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Part 4
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Facial Makeup

Facial makeup is another important means of character creation in Peking opera. A special Chinese form of makeup, it expresses the characters’ personalities and traits, as well as the role type to which the characters belong, in two ways. One way is how the face is painted in certain colors. For example, a red-faced character is valiant, loyal and positive, while yellow-faced and white-faced characters are sinister, treacherous and negative. The other way is how lines and patterns are drawn on the face. For example, a distorted face, drawn with asymmetrical lines, generally represents a vicious villain or accomplice or someone whose face has been wounded.


The classification of role types makes it possible for actors and actresses to train according to the requirements of their own type of role, quickly mastering the special singing, acting and other techniques, ready to perform on stage. The role types, costumes and facial makeup enable the audience to perceive the different characters clearly and directly. When they are familiar with the role types and their corresponding costumes and facial makeup, the members of the audience are able to distinguish the characteristics of the different role types and understand the characters. This gives rise to strong theatrical effects in a performance, and the audience's interest is more easily aroused. For example, when a certain character appears on stage, the audience will recognize the role type by the costume, facial makeup and other information such as how the character moves and the melodies that he or she sings. Various styles and different traits were thus established for Peking opera characters, and the audience's attention is drawn to the plot and performance through the simplest and most economical means. This is one of the major artistic advantages of Peking opera.

Painted faces:

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