I was in a business trip to Beijing recently and was invited to a networking dinner party where I saw the Face Changing show live for the second time. Before we go into the show, here is the history about Face Changing from wikipeida:
” The face changing, or “bian lian”(变脸) in Chinese, is an important intangible cultural aspect of Chinese Sichuan opera – few have been gifted with true talent and skill. They know how to change Sichuan opera masks in magically quick succession. As they flourish their arms and twist their heads, their painted masks change again and again and again.
Face changing began 300 years ago, during the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). At the beginning opera masters changed the color of their face during performances by blowing into a bowl of red, black or gold powder. The powder would adhere to their oiled skin quickly. In another method, actors would smear their faces with colored paste concealed in the palms of their hands.
By the 1920s, opera masters began using layers of masks made of oiled paper or dried pig bladder. The masters could peel one after another in the blink of an eye. At present the masters use the full face, painted silk mask. They can be worn in layers, as much as two-dozen thick, and be pulled off one by one. ”
The most exciting thing about the show is the mystery of the tricks. How to change the mask so quickly that make the audience to not believe their own eyes. It is said the tricks/art are technically forbidden to women, but this time the performer is a woman! I think the chance to see a woman performing it is like winning a lottery. Wow…
Here is the video I took in the restaurant we saw the show:
If you are visiting Beijing, this is a strong recommended MUST SEE show. Ask your travel guide for direction to these two chain restaurants for your Face Changing witness experience. :
1. Ba Guo Bu Yi (八国布衣): there are 4 chain restaurants in Beijing in different areas: Houhai, Guo Mao, Xizhimen and Haidian. We were in the Houhai one, it is a two-story buiding with a courtyard. The stage in on the second floor and the performance will even walk around the corridor and do the magic right in front of you and you will get “mad” at yourself not finding out the tricks in such a close distance. LoL.
2. Da Zhai Men (大宅门): This is another chain brand restaurants offering the show. I went there once in 2006. It was in a big hall and quite crowded. So it is important that you can reserve a table that is closed to the stage. There are six chain restaurants in Beijing. Not all of them offer the show.
Bonus: if you enjoy spicy Sichuan Food, it will be a memorable dinner!