Chinatown's public space.

. I offer findings that help to place the transnational practices of immigrant Chinese in historical perspective. and the efforts of Chinese merchants to overcome these barriers. in making the case for Chinatown theatre as a quintessential transnational operation. the hazards of cross-border cooperation and long-distance management.54 Be STUDIES exclusionary practices of state authorities. Not to be forgotten are the personal experiences of the touring actors. enabling us to take into account the ongoing multi-stranded relationships between the migrants and their native homes. The earlier generation of historical scholarly writing on the Chinese in North America (and elsewhere in the diaspora) manifests an insular quality in that it focuses on single migrant settlements or communities. The rise of interest in transnationalism has shifted this paradigm. the connections forged by the Chinese in the course of their dispersal enabled them to engage in multilateral networking and trans-border activities. The history of the diaspora involves not simply the resilient ties between migrant outposts and native home but also the myriad connections between those outposts. Finally. even though their published reminiscences are few and the opportunity to interview them has passed. This preliminary mapping of a mobile theatre suggests that those who write about this transnational history should change their emphasis. Evidently.

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