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Home History and Culture Facial Design
Facial Design
Learn Chinese - History and Culture


Chinese opera performers mainly have two methods of makeup: masks and facial painting. The frequent on-stage change of masks, without the audience noticing, is a special technique, known as changing faces (biàn liǎn 变脸). Opera facial painting falls into four main categories -- personality makeup (facial designs, painted faces or Lian Pu), decorative makeup (decorated faces), mood makeup (changing facial designs), and pictographic makeup (animal-like facial designs).

Lian Pu

Personality makeup, or Lian Pu (liǎn pǔ 脸谱), refers to facial designs for Jing and Chou roles. It originated from daily life experience, describing such changes of expression as white for fear, red for shyness, dark for suntan, and sallow for illness. Most facial designs attach great importance to the eyes and eyebrows. Lian Pu has formed a complete
system, such as the facial designs of Peking Opera (jīng jù 京剧).

Red, yellow, white, black, purple, green and silver are the main colors used for facial designs to represent different characters. For instance, red stands for loyal, courageous and upright people; white for

sinister and cunning officials; and golden and silvery colors for gods and ghosts.
The facial designs for the Jing roles are made by painting, powdering and coloring in the basic forms of Zheng Lian (keeping the basic face pattern), San Kuai Wa Lian (three-section face) and Sui Lian (fragmentary face). These types are widely used to represent generals, officials, heroes, gods and ghosts. The Chou actors (chǒu jué 丑角) can be recognized by the patch of white in various shapes (cube, date pit or bat-shaped) painted around the eyes and nose. Sometimes these patches are outlined in black, hence the term Xiao Hua Lian (xiǎo huā liǎn 小花脸) (partly painted face). The Chou roles fall into the following two categories: Wen Chou (wén chǒu 文丑) (civil) and Wu Chou (wǔ chǒu 武丑) (martial).






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