Peking Opera

One good thing about long weekends is that I am able to catch up on the things I need to do, like post process pictures and upload them onto my album. Like today, after almost 6 months, I have finally sorted out some photos taken from when I went to China. I have yet to organise the photos of the Summer Palace, Hanging Monastery, Yunggang Grottoes, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City and the random photos of everyday life in China (plus, I need to sort out my stories too!). Tonight, I have finished my Peking Opera photos.

battle-sceneI watched the Peking Opera on Tuesday night. I was supposed to watch it on Monday but the Great Wall Hike just took so long and was too exhausting so I opted to cancel. I got to the backpackers a few minutes after the scheduled departure time and – even if I did manage to arrive on time, I would not have been able to enjoy the play because I’d be too darn tired. Good thing there was another play scheduled the following day. Although  I had a sore bum from riding the bike to and from the Beijing Olympic City the following day, the discomfort was tolerable so I went on ahead.

chinese-actorI think I paid CNY125 for the Opera tickets, and that already included free shuttle service to and from the backpackers to the theatre (which was actually just a fancy hotel in another part of Beijing). I was attracted to the opera because the little poster said that guests would be able to watch the actors apply their make up prior to the start of the play. And I wanted to see them do that, more than the play itself. Besides, I needed photos for my correspondence course (the theme was people and their work place) and actors applying make up fit the description perfectly.

A makeshift makeup counter was set up at the theatre foyer and the actors were meticulously applying face paint on their countenances in full view of curious tourists (such as myself). I found out through the emcee that the actors are taught how to put make up on in acting school. I think they won’t be able to pass their course if they were unable to apply make up on properly. Also, the colours they put on their faces were there not just for decorative purposes. Each line, squiggle and hue represented something. Red, if I remember correctly, represented mischief, thus that’s the predominant colour in the monkey king’s face. I also found it interesting that all the characters in the plays were portrayed by male actors. Even the giddy Chinese lass in pink (image below) who’s eager to find a husband was played by a man.

giddy-girlThere were two plays that evening: the first was a light-hearted love story about a girl, a boy, a matchmaker and a jade bracelet; the second was a snippet from a play concerning the Monkey King. Kyle, the backpacker I watched these operas with, has been studying in China for several months and has gotten himself quite acquainted with Chinese arts and culture. He said that the ‘operas’ we were watching were vignettes only – a small part of a longer narrative.

Though I’m not a stranger to plays and the theatre, I consider going to a Chinese one still a new and enriching experience . I’d really recommend a side trip to the Opera to anyone who’s planning to visit China any time soon.

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12 comments

  1. I have always been planning to visit China but hasn’t gotten around to doing it. Thanks for sharing your photos and mentioning the opera. I think that’s a very good idea of keeping oneself occupied besides hiking the Wall.

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    • Hi Hazel, Do try to watch the opera when you go to China. It’s worth the side trip – even just for the make-up sessions at the lobby. 🙂

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  2. Wow i admire you for appreciating Beijing Opera. Many chinese of the younger does not appreciate that anymore. Ive watched a lot like that on TV but never on the theater.

    Great WS!

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  3. I’ve been to China several times already with my friends but never got to see the Opera. I did see some opera shows on TV and on tape, courtesy of a Chinese uncle and it was really fun and educational.

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