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About Beijing Opera

About Beijing Opera

Beijing Opera (or Peking Opera) has existed for over 200 years.It is widely regarded as the highest expression of Chinese culture. It is known as one of the three main theatrical systems in the world. Artistically, Beijing Opera is perhaps the most refined form of opera in the world. It has deeply influenced the hearts of the Chinese people. Although it is called Beijing Opera, its origins are not in Beijing but in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei. After absorbing the operatic tunes of regional operas such as Han Opera, Hui Opera, and Kunqu Opera, it became a genre of national significance and popularity during the 1790's. The charm of Beijing Opera lies in the comprehensive form of stage art. It is an organic combination of script literature, the performing techniques of "singing, reciting, dance-acting and acrobatics", music, painted-face make-ups and costumes, and so on.

The four main role of Beijing Opera

Sheng (生, Male role)

Dan (旦, Female role)

Jing (净, Painted face male role)

Chou (丑, Clown role)

The three roles other than the second role represent male characters.

There is an explanation about why the roles take the names above. It is said that they were chosen to have opposite meanings. Sheng in Chinese may mean "strange" or "rare", but the chief male role is a well known character.

Dan, which means "morning" or "masculine", is contrary to the feminine nature of the characters. Jing means "clean", but in fact the paintings on their faces make the characters look unclean but colorful. And Chou in Chinese sometimes represents the animal "ox", which, in some senses, is slow and silent – in contrast, the Chou characters are usually quick and talkative.

Photo credits: Xiangshanleo.

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