Yang Li-hua is a renowned Taiwanese opera singer best known for her cross-dressing performances. Yang is also one of the most active performers in Taiwanese opera drama and radio. In recognition of her lifelong contributions to and innovative ideas about the development of Taiwanese opera, Yang was honored at the 20th Global Chinese Culture & Arts Award and the 28th Golden Bell Awards.
Yang's parents were respectively a Taiwanese opera singer and a stage director, and Yang was introduced to Taiwanese opera when she was three. Her first role was in 1947 in "An-an Chase Chicken (安安趕雞),” produced by the opera troupe where her mother worked.
After training for ten years, Yang officially became a member of the troupe at the age of thirteen. As a cross-dressing performer for indoor Taiwanese opera, her handsome looks and elegant performances made her the pillar of the troupe. In 1961, she became famous as the top "xiao sheng (male character)” of Taiwanese opera with her role in "Lu Wen Lung (陸文龍).”
During the height of Taiwanese cinema in the 1960s, Yang portrayed female roles in a couple of Taiwanese opera movies, including the female lead in the propaganda film "Spring Wind (望春風),” which was a very unusual experience for her.
In 1965, Yang joined the Chengsheng Sky Horse Opera Troupe (正聲天馬歌劇團) formed by Chengsheng Broadcasting Corp. Though Yang was not the only one who broadcast Taiwanese opera performances, her singing of traditional tunes attracted the attention of Taiwan Television Enterprise, Ltd, who invited her to participate in Taiwanese opera on TV.
Soon Yang created a sensation in Taiwanese opera drama by playing the male character Yue Fei (岳飛), a military general during the Southern Song dynasty. After playing numerous lead roles in opera dramas, Yang became the leader of the TTV Taiwanese Opera Troupe, which was active on television until Yang left the troupe in 1944.
Since the 1990s, Taiwanese opera began a gradual decline. However, Yang has continued to cultivate new talents, and started to produce large-scale indoor performances. In 2012, "The Ultimate Yang Li-Hua (楊麗花終極大戲)” in which Yang collaborated with her disciple Chen Ya-lan (陳亞蘭), elevated Taiwanese opera into a new level by using projection effects.
Yang, who is in her 70s today, announced her return to the television industry in 2016 and recruited twenty new disciples to produce brand new Taiwanese opera dramas and pass down traditional folk culture.