The decorative faces are common among the Jing performers who follow the painted face male role Bonds, , p. 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 Chou also forms one of the main facial painting in the Beijing Opera Anderson, , p. The Chou characters usually wear special face paint that is different from the Jing performers. 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, , p.
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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. Barton, R. Theatre in your life. Bonds, A. Beijing opera costumes: The visual communication of character and culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. Related Papers. By Chan Liying. Nadler, Katja Edited by G. In response, Communist party officials enacted reforms to curb liberalism and foreign influence in theatrical works.
After the retreat of the Republic of China to Taiwan in , Beijing opera there took on a special status of "political symbolism," in which the Kuomintang government encouraged the art form over other forms of opera in an attempt to claim a position as the sole representative of Chinese culture. This often occurred at the expense of traditional Taiwanese opera.
In September of , when the Kuomintang government participated in a state-sponsored mainland cultural event for the first time, a Taiwanese opera group was sent, possibly to emphasize "Taiwaneseness".
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During the second half of the twentieth century, Beijing opera witnessed a steady decline in attendance numbers. This has been attributed both to a decrease in performance quality and an inability of the traditional opera form to capture modern life. The influence of Western culture has also left the younger generations impatient with the slow pace of Beijing opera. However, these reforms have been hampered by both a lack of funding and a sensitive political climate that makes the performance of new plays difficult. In addition to more formal reform measures, Beijing opera troupes during the s also adopted unofficial changes.
Some of those seen in traditional works, called "technique for technique's sake," include the use of extended high pitch sequences by female Dan, and the addition of lengthier movement sections and percussion sequences to traditional works. Such changes have generally been met with disdain by Beijing opera performers, who see them as ploys to gain immediate audience appeal.
Plays with repetitive sequences have also been shortened to hold audience interest. Regional, popular, and foreign techniques have been adopted, including Western-style makeup and beards, and new face paint designs for Jing characters.
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To survive in an increasingly open market, troupes like the Shanghai Jingju Company have brought traditional Beijing opera to new audiences by offering an increasing number of free performances in public places. There has also been a general sense of a shift in the creative attribution of Beijing opera works. The performer has traditionally played a large role in the scripting and staging of Beijing opera works.
However, perhaps following the lead of the West, Beijing opera in recent decades has shifted to give more control to the director and playwright. Performers have striven to introduce innovation in their work while heeding the call for reform from this new upper level of Beijing opera producers. In addition to its presence in mainland China, Beijing opera has spread to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese communities elsewhere. During the s, he performed Beijing opera in Japan.
This inspired an American tour in February of Although some, such as the actor Otis Skinner, believed that Beijing opera could never be a success in the United States, the favorable reception given Lanfang and his troupe in New York City disproved this notion. The performances had to be relocated from the 49th Street Theater to the larger National Theater, and the duration of the tour extended from two weeks to five.
He followed this tour with a tour in the Soviet Union in Becoming a Beijing opera performer requires a long and arduous apprenticeship beginning from an early age. Since the teacher fully provided for the pupil during this period, the student accrued a debt to his master that was later repaid through performance earnings. After , training took place in more formally organized schools. Students at these schools rose as early as five o'clock in the morning for exercises.
Daytime was spent learning the skills of acting and combat, and senior students performed in outside theaters in the evening. If they made any mistakes during such performances, the entire group was beaten with bamboo canes. Schools with less harsh training methods began to appear in , but all schools were closed down in after the Japanese invasion. New schools were not opened until Performers are first trained in acrobatics , followed by singing and gestures. Several schools of performance are taught, all based on the styles of famous performers, such as Mei Lanfang, Cheng Yanqiu, Ma Lianliang, and Qi Lintong.
Teachers assess the qualifications of each student and assign them roles as primary, secondary, or tertiary characters accordingly. Students with little acting talent often become Beijing opera musicians. This role has numerous subtypes. The laosheng is a dignified older role.
These characters have a gentle and cultivated disposition and wear sensible costumes. One type of laosheng role is the hongsheng, a red-faced older male. Young male characters are known as xiaosheng. These characters sing in a high, shrill voice with occasional breaks to represent the voice changing period of adolescence.
Depending on the character's rank in society, the costume of the xiaosheng may be either elaborate or simple. Off-stage, xiaosheng actors are often involved with beautiful women by virtue of the handsome and young image they project. They are highly trained in acrobatics, and have a natural voice when singing. Troupes will always have a laosheng actor.
A xiaosheng actor may also be added to play roles fitting to his age.
Beijing Opera Costumes: The Visual Communication Of Character And Culture 2008
In addition to these main Sheng, the troupe will also have a secondary laosheng. Dan roles were originally divided into five subtypes. Old women were played by laodan, martial women were wudan, young female warriors were daomadan, virtuous and elite women were qingyi, and vivacious and unmarried women were huadan.
One of Mei Lanfang's most important contributions to Beijing opera was in pioneering a sixth type of role, the huashan. This role type combines the status of the qingyi with the sensuality of the huadan. Wei Changsheng, a male Dan performer in the Qing court, developed the cai ciao, or "false foot" technique, to simulate the bound feet of women and the characteristic gait that resulted from the practice.