A Chinese opera performance

On the Chinese opera stage where scenery and props are few and far between, Chinese opera actors rely on stylised gestures to express a certain situation or event, as demonstrated by the actors in this photograph. Also known by the Malay term ‘wayang’, which means ‘performance’, Chinese opera in Singapore can be traced back to the 19th century with the arrival of Chinese immigrants. Up until the 1930s, wayang was a popular performing art, both as a platform for religious worship and as a cheap form of entertainment. The orchestra, depicted in the background, is also an important part of the performance as it plays the music that is in perfect synchrony with every word, movement and gesture that is enacted. String, wind and percussion instruments usually make up the Chinese opera orchestra.

Indigenous Name
Mid-late 20th century
Image size: 8.9 x 13.7 cm
Accession No.
Collection of
National Museum of Singapore
Photographs and Negatives