Septuagenarian dedicated to making facial make-up for traditional Chinese opera

(People's Daily Online) 15:24, March 22, 2021
Septuagenarian dedicated to making facial make-up for traditional Chinese opera
Photo shows Zhu Jiannan standing in front of a wall covered by facial makeup artworks used in traditional Chinese opera. (People's Daily Online/He Meng)

Zhu Jiannan, a 76-year-old man in Changsha, central China’s Hunan province, has produced more than 3,000 pieces of facial make-up artworks for over 60 genres of traditional Chinese opera over the past 30 years.

As an inheritor of what has become an intangible cultural heritage, Zhu has visited senior opera performers in over 20 cities and counties throughout the province, as well as almost every other province in the country, in search of facial masks to be used in Chinese opera performances.

According to Zhu, his fascination with the painting of opera facial masks started in 1996, when he first came into contact with this form of art under the influence of one of his relatives engaged in theatrical performances. He further improved his painting skills after apprenticing with a former head of the Peking opera troupe in the province.

"There are over ten main colors used in opera facial make-up, and these rich colors reflect the different personalities of different characters," recounted the man, explaining that red and black often symbolized loyalty and honesty, respectively.

Zhu has also been innovating this form of art by integrating it with calligraphy. He has produced a magnificent full set of facial makeup artworks featuring 12 Chinese zodiac signs.

"This kind of innovation is quite popular, and many people have since come to order traditional opera face mask paintings with designated themes," said Zhu.

"I have 18 apprentices aged between 30 to 60, all of whom are lovers of the opera facial make-up culture," remarked the old man. In striving to carry forward this traditional culture into future generations, Master Zhu said he plans to begin organizing educational activities in schools to showcase the charm of this culture over the next few months.



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