Beginning of the Maritime Journey

  • Caroline Chia


By the end of the first millennium, the Hokkien from southern Fujian were known for their seafaring activities and later travelled to many sites during the mass migration wave of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While much has been discussed about the migratory flow of Hokkien in Taiwan and Nanyang (Southeast Asia), this book takes on a refreshing approach by examining Hokkien theatre in a region very much connected through maritime networks, notably southern Fujian, Taiwan and Singapore. The term ‘Hokkien theatre’ is a collective concept referring to theatrical forms that use Minnan (Hokkien) language as its performing medium (The term ‘Hokkien theatre’ is used in consideration of the various terms proposed by scholars. For example, Lee Tong Soon uses ‘Hokkien wayang’ where ‘wayang’ refers to Chinese street opera, not limited to the Hokkien group in Singapore. ‘Wayang’ is a Malay word for theatrical performance that involved puppets or human dancers but I have not adopted this term as it is less relevant to the southern Fujian and Taiwanese contexts; Wang Yingfen used ‘Hokkien operatic genres’ to refer to Liyuan opera and Gaojia opera. She also sometimes referred to Liyuan opera as Nanguan opera as ‘Nanguan’ is the music used in this theatrical form. See Wang Ying-fen, “The transborder dissemination of nanguan in the Hokkien Quadrangle before and after 1945”, Ethnomusicology Forum, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2016, 59; In his discussion on Amoy-dialect films in the Cold War Era, Jeremy Taylor uses Hokkien opera to refer to Gezaixi and Liyuanxi. As this monograph also deals with puppet theatre, I feel that the use of ‘Hokkien theatre’ can serve as an umbrella term that covers both opera and puppet forms. While Hokkien theatre will be used to refer to the various theatrical forms collectively, specific terms will also be mentioned accordingly. Commonly used terms, such as Fujian theatre (Fujianxi 福建戲) and Min theatre/opera (Minju 閩劇) are also misnomers, which will be avoided here). Originating from southern Fujian, various theatrical forms began to spread to Taiwan and Singapore by the nineteenth century. While scholars have explored the regional theatrical forms in the southern Fujianese and Taiwanese contexts, and with a smaller extent on comparative analysis of Hokkien theatre in both areas, there is little study on how Singapore is connected to this regional network of Hokkien theatre (Chin Ch’ing Hai 2003). This study explores Hokkien as a performing language and outlines the evolution of the various theatrical forms that are subject to the broader socio-cultural and political context. This book represents the first study to examine the transmission of the various forms of Hokkien theatre, which relate to how these theatrical forms strive to stay relevant in an era of urbanization and secularization.


Hokkien theatre Regional Nanyang Urbanization Secularization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Chia
    • 1
  1. 1.School of HumanitiesNanyang Techological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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