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The "Red Boat" and "Mountain-Crossing" Troupes

At the turn of the 20th century, Cantonese opera troupes gave travelling shows in the Pearl River Delta. They used the waterway to move from venue to venue, and the boats became practically their home. They were therefore known as the “red boat troupes”.

There were stringent rules in a “red boat troupe”, from the allocation of berths in the cabins to division of labour among artists, and they formed the basis of the organisational structure of Cantonese opera troupes in general later. By the 1930s, with the major performing venues moving into the cities and the improved transportation systems, the “red boat troupes” gradually phased out.

Around the same time, there were smaller troupes which travelled overland to remote areas in Guangdong and Guangxi with portable props to give travelling shows. They were therefore known as “mountain-crossing troupes”.