Beijing Opera

The dazzling form of traditional theatre called Beijing Opera (or Peking Opera) has origins that stretch back at least as far as the 1790s. Performers clad in elaborate costumes, some extravagantly adorned with facepaint, enact tales based on fairy-stories, myth and the classics of Chinese literature, dealing with subjects such as romance, political intrigue and war.

Accompanied by stringed instruments, a reed flute and percussion (drums, bells, cymbals, clappers), the characters sing in a distinctive high-pitched style –- a brash delivery that, along with the vivid colours, reflects the fact that the opera is essentially a popular art form that was traditionally performed to noisy crowds in dimly-lit temples, markets and teahouses. Shows also include acrobatics, mime and clowning.

You can witness this sumptuous spectacle at a number of key venues, such as the Huguang Guild Hall, Chang'an Grand Theatre and Lao She Tea House, or glimpse a sample at Prince Gong's Mansion (see separate article).

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