The secret of art that China has hidden for centuries (5 photos + 1 video)

22 May 2024

Until the 1980s, this art form was a state secret in China! True, it was strictly forbidden to reveal its subtleties. The biggest secret remained how faces on masks change so deftly and quickly in Chinese opera.

This art also has a special name - ban-lian. This is an operatic genre of drama in which richly and colorfully dressed masked actors change their faces in a second depending on the plot. Not a facial expression, but a pattern on the mask! It really does look a little like magic.

Beneath that face there could be 20 layers of new faces

The art of changing face on a mask is an important part of Sichuan opera, which is included in the list of intangible cultural heritage of China.

What does wild animals and opera have to do with it?

There is a theory that this opera was actually born... from the skills of scaring animals! The Chinese wore masks before going into the forest to look intimidating and scare away tigers and all sorts of other large animals. They also made certain frightening steps when they saw danger. Just a few hundred years and here you have high dramatic art.

Not only can a tiger do this, it can scare the crap out of me too.

Which, until 1987, was recognized by the Ministry of Culture as a second-level national secret. It was canceled only when they decided that state secrets should be related to the security of the country. But changing masks in the theater still has nothing to do with this.

However, theater actors are trained not to tell anyone, which is why there is still not a single book on the technology of changing faces for masks.

Their god of fire, of course, is FIRE

It is believed that several layers of painted silk faces are applied to the mask, which are torn off layer by layer using invisible thin threads with one tug.

And the old layer of the face is quickly hidden in the numerous folds of luxurious suits.

Who recognized Doraemon? How can you capture the viewer without a humorous touch?

Still mesmerizing

The modern viewer is fed up with special effects and shows, and it’s hard to surprise anyone with sleight of hand after David Copperfield.

But still, Sichuan opera still looks very relevant and literally mesmerizes. Perhaps because for centuries the combination of movements, dance, and poses has been perfected here.


The coolest actor in this genre is considered to be Peng Denhuai, who changed 14 faces with a wave of his hand in 25 seconds. It was even included in the Guinness Book of Records.

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