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Roles in Cantonese Opera

Originally there were ten role types in Cantonese opera and each required specialised training for the artist. They were called mo (old man), jing (painted face), sheng (male lead), dan (female lead), chou (comic), wai (second male lead), xiao (young military male), tie (second female lead), fu (old woman), and zha (supporting roles such as second painted face, guards and women-in-waiting, etc).

By the 1920s and 1930s, the ten role types were pared down to six major roles, a system known as the “six pillars”. They included wenwusheng (male lead), xiaosheng (second male lead), zhengyin huadan (female lead) erbang huadan (second female lead), chousheng (comic male) and wusheng (military male). But since there are overlapping functions for some of the role types and changes in the plots and libretti, today only four main role types remain, i.e., wenwusheng, wusheng, chousheng and huadan.


  • A cast list of “Yat Tung Tai Ping Troupe”