Costumes and Makeup

Beijing opera costumes are colorful and are often richly embroidered (Lu: Publisher's Note) (Bond 2008:30). They identify the role type and convey the character's status in society and physical characteristics (Lu)(Bond: 28). In particular the costumes define whether the character is male/female, youth/age, upper/lower status, rich/poor, military/civilian, and Han/minority (Bond). Costumes are also divided into four garment types: mang, pi, kao, and xuezi.

Makeup also defines role types. The sheng and dan role types usually wear a white base with rouge around the eyes and cheeks (Li: [2]). The chou has a small tofu shaped patch across the nose and beneath the eyes [3]. The jing is the most colorful with his character and emotions displayed on his face in one or more colors. Each color has its own meaning such as white for evil and treachery, red for loyalty, and gold and silver for supernatural beings [3-4].


aiyueximi. 2007. Xi ju jing ju fu zhuan shou cang jia bao wan rong xi -zhuan ji: jing hu yu long jiang tan huai huang mei xi ping tan deng xi qu yi shu (Beijing Opera Costume Collector expert Bao Wanrong album: Jing, Hu, Yu Long, Jiang, huai, huang mei operas and storytelling arts). April 4. 15 Oct. 2010.


  • Bond, Alexandra B. 2008. Beijing Opera Costumes: The Visual Communication of Character and Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

    This book is an in-depth study of modern Beijing costume. With numerous pictures it provides descriptions of costumes' history, symbolism, aesthetics, dressing techniques, and dressing techniques and costume plots. Makeup, hair, and headdresses are also addressed in their own chapter.

    "The combinations of the costumes onstage are selected to convey not only the individual characters, but to produce the most beautiful stage picture possible" (31).

  • Dong, Chensheng. 1981. Paintings of Beijing Opera Characters. Beijing: Zhaohua Publishing House. (also in Play Content)

    This book contains plot synopses and beautiful detailed watercolor paintings of the plays' characters. An afterword provides a short introduction to Beijing opera including watercolor paintings of different role types from different plays.

    "In traditional Beijing opera, the actors wear costumes and headgear prevalent in the Ming dynasty, irrespective of the dynastic period in which the story is supposed to take place" (63).

  • Lu, Hua. 1980. Full-Color Designs from Chinese Opera Costumes: 60 Authentic Examples. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

    Sixty beautiful designs from Chinese opera costumes with descriptions of the picture's content and which type of garment it is on are the book's contents. A short introduction explains the role of costumes and the designs found on them.

    "The costumes are richly embroidered with traditional motifs in colored silk and cotton and gold and silver threat. The immediately recognizable motifs, which occupy specifically prescribed positions on the various types of garments, frequently serve as symbols or emblems" (Publisher's Note para. 3).

Internet Resources:


therealworldchina. 2008. Chinese Opera Face Painting. Apr. 12. Youtube. 9 Oct. 2010.

huage. 2009. Zi pai jing ju xiao sheng hua zhuang guo cheng (Self filming of the process of applying xiaosheng makeup). Youku. 15 Oct 2010.

Zhonghuaxiqu. 2009. Zhong guo jing ju 145 zhong lian pu tu pian xin shang (Chinese Beijing opera 145 types of face painting pictures to enjoy). 15 Oct. 2010.


  • Gudnason, Jessica Tan. 2001. Chinese Opera. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers.
    Introduction by Li, Gong. "Children of the Pear Garden," [1-7].

    Color and black and white photographs of Beijing, Yue, and Cantonese operas display the many types of makeup and costumes found in Chinese opera. The final section contains small copies of the photos along with captions describing the picture contents, and stating the opera, size, and type of print.

    "Because Chinese opera culture deems that each performer must integrate his own means of communicating into the traditional demands of the role and the art form, I have tried to bring my own new vision of this ancient theatre to the new world and its new millennium" (Gudnason Forward [3]).

  • Zhang, Jinliang and Hansheng Zhang. 1996. Facial Makeup in Traditional Chinese Operas: A Hundred Chou roles. Shandong Pictorial Publishing House.(see also Role Types)

    This book provides an overview of chou facial makeup in traditional Chinese operas as well as pictures and descriptions of 115 chou characters and their makeup. It also describes how different types of characters are depicted in traditional opera.

    "Facial makeup follows a set of rigorous rules, and many specific means and devices for facial makeup have been created" (4).

  • Zhao, Menglin and Jiqing Yan. 1996. Peking Opera Painted Faces With Notes. Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers.

    Zhao and Yan begin with an introduction to face colors, type and symbolic meanings of painted faces, and makeup techniques. Pictures of famous character's face makeup follow with commentary in a separate section afterwards.

    "Any study of the painted faces in Peking opera should be made in conjunction with a study of the opera stories, the dramatis personae, and the costumes and performances of the actors. For this purpose, we have included a number of pictures drawn by the author showing Peking opera actors in costume and with facial make-up. This will help readers understand, among other things, how Peking opera painted faces are categorized" (12).

Internet Resources:

  • 2010. Beijing Opera Masks. Oct. 9

    This PDF lists different Beijing opera mask by color and describes what personality characteristics the masks convey.

  • World Digital Libraries. 2009. Office of Great Peace Album of Opera Faces. May 7. 9 Oct. 2010.

    This digital picture album titled Office of Great Peace Album of Opera Faces is a collection of Peking opera masks drawn in the Tongzhi reign (1851-1874).

kthypryn. 2004.100_5529. Jul. 16. Flickr. 4 Oct. 2010.