Taiwanese opera performer Hsiao Feng Hsien dies at 80

Taiwanese opera performers Yang Li-hua (楊麗花, left) and Hsiao Feng Hsien (小鳳仙, right) in costume. (Photo courtesy of Yang Li-hua Taiwanese opera troupe)
Taiwanese opera performers Yang Li-hua (楊麗花, left) and Hsiao Feng Hsien (小鳳仙, right) in costume. (Photo courtesy of Yang Li-hua Taiwanese opera troupe)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwanese opera star Hsiao Feng Hsien (小鳳仙), who was renowned for her performances in the Chou — or clown role — in Yang Li-hua’s (楊麗花) theater troupe, died Tuesday at the age of 80, the troupe has announced.

Born as Chen Li-ju (陳麗如) in 1941, Hsiao Feng Hsien began studying theater with her parents’ support at the age of 14.

She rose to prominence in Yang’s troupe during the 1960s, performing frequently on television and serving as a mentor to a generation of Taiwanese opera luminaries, including Yeh Li-na (葉麗娜) and Chi Li-ju (紀麗如).

In recent years, Hsiao Feng Hsien suffered from diabetes and other ailments, which caused her to limit her appearances in public, though she often entertained her former colleagues at home, sources close to the actress said.

According to the Taiwanese opera performer Chen Ya-lan (陳亞蘭), Yang and other members of the troupe had planned to visit Hsiao Feng Hsien in the hospital following the broadcast of The Timeless Virtues (忠孝節義) — the ensemble’s latest production, which aired late last year.

However, they were prevented from visiting her due to hospital visitation restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Chen said, adding that Yang had been particularly anguished about being unable to see her friend a final time.

Yang, for her part, mourned Hsiao Feng Hsien in a brief Facebook post Tuesday, writing “Sister: rest in peace.”

Her theater troupe, which announced the news on behalf of Hsiao Feng Hsien’s family, said the performer’s fans could take comfort in knowing that she had passed away peacefully, surrounded by family.