Face Painting in the Beijing Opera

The different type’s facial painting is a special method of makeup that has been adopted in the Chinese Operas. Among all the Chinese Operas, the Beijing Opera has developed to incorporate different types of facial painting.  The Beijing opera unique charm stems from the inspiration received from the performances and the exquisite designs from the facial paintings.

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Having existed over a hundred and sixty years, the being opera has been extolled as the oriental opera that forms the quintessence of Chinese culture. The different types of facial painting in the Beijing Opera has developed into one of the most mature and systematic form of facial makeup through painting. It involves a scenic art that integrates performance, music, aria, literature and face painting (Barton & McGregor 2008, 262).

The performers at the Beijing opera have two main types of makeup that include the facial masks and the facial painting. The Opera facial painting comprise of various categories that include the personality makeup that include the facial designs or the painted faces. The personality makeups or the facial designs are also known as Lian Pu (Bonds 2008, 107). The Lian Pu involves the colorful painting of the actor’s faces by using transformative and exaggerated figures that are beautifully decorated on the face. The Lian Pu follow various formats of facial painting that incorporate various aspects of type, color and shape. In addition, the foreheads, eyes and cheeks are usually painted like the wings of swallows, bats and butterflies.

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Facial painting in the Beijing opera also involves decorative makeup also known as the decorated faces. The decorative faces are common among the Jing performers who follow the painted face male role (Bonds 2008, 107). The facial painting among the Jing roles are made by powdering, painting and coloring of the basic Zheng Lian or the basic face patterns. The Jing facial painting is considered a fundamental step in the Beijing Opera performance where plastering, kneading and delineating are the main methods used to paint the face.

The Chou also forms one of the main facial painting in the Beijing Opera (Anderson 2011, 46). The Chou follows the Clown role also known as the Xiao Hua Lian or the partly painted face. The Chou characters usually wear special face paint that is different from the Jing performers. The Chou follows a villainous or comical character where the actor’s nose is painted using a piece of white powder. The Chou facial painting is thus easily recognized by the white patch on the nose which includes various shapes such as a date pit, cube or bat-shaped that is painted around the nose and sometimes around the eyes.

The facial painting among the Beijing performers involves various coloring and patterns derived from the traditional Chinese color divination and symbolism, which are said to reveal the persons personality (Bonds 2008, 108). Each design and color among the Beijing performers is unique to a specific character. Red depicts utter devotion, righteousness, and loyalty. Purple symbolizes resourcefulness, wisdom or justice. Black on the other hand represents uprightness and loyalty. Watery white represents trickery and malevolence. Blue expresses intrepid  and unyielding personality. Green brings out a chivalrous nature. Colors of silver and gold are mostly used to represent gods, monsters, ghosts and Buddha, which they use to elicit an impression of fantasy from the gold faces and bodies. The Beijing opera forms the soul of the Chinese people national culture. However, the main attractions have been the facial painting. Facial painting has consisted of the Jing, the Lianpu and the Chou or the partly painted face. The coloring and designs of the facial painting plays a fundamental role in understanding and revealing the performers personality.

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