The costumes in Peking opera are based on Ming Dynasty fashions, also borrowing from the fashions of the Tang, Song, Yuan and Qing dynasties and modern times. They are as diverse as the roles: civil and military, male and female, and so on. Traditional Peking opera plays are mainly based on historical events, reflecting life in each dynasty, with characters ranging from emperors, generals and ministers to the common people. Characters from different dynasties and with different social statuses wear different costumes on stage, each having its own rules of dress.
As the role types came into being, the costumes were classified and standardized accordingly. Each role type has a relatively fixed form of costume. Different role types and different subtypes within the same role type are distinguished by their costumes. For example, there are various colorful costumes for female (dan) roles. Some roles of elderly women (laodan) with higher social status use ceremonial dress, such as a woman’s mang (a robe with a python design), on formal occasions. The young women (huadan) roles use close-fitting, simpler dresses to show their liveliness and beauty. The roles of military women (wudan) use armor (kao), which show their valiant bearing. The classification and standardization of Peking opera costumes, in line with the classification of role types, meet the need of stylized performance.