Peking Opera, also called Beijing Opera, is a form of traditional Chinese theatre in which characters are represented by masks painted directly on the actors’ faces. Each mask is a stylized and often complex representation of a given character’s traits or history.
‘Four Great Anhui Troupes’ brought Anhui opera to Beijing in 1790, for the eightieth birthday of the Qianlong Emperor. It was originally staged for the court and only made available to the public later. There exist over 300 unique masks from the world of Peking Opera.
The Qianlong Emperor had banned all female performers in Beijing in 1772, but the appearance of women on the stage began to rise again during the 1870s. Female performers began to impersonate male roles and declared equality with men.
In addition to its presence in Mainland China, Peking opera has spread to many other places. It can be found in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese communities elsewhere.