Beijing Opera Makeup Session – A Novel Taiwanese Cultural Experience

“Dressing up in a kimono and hanbok are often highlights for tourists visiting Japan and Korea. In Taiwan, Topology Travel also offers the Beijing Opera Makeup Session to provide foreign visitors with an authentic Chinese experience.”

On a beautiful sunny morning, boxes after boxes of large black cases were loaded into the office of Topology Travel, signifying that a sumptuous costume party was about to begin.

Beijing Opera makeup teacher, Mr. Yu Shan Qian, opened up the professional makeup case, and attentively arranged the various tools as if preparing for a solumn ceremony. Just like the cartoon of Doraemon pushing open the Anywhere Door, the lighting of the makeup mirror instantly transformed the office into the backstage of a Beijing Opera performance. With Teacher Qian’s magical hands, three American girls were going to convert into the leading female characters of the Beijing Opera.

Just two days ago, the three lovely sisters had enjoyed a sonorous show of Beijing Opera at the TaipeiEYE, where they danced alongside the performance’s exciting plotline. They were extremely thrilled in anticipation of becoming the classical characters of Beijing Opera.

With all the materials ready, layers of white and red powder were laid on the girls’ faces. Their innocent faces gradually matured into expressive, womanly complexions, such that one would have trouble believing they were in fact only teenagers.

With application of the makeup, interestingly, the girls also became more quiet and bashful. Even their breathing grew more careful, as if they were actresses trying to calm their nerves before going on stage. As Teacher Qian applied black eyeliner around the contours of their eyes, the girls’ eyes seemed to sparkle, adding to the charming essence that was found in all Beijing Opera female characters.

Afterwards came the elaborate process of hairstyling. Professional hairstyling required that a cloth first be used to secure the hair near the forehead, in order to accentuate the vividness of the eyes and create an animated expression. Teacher Qian took out what looked like kelp from his treasure chest. This was made from sap that was hand extracted from elm trees, which was used as hairspray in the past. Not only did it create a particular hairline, this was natural and didn’t hurt the scalp, no wonder people praised the ancient people’s wisdom to use it.

Teacher Qian paid much attention to forming the hair’s various angles, so that the girls’ hairstyles appeared elegant but natural. He even designated different roles based on their personalities. The oldest sister, donning a glimmering coronet, became the grand Yang Guifei. The middle sister, displaying a hairstyle from the Qing Dynasty and wearing a shoe last mould that made her look like she had bound feet, was a graceful princess. With a distinct fabric hanging down her waist, the youngest sister appeared to embody a mischievous handmaiden. Under Teacher Qian’s conscientious care, everyone showed off their particular personalities.

Lastly, the red lipstick final touches could not be forgotten.

The time-consuming and labour-intensive Beijing Opera makeup and costume session is precisely a cultural journey. With every step one could sense the profound and unique charm of Beijing Opera.

Stacey, the mother of the girls, happily proclaimed that although the girls had previously shown interest in Beijing Opera, this makeup session was an eye-opening experience that would definitely be the highlight of their trip. Watching the girls merrily pose for photos that would surely become memorable for a lifetime, one couldn’t help but think that this fascinating experience could perhaps cultivate a budding interest for the performing arts.

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