Rotten Big Ass: Revealing the Extinct Song Art of Brothels

Why We Recommend it

Rotten Big Ass is a contemporary stage production showcasing the Banyan tempo– an extinct music genre only played in Southern Chinese brothels before 1935.


The Banyan tempo is a style of narrative song performed only in the brothels of Hong Kong, Guangdong, and Macao a century ago. Blind singers like Dou Wun (1910-1979) would entertain prostitutes and their guests with songs depicting risqué stories, which were laden with racy and lewd expressions unacceptable in mainstream society. After 1935, when Hong Kong banned prostitution, traditional public brothels disappeared and Banyan became extinct.

Rotten Big Ass, also known as The Lovers’ Squabble, is one of the recordings made by Professor Bell Yung of the University of Pittsburgh for Dou Wun’s live performance in 1975. The song-story, sung in a first-person narrative, is about an elderly client nicknamed Rotten Big Ass who came to look for his prostitute Sui Choi, at a time when his wealthy days were behind him and he felt neglected. This performance features both the original recording of Dou Wun’s song-art and a new version re-interpreted by Hong Kong contemporary composer Nerve (Steve Hui).


When: 14 Nov 2019 - 23 Nov 2019 Where: Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre – 10 Salisbury Road – Tsim Sha Tsui