The Fourth Stop: 80 Days of Walking in Shanghai – Facial Makeup in Beijing Opera Exhibition at Shanghai Pubilc Art Museum
Shanghai-style culture is not territorial, its meaning essentially encompasses the cultural fusion of all of China and even the world, and it is this fusion that has led to the unique culture of Shanghai today. You will never find a city as traditional and modern, Chinese style and Western-style as Shanghai, where people from any part of the world can find their own identity and a figure of their country’s culture.
The Shanghai Pubilc Art Museum is one of the most representative examples, with permanent exhibitions on Old Shanghai culture as well as cultural highlights from other parts of China, such as today’s presentation of the Chinese national Beijing Opera Facial Makeup.
The origin of the Beijing Opera mask comes from the Northern and Southern dynasties of China more than 1,400 years ago, when King Lanling of Northern Qi, in order to stabilize his army, put on a mask to disguise his amazing beauty and pretended to be a fierce beast. Later singers created mask dances to celebrate his prowess, however, the mask obviously influenced the singer’s singing, so that the mask was removed and the colors were applied directly to the face to form the later facial makeup.
During the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty, the Beijing opera culture was developed, and artists gradually absorbed the characteristics of various local dramas and created many historical mythological characters and face patterns with different character traits. According to the face booklet, the audience can intuitively judge the loyalty of the characters based on the style of the makeup, thus enhancing the experience of watching the show.
The process of sketching a face involves a complex process. The artist must first visually inspect the actors’ facial features for a long time, use a pencil to outline a draft on paper, and make timely adjustments to any inconsistencies. The next day, he shows the actor the painted face of the page again, and wait until the actor is sure that the face on paper fits the character’s personality.
Chinese traditional art, whenever it comes to fine paintings, is colored with precious gemstones and minerals, so we jokingly call every traditional painter a billionaire or poor for painting. The facial makeup in this exhibition were all painted with expensive, high-quality pigments imported from England by Ni Wui-Ming, and today, 100 years later, they are still in brilliant color. The brushes used for the painting, which made of white jade and weasel’s hair, are mostly used for traditional Chinese realistic painting, and even smaller details than coins are easy to handle.
Address: Shanghai Public Art Museum, No.125 Guyi Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday daytime.
Ticket price: Free.
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