Item Records

This page shows all the information we have about this item. Both the institution that physically holds this item, and RRN members have contributed the knowledge on this page. You’re looking at the item record provided by the holding institution. If you scroll further down the page, you’ll see the information from RRN members, and can share your own knowledge too.

The RRN processes the information it receives from each institution to make it more readable and easier to search. If you’re doing in-depth research on this item, be sure to take a look at the Data Source tab to see the information exactly as it was provided by the institution.

These records are easy to share because each has a unique web address. You can copy and paste the location from your browser’s address bar into an email, word document, or chat message to share this item with others.

  • Data
  • Data Source

This information was automatically generated from data provided by MOA: University of British Columbia. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


The folded hat is black and rectangular with a rounded top piece, a back flap and embroidered motifs. The hat has a black centre panel which folds inwards on both sides. Embroidered on the centre panel are pink, orange and green peonies with green leaves and yellow swirls. On the inside of both side folds is a red and white peony with green leaves and yellow swirls. The rounded top piece has pink and orange peonies with green leaves and yellow swirls. Hanging down from the top piece on either side of the centre panel is a red streamer. On the back, the flap mimics the rounded top piece and extends down past the bottom of the folded centre panel, flaring out at the bottom. In the centre of the flap is a large pink, orange, red and yellow peony. Surrounding the flower is a circle of gold scroll designs and red, pink and orange peonies with green leaves and swirls. On the inside of the hat is ecru lining, stiffened with cardboard. One ecru tie and one cloth tie are attached.

History Of Use

Such a hat would have been worn by an actor representing a guard whose role was to stand at attention, not to fight. He would have worn it with a black gown and a knife. The role type could be any type of low rank. The hat folds for ease of storage and transportation, but achieves the desired shape when unfolded.
The style of most Cantonese opera costumes derives from clothing of the Ming Dynasty, with the exception of some costumes that are specific in style to clothing of the Qing Dynasty, for operas set in that dynasty. Ming Dynasty style costumes are used for operas set in all other dynasties. In Cantonese opera, the standards for indicating particular role types and character types through costumes were and are not as strict as those for Beijing opera, and the use of symbols appears to have been inconsistent. The performance style of Cantonese opera is also much more flexible than that of Beijing opera, and change and novelty were and are valued. This is reflected in the costumes. It was important that robes and headdresses be appropriate to each other, but the footwear was less strictly controlled.
Early in the twentieth century there was a multiplicity of role types, but the number of role types was simplified over time, and some were merged. More than one actor can play a particular role type at any one time, and they are ranked. A basic list follows, but more role types exist. Among the female role types are those who can fight (called “fa daan”). The highest of these can sing, and is called the ”jing yahn fa daan”. Another female role type is the “ching yi”, a gentlewoman, sometimes humble and struggling, who sings but does not do acrobatics and fight. A third female role type is the old woman “louh daan”. A fourth is the female clown “neuih chauh”. Male role types include the “siu saang” (young gentleman), “mouh saang” (military man), “fa mihn” (painted face, military man with less education), “sou saang” (bearded gentleman, older civil male), “jung saang” (mid-rank male with many skills, but not outstanding), and “chauh saang” (male clown). Costumes are specific to general role type and often to character type, but rarely to the specific character. They are divided into civil and military types, as indicated by their sleeves. Civil costumes have wide sleeves, while military costumes have tight sleeves. Other details such as colour indicate the role type and character type. As indicated by this collection, “water sleeves” “seuih jauh” were rarely used in the pre- World War II period. Many costumes conform to named types, such as “yuhn lehng” “round neck” and “hoi ching”, scholar’s long robe overlapping at the front, with wide sleeves.
Male and female role types can be played by either men or women, depending on their abilities and attributes. In the past, troupes were all-male, but later all-female troupes and mixed troupes were formed. Mixed troupes were accepted in the overseas Chinese context before they were accepted in China.
Costumes from the period before World War II can be dated in part by their ornamentation. Those decorated with silver-coated brass disks are likely to be the oldest, followed by those decorated with mirrors. Sequins came into use in the 1930s, although they had been used sparingly before, and heavily-sequined costumes came into use in the late 1930s, continuing into the 1950s.
The conditions of production of costumes pre World War II are not known with certainty. As most costumes have repeated motifs, some method must have been used to replicate them for embroidery and couching. This work was probably done on a putting-out basis under the auspices of the production company, by women. The final finishing may have been done by men in the company headquarters.

Cultural Context


Iconographic Meaning

The fact that the hat is for a guard is indicated by the shape of the hat.

Specific Techniques

All visible stitching was done by hand. Layer of heavy paper? pasted between two layers of fabric. Embroidery was done with long rough satin stitches. Couching was loosely stitched. Ties were hand woven.


A large group of Cantonese opera costumes, musical instruments, props, trunks, and stage fittings was left with the Jin Wah Sing Musical Association, apparently by some of the many itinerant troupes visiting Vancouver to perform in the Chinatown theatres in the pre World War II period. There is no certain knowledge of why these materials were not taken back to China by them. They were used by the Jin Wah Sing Musical Association in their performances until they became too dated. The association continued to preserve them carefully, storing them in their headquarters and in the basement of the Chinese Freemasons building until several groups of materials were sold and donated to the Museum of Anthropology.

Item History

With an account, you can ask other users a question about this item. Request an Account

With an account, you can submit information about this item and have it visible to all users and institutions on the RRN. Request an Account

Similar Items