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Beijing Opera Costumes

Beijing Opera Costumes: The Visual Communication of Character and Culture

Alexandra B. Bonds
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Beijing Opera Costumes
    Book Description:

    Beijing Opera Costumes is the first in-depth English-language book focused exclusively on the costumes of Jingju, the highest form of stage arts in China. This comprehensive volume provides both theory and analysis of the costumes and the method of their selection for the roles as well as technical information on embroidery, patterns, and construction. Extensive descriptions illuminate the use of colors and surface images derived from historical dress and modified for the stage. Details on makeup, hairstyles, and dressing techniques present a complete view of the Jingju performer from head to toe. Meticulously researched in Taipei and Beijing, this definitive work begins with an outline of the rich and complex history of Beijing opera and significant developments in design over the past millennium. Chapters on costume theory and design elements and their modification to create a wide variety of images are followed by presentations of individual costumes together with their historical background and use of color and pattern. A survey of the accessories and headdresses, makeup and hairstyles, accompanies the discussion of each costume. The intricacies of choosing costumes for a production and dressing actors are also discussed. Lavishly illustrated with more than 250 color and black-and-white photographs and pattern drafts, Beijing Opera Costumes is an indispensable record of and resource for Jingju as it is performed in China today. Textile artists will appreciate the beauty of the colors and designs as well as the information on embroidery techniques and symbolism of the images. China scholars will value the contextual analysis and theater specialists the explication of costumes in relation to performance. Finally, costume designers will relish the opportunity to examine in detail their art in another cultural setting and theatrical style.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6161-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)

    More than 300 forms of indigenous theatre entertainment incorporating song and music have evolved in China. The different forms ofxiqu(music-drama), commonly translated as Chinese opera, were developed and performed in specific regions throughout the country. Jingju (capital drama), known in the west as Peking/Beijing opera, is based in Beijing and is the most widespread and influential of the theatre forms, having been the nationally dominant form of indigenous theatre for over one hundred years. Variously calledpihuang, for the principal modes of music, Jingxi (capital theatre) and Guoju (national drama), the name Jingju emerged in the nineteenth century...

    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  8. 1 The World of Traditional Jingju
    (pp. 1-30)

    The roots of Jingju and music-dramas reach far back into the history of China, for as early as the Zhou dynasty (1100–221 BC), records of ritual dance exist. Dancing was used in ceremonies and festive events, and was often embellished with spoken words and musical accompaniment. The integration of these performance elements found in ancient dance continues on as the essence of Chinese indigenous theatre. Succeeding dynasties saw the addition of other significant components of performance that contributed to the foundations of traditional Jingju. During the Tang dynasty (618–907), considered a pinnacle of classical arts, taste, and style...

  9. 2 The World of Traditional Jingju Costumes
    (pp. 31-49)

    An elaborate system of telegraphing character through the visual image has developed for modern Jingju costumes, which uses prescribed garments with specific symbolism in color and decoration. During the 200 years that Jingju has evolved, garments and colors have been chosen to define the most appropriate image for each character in each play. The choices result from the combined input of the dressers, the performers, and the responses of the audiences, rather than from the imagination of a specific costume designer. Through selection of the most desirable articles of clothing from several dynasties and their modification to suit theatrical needs,...

  10. 3 The Form and Historical Roots of Costumes
    (pp. 50-69)

    When classifying traditional Jingju costumes, the Chinese use a system of “outer” and “inner” elements to describe the visual impact. The outer describes the overall image, primarily the silhouette, which is rather simple, yet it indicates all six of the identifiers: the person’s status, gender, wealth, nationality, age, and whether they are military or civilian. The inner image is created by the combination of color and design on the surface of the costume. The composition of these elements reveals more information about the specific character, his or her personality, and his or her relationship to other characters, as well as...

  11. 4 The Symbolism and Application of Color
    (pp. 70-91)

    At first glance the vibrant colors of the fabrics on the traditional Jingju stage may appear to be random and unrestrained, yet a complex system of color meanings for the garments and the roles controls the stage picture. While the silhouette of the garment represents the primary indication of the role type, the color of the fabric projects information about the specific character. To achieve this aim, the costume color selections are relatively fixed for many of the characters. The hues of the embroidery are drawn from a similar, though wider range of colors as the fabrics, and patterns of...

  12. 5 The Aesthetics and Meanings of the Embroidered Imagery
    (pp. 92-112)

    The interaction of the color of the garments with the subjects and arrangement of the embroidery on the surface embodies the “inner” aspects of the costumes, not the minute details found in the type of stitch or the species of flower. The impact of the whole conveys the intent of the costume. The contents and placement of the surface designs follow predetermined patterns for each garment and role, within the flexibility allowed by the traditions. The subjects are drawn from the Chinese language of symbols, although as theatre and as an art form, the designs on traditional Jingju costumes move...

  13. 6 The Costume Compendium
    (pp. 113-202)

    The compendium catalogs a significant sample of the costumes worn in traditional Jingju. The costumes are classified by form and then organized by status or occupation. Four principal costumes comprise the majority of those worn by traditional Jingju characters. Themang(court robe) is considered the highest-ranking garment, and is worn by officials for court appearances. After themang, thepi(formal robe) comes next in status, and it is worn by the some of the same characters for scenes outside of court. Thekao(armor), worn by generals either at court or in battles, falls third in ranking, followed...

  14. 7 Makeup, Hair, and Headdresses
    (pp. 203-242)

    Between the rich colors and textures of the costumes, and the bedazzling, animated headdresses, the faces of the performers would be lost without the benefit of makeup. The enhanced visage has long been a tradition in both daily life and performance in China, and consequently, makeup designs have evolved into elaborate expressions of the countenance, from the epitome of beauty to the amplification of character through vibrant color and intricate patterns. The makeup, more than any other aspect of the stage image, converts the actors from mere mortals into the theatrical ideal. With their stylized movement and altered voices, these...

  15. 8 Dressing Techniques and Costume Plots
    (pp. 243-298)

    In the absence of a costume designer, the dressers are responsible for preparing the visual image and maintaining the integrity of the costume conventions. Rather than create newly designed costumes for every production, each Jingju troupe or academy collects a range of conventionalized costumes. The costumes can either be hand-embroidered and made to order from a factory or purchased from specialty shops. A troupe’s costume stock normally contains an assortment of garments that can be used for each of the roles as well as the supernumeraries. An old saying, “shi mang, shi kao” (ten court robes, ten armor), refers to...

  16. Appendix 1. Costume Pattern Drafts
    (pp. 299-314)
  17. Appendix 2. Dictionary of Jingju Characters
    (pp. 315-316)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 317-322)
  19. Glossary
    (pp. 323-336)
  20. List of Performances
    (pp. 337-340)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 341-344)
  22. Index
    (pp. 345-350)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-354)