A plastic art peculiar to the Chinese stage, the facial make ups are various designs of lines and coloured patches painted on the faces of certain operatic characters. They follow traditionally fixed patterns for specific types to highlight the disposition and quality in the personages so that the audience may immediately know whether they are heroes or villains, whether they are kind or treacherous and wicked. The following describes briefly the major categories of facial makeups:
The red face shows bravery, uprightness and loyalty. A typical "red face" is Guan Yu, general of the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280), famed for his faithfulness to his Emperor, Liu Bei.
The reddish purple face likewise shows a just and noble character, for instance, Lian Po in the well-known play Jiang Xiang He (The General Reconciled with the (Chief Minister), in which the General was proud and impetuous and quarrelled with the chief minister to whom he was ultimately reconciled.
The black face indicates either a rough and bold character or an impartial and selfless personality.
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Typical of the former are General Zhang Fei ( of the Romance of' the ThreeKingdoms) and Li Kui (of Water Margin), and of the latter is Bao Gong (alias Bao Zheng), the semi legendary fearless andimpartial judge of the Song Dynasty.
A green face depicts surly stubborness, impetuosity and a total lack of self-restraint.
Commonly seen on the stage is the white face for the powerful villain. It highlights all that is bad in human nature cunning, craftiness, treachery.