Beijing Opera has a history of nearly 200 years. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1790), four big opera troupes from Anhui Province entered the capital and combined to create what is now known as the Beijing Opera.
There are many roles in Beijing opera, but four main roles which exist in every opera: Sheng, Dan, Jing, and Chou. Any role in these four categories or their sub-categories can be the leading role in a play. All of these roles are played by male characters except for the second category, Dan (旦). Their images are always vividly displayed in brightly colored costumes, showing the style of ancient China. Each of these has its own related costumes and mask-paintings. Masks with different colors have different meanings, which are then used to portray the character of the roles and illustrate their emotional state. Characters may be loyal or treacherous, beautiful or ugly, good or bad.
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Beijing opera is a synthesis of stylized action, singing, dialogue, mime, acrobatic fighting and dance which together tell a story. Usually through these stories, the audience are impressed not only by the beauty of art, but by the thought-provoking revelation as being told in it.