Costumes as important as the characters themselves


In the Peking Opera the costumes are as important as the characters themselves because each piece tells a story. Sewn in workshops behind the theater streets, every piece is intricately made with great consideration to design and color, and these gorgeous pieces of art can cost thousands of dollars.


In the beginning of the play the actor walks onto the stage and without them uttering a syllable the audience should be able to tell what the actor’s role is just from looking at their body language and costume. This walk is called the biaoyan and means “to show” (Riley 54).


As with most things in the Peking Opera the costumes are made specifically for the exact role and not the character. Because of this, most costumes are not made for a set period but are a synthesis of many times. This is necessary because in the modern opera there are rarely performances from one set play; instead there are parts taken from various traditional stories. For actors to be able to perform different plays in one playbill, the clothing needs to be flexible. All costumes are based off of older designs with little variation.




beijing liyuan theatre opera




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  • Beijing Subway: Tiantandongmen Station (Line 5, Exit B).