The origin of facial make-up used in Peking Opera can be traced back to the Southern and Northern Dynasties Period, more than 1,400 years ago, when leading actors used to wear masks.
As the operatic arts developed, performers gradually took off their masks and painted colourful patterns on their faces instead so people could better see their facial expressions.
Facial make-up enables audiences to grasp the personality of a character portrayed and the character’s social status at a glance.
Many societies in the world adopt colours associated with symbolic meanings. The same is true in China and in Peking Opera.
Peking Opera uses different colours in facial make-up to exaggerate or distort a performers’ features, but originally, only three colours were used — red, white and black – each with its own symbolic meaning. Red is the colour of loyalty, integrity and courage; black suggests a serious and taciturn disposition,