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Different Meanings of Colors in Beijing Opera Masks


China is a great country with time-honored history, which created profound Chinese history, When mentioning Chinese history, Peking opera is what can’t be missed, which is a vivid reflection of Chinese culture. In Peking opera, there are different kinds of masks with different color, which symbolizes different meanings in the opera. Each of it has been listed as below. If you China tours covers Beijing, you should never forget to watch the authentic Peking Opera.



Gold and silver colors are usually used for gods and spirits. The main color in a facial makeup symbolizes the disposition of the character. The facial makeups date a long time back to the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties at least. Simple patterns of painted faces are found in tomb murals of that age. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), improvements were made in the skills of drawing and in preparing the paints, leading to the whole set of colorful facial patterns that we see in today's Jingju (Beijing Opera).


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.

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.



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."



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 offficer versed in black magic in the opera " Green Dragon Pass.



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."



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."



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 Wun with a green pointed three-tile face plays a general in the opera "Green Dragon Ps.



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.



No China tour packages are complete without watching the classic Peking Opera! Come to China and discover it by yourself!




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