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The Colors of Peking Opera

Make-up is a special art in Chinese operas, especially in Peking Opera , where it distinguishes different roles and reveals their dispositions and moral qualities via artistic exaggeration, truthful portrayals and symbolism.

Of the four roles of Peking Opera -- sheng, dan, jing and chou, only the jing and chou roles have elaborate facial make-up called "lianpu."

There are relatively few lianpu patterns for a chou role -- the most common being a white- painted nose for comic relief. Jing lianpu patterns of are much more complicated and varied.


The origin of lianpu can be traced back to the Southern and Northern Dynasties Period more than 1,400 years ago when leading actors used to wear masks. As the operatic arts developed performers gradually took off their masks and painted colorful patterns on their faces instead since it was difficult to show facial expressions behind a mask.

During the heyday of Peking Opera in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), performers carefully studied facial structures and carefully analyzed the personalities and appropriate facial characteristics of operatic characters. Various colors were used to identify the roles of the performers and to reveal a character's moral and spiritual roles, as well as other defining characteristics.
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