Did you know that Chinese Opera is a cultural legacy that is still being kept alive in Bangkok’s Chinatown community? These local opera companies are hired by Bangkok’s Chinese shrines to perform mythical stories in Mandarin to round off celebrations marking the Lunar New Year. Chinese opera has a long history in Thailand, as the kingdom is home to perhaps the largest overseas Chinese community in the world.
If you can catch a Chinese opera performance while in the nation’s capital you are in for a historical and cultural treat. These performances are engaging visual spectacles—with astounding detail in the various colourful sets and costumes—and combine myth, morality, tragedy, and comedy. Performers spend hours elaborately making up and going into character, and the shows themselves can run for hours. The cast can be a mix of Chinese and Thai performers, ranging from seasoned elders to small children. During the show talented musicians offstage follow the dream-like action while playing traditional Chinese instruments including drums, plates, and flutes.
The performances are free, however they are not attended much by the younger generations these days. The sad truth is that these operas are, in many ways, a dying art, but if you time things right you may just catch one of these rare and beautiful spectacles before they disappear forever.