ART & CULTURE
Face-changing, highlight of Sichuan opera
Bian Lian (Face-changing) is an ancient Chinese dramatic art that is the highlight of Sichuan Opera, popular in Sichuan Province and some regions of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces.
Performers wear brightly colored costumes and move to quick, dramatic music. Their faces are vividly colored, for they are wearing masks. However, in a snap of the finger right on stage, their masks change - revealing completely new faces. The changing of types of lianpu (Chinese opera facial make-up) and colors reflects a character's mood - red representing anger and black extreme fury - just as in fairy tales.
Face-changing began 300 years ago in the Qing Dynasty. Opera masters changed the color of their face during performances by blowing into a bowl of red, black or gold powder. By the 1920s, opera masters began using layers of masks made of oiled paper. At present, the performers use painted silk masks. They can be worn in layers, as much as two-dozen thick, and be pulled off one by one. Performers can change more than 10 masks in less than 20 seconds.
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