Named after the glamorous female warrior of Tang Dynasty literature, Cantonese Opera artist Hung Sin Nui (1927-2013) has lived a life that is nothing short of legendary.
On the eve of World War II, ten-year-old Kwong Kin-lim took up the stage name “Siu Yin Hung” and became a disciple of her aunt, Cantonese Opera performer Ho Fu-lin. At the age of 13, opera star Leng Siu-fung changed that stage name to “Hung Sin Nui.” To escape the fires of war, Hung roamed across the country with opera troupes and slowly honed her craft to become a real opera performer. In the process, she met and eventually married Cantonese Opera staple Ma Si-tsang. The pair became the opera world’s star couple upon their return to Hong Kong after the war.
In 1947, Hung Sin Nui – known as a major opera star at only the age of 20 – took up screen acting in the films “Unforgettable Love” and “I’m Crazy About You.” Off the stage, Hung had a youthful beauty that made her a natural born movie star. Whether she’s playing a modern woman, the wretched wench or a dutiful wife, Hung exuded the aura of a gentle, virtuous woman who also has the will to stand up to any obstacle in her way. Her moving performances created some of the most unforgettable moments in classic Cantonese cinema.
In 1955, Hung accompanied Ma Si-tsang back to Mainland China to lead the Guangdong Opera Troupe, promoting and evolving the art of Cantonese Opera. Despite suffering political persecution during the Cultural Revolution, Hung eventually returned to the opera world. Nicknamed the “Red Bean of the South,” Hung was able to elevate Cantonese Opera from a local folk tradition to an important traditional art form recognized by the government.
In 1985, Hung received the Outstanding Artist Award from the Asia Society’s Center of Performing Arts and an Outstanding Artist Award from the United Nations, in addition to other recognitions in the years that followed. In 1998, the Guangzhou city government established the Hung Sin Nui Art Center in Hung’s honor.
Hung has lived a life filled with ups and downs, but her strong will carried her through tough times and made her a legend in the world of arts. Although Hung Sin Nui passed away on Dec 8, 2013 in Guangzhou, her name will live on forever in history.
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