heu (Cantonese Opera Boots)

About this object

History of use

Boots with high soles were and are used in Cantonese opera to represent men of high status in both civil and military roles. The extent of decoration indicates the status of the character. These boots would have been worn by a male or female actor with an alto voice representing a young male scholar of ordinary rank. During the years 1900-1930, Cantonese opera costumes were decorated with silver-plated brass discs and then with round mirrors, together with gold and silver thread. Sequins made of gelatin were first used on Cantonese opera costumes in the 1930s. Heavily-sequined costumes were popular in the 1950s-60s, with the sequins then being made of plastic. Sequins have continued to come and go in popularity since that time.

Cultural context

Cantonese Opera Performance

Physical description

A pair of boots high enough to cover the wearer’s calf, with very thick white soles curved upwards at the front. The sides of the boots are decorated with frontal images of flowers in two shades of blue sequins, with tendrils extending from them filled in with silver sequins, as are the centers of the flowers. There are also flowers on the toes of the boots. There are long loops of fabric attached to the tops of the boots at the center front. A red stamp with chinese letters is inside (a) near top.