Skip main navigation

Culture Notes:Beijing Opera

In this article, Beijing Opera will be introduced by Dr Li.

Beijing opera is the most influential and representative of all operas in China. It’s very popular.

Taking shape in Beijing, it has a history of about 200 years. During the reign of the Qianlong emperor in the Qing dynasty, Qianlong had an interest in the local opera. In 1790, to celebrate his 80th birthday, he summoned opera troupes from different places to perform for him in Beijing. Then different operas communicated and Beijing opera was thus formed.

Beijing Opera is a comprehensive performing art. It is a harmonious combination of many art forms, synthesizing recitation, instrumental music, singing, dancing, acrobatics, and martial arts. There are four kinds of Kungfu in Peking Opera, that is, the performing form of Peking Opera– singing, speaking, acting and acrobatic fighting. It features symbolic motion and stage design. Since there are no real props on stage, the actors have to use their gestures and actions to show the audience what they are doing. For example, the action of holding reins means the actor is riding a horse and walking around the stage means taking a long journey. These of highly formulaic and suggestive movements of the actors are accompanied by the rhythmic beats of gongs and drums, or the haunting melodies of traditional instruments. Beijing opera is also famous for its exquisite costumes and beautiful printed faces. It has different types of facial makeup. Different colors represent different personalities. For instance, red means a warrior, black means a man of integrity and yellow means brutal. The roles in the Opera can be divided into four categories: Sheng, Dan, Jing and Chou, all of which have their own natural features of age, sex and social status.

Beijing Opera 京剧 jīng jù

Sheng, Dan, Jing, Chou, 生 旦 净 丑 shēng dàn jìng chǒu

This article is from the free online

Learn Chinese: Introduction to Chinese Grammar

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education