Chinese opera performers mainly have two methods of makeup: masks and facial painting. The frequent on-stage change of masks, without the audience noticing, is a special technique, known as changing faces. Opera facial painting falls into three main categories -- personality makeup (facial designs, painted faces orLian Pu
), decorative makeup (decorated faces), mood makeup (changing facial designs), and pictographic makeup (animal-like facial designs).
Personality makeup, orLian Pu,refers to facial designs forJingandChouroles. It originated from daily life experience, describing such changes of expression as white for fear, red for shyness, dark for suntan, and sallow for illness. Most facial designs attach great importance to the eyes and eyebrows.Lian Puhas formed a complete system, such as the facial designs of Peking Opera.
Red, yellow, white, black, purple, green and silver are the main colors used for facial designs to represent different characters. For instance, red stands for loyal, courageous and upright people; white for sinister and cunning officials; and golden and silvery colors for gods and ghosts.
The facial designs for theJingroles are made by painting, powdering and coloring in the basic forms ofZheng Lian(keeping the basic face pattern),San Kuai Wa Lian(three-section face) andSui Lian(fragmentary face). These types are widely used to represent generals, officials, heroes, gods and ghosts.
TheChouactors can be recognized by the patch of white in various shapes (cube-, date pit-or bat-shaped) painted around the eyes and nose. Sometimes these patches are outlined in black, hence the termXiao Hua Lian(partly painted face). TheChouroles fall into the following two categories:Wen Chou(civil) andWu Chou(martial).
Decorative makeup refers to the facial decorations ofShengandDanactors, also known asSu MianorJing Mian(elegant or clean faces). In the early days,Shengactors andDanactresses put on light makeup. At the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), stage lighting was used, and actors and actresses had to put on heavy makeup by using greasepaint rather than fine powder. Though theShengandDanperformers do not have facial designs asJingandChouroles, their makeup is full of decorative interest.