Peking Opera Facial Masks - CNTO
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Peking Opera Facial Masks

Peking Opera Facial Masks

Beijing Opera

Beijing Opera of China is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. In the 55th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1790) , the four big Huiban opera Troupes entered the capital and combined with Kunqu opera, Yiyang opera, Hanju opera and Luantan in Beijing's theoretical circle of the time. Over a period of more than half a century of combination and integration of various kinds of opera there evolved the present Beijing Opera. Beijing Opera is the most significant of all operas in China, and it has a richness of repertoire, great number of artists and audiences, that give it a profound influence in China and plays a large role in Chinese culture.

Beijing Opera is a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to represent a story or depict different characters and their feelings of gladness, anger, sorrow, happiness, surprise, fear and sadness. The characters may be loyal or treacherous, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, their images being vividly manifested.

Beijing Opera masks originates from totem in ancient times, develops into facial paintings of the Song and Yuan Dynasties, and eventually takes the shape of facial costume of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is a pattern of put-on facial make-up for opera actors and actresses in the stereotype roles of "painted face" and clown. It plays the artistic functions of implying commendatory and derogatory connotations and differentiating benevolence and malevolence, enabling the audience to get a glimpse of the inner world of actors and actresses through their symbolic facial make-up. In this sense, facial make-up has obtained the reputation as "painting of heart and soul".


Chinese Opera Mask, Guan Yu

Red Color

Red indicates devotion, courage bravery, uprightness and loyalty. A typical "red full face" is Guan Yu, general of the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280), famed for his faithfulness to his Emperor, Liu Bei.

Chinese Opera Mask, Zhang Fei

Black Color

Black symbolizes roughness and fierceness. The black face indicates either a rough and bold character or an impartial and selfless personality. Typical of the former are General Zhang Fei with a black cross butterfly face (of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and Li Kui (of Water Margin), and of the latter is Bao Gong (alias Bao Zheng), the semi-legendary fearless and impartial judge of the Song Dynasty.

Chinese Opera Mask, Tu Xingsun

Yellow Color

Yellow signifies fierceness, ambition and cool-headedness. Shown is Tuxing Sun with a yellow symbolic face, a dwarf general with special powers in the opera "Three Mountain Pass."

Chinese Opera Mask, Hou Yi

Purple Color

Purple stands for uprightness, sophistication and cool-headedness. The reddish purple face likewise shows a just and noble character, for instance, Hou Yi with a purple three-tile face was a grain officer versed in black magic in the opera " Green Dragon Pass.

Chinese Opera Mask, Xia Houdun

Blue Color

Blue represents staunchness, fierceness and astuteness. Shown is Xiahou Dun with a blue pointed three-tile face, Cao Cao's most trusted general in the opera Bowang Slope."

Chinese Opera Mask, Cao Cao

White Color

White suggests sinisterness, treacherousness, suspiciousness and craftiness. Commonly seen on the stage is the white face for the powerful villain. It highlights all that is bad in human nature: cunning, craftiness, and treachery. Typical characters are Cao Cao, powerful and cruel prime minister in the time of the Three Kingdoms, and Qin Hui, treacherous Song Dynasty prime minister who put the national hero Yue Fei to death. Cao cao with a watery white face is the leading character in the opera "Meeting of the Elite."

Chinese Opera Mask, Zheng Lun

Green Color

A green face tells the audience that the character is impulsive and violent and depicts surly stubbornness, impetuosity and a total lack of self-restraint. Zheng Lun with a green pointed three-tile face plays a general in the opera "Green Dragon Pass".

Chinese Opera Mask, Jiang Gan

Petty Painted Face

For the clowns of traditional drama, there is a special makeup called xiaohualian (the petty painted face), i.e., a small patch of chalk on and around the nose to show a mean and secretive character, such as Jiang Gan of the Three Kingdoms who fawned upon Cao Cao. It is also occasionally painted on a young page or an ordinary workingman, often to enhance his wit, humor or jesting and to enliven up the performance.