Chinese Opera งิ้ว

When the ancestors of today’s Thai Chinese community migrated south and arrived in Thailand, they brought their culture with them and preserved it in their new surroundings. In their cultural baggage were traditional Chinese forms of entertainment which brought them solace as they endured the rigors of beginning life anew in a place that was far from home. One form of popular theatre that they especially loved was ngiw (งิ้ว), or Chinese Opera. Nowadays there are ngiw troupes not only in Bangkok as it used to be before. However, the heads of most ngiw troupes hire performers from Isan instead of Chinese singers, who are very scarce. It isn’t necessary that the actors speak Chinese; all they have to do is memorise the words required. Not only stage roles are taken by Thais from Isan these days. The musicians, too, usually come from the North-East. But all of these changes make very little difference to the audience, as those who understand all of what is going on up on stage are few. At present there are about 30 ngiw troupes active in Thailand, not more than 10 of them made of up Chinese performers. Most of them have work to do all year long, as they are invited to perform at different towns and cities. One of these troupes is performing in Nakhon Ratchasima town, or Korat as most Thai like to say. The performance was held close to the monument of local female hero Tao Suranari (Ya Mo) during the celebrations of Chinese New Year.

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