Hong Kong's newly opened Xiqu Centre, West Kowloon Cultural District

So, how are you on the finer points of Cantonese opera?

If you need a refresher on such classics as The Legend of the Purple Hairpin – or are a complete novice in the range of xiqu (Chinese traditional theatre) – brush up on the details at Hong Kong's vast, ambitious cultural precinct, the West Kowloon Cultural District.

The vast waterfront precinct, much of which is set on land reclaimed from Victoria Harbour, will host 17 cultural venues designed by some of the world's top architects when it is finally complete – date unknown.

The first of its headline performance spaces is the recently opened Xiqu Centre, on the corner of Canton and Austin Road West. Designed as a hub for Chinese traditional theatre, the opera house comprises a number of venues including the Tea House Theatre, where visitors can enjoy a 90-minute introduction to the UNESCO-listed Cantonese opera, from the costumes to the acrobatics, the music and the storylines. If your Cantonese is shabby, English surtitles and a moderator are on hand to assist, along with tea and dim sum served during the performance.

It's been eight years since the HK$2.7-billion Xiqu Centre was first sketched on paper. Inspired by the form of a Chinese lantern, follow its journey in a free exhibition currently showing in the foyer, or take a 60-minute tour in English of the building and the art form it champions.

Xiqu is also home to the new Moon Lok Chinese fine-dining restaurant, celebrity chef Margaret Xu's Chinese cake shop Go Cakes, and a xiqu-inspired gift shop .

Xiqu is not the only reason to visit West Kowloon – the arts precinct plans include two parks and kilometres of cycling and walking paths, with beauty spots looking over to the skyline of Hong Kong Island. It's also just a few minutes' walk from the new West Kowloon rail terminus, which runs high-speed services to Guangzhou and on to Shanghai and Beijing.

The Tea House Theatre Experience runs until August 25 and costs from HK$318 a person; Xiqu Centre guided tours cost HK$100, book ahead. See www.westkowloon.hk 

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