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Magical Mask Change (Face Changing) Show in Beijing

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

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!

Visit China (Shanghai) without a Visa with Disneyland

Friday, November 21st, 2008

During the past few months, especially before 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, I have heard a lot of stories about the difficulties to get a visa (long term) to stay in China, either for work or for pleasure. One of my blogger friend was forced to leave China right before Olympics when they have been in Beijing expecting the Games for more than ONE year and were ready to witness the grand event with a whole heart of enthusiasm. (story is here.) That was really sad.

The good news is that foreigners may not need visas to visit Shanghai along with the Disneyland amusement park opens. Disneyland has been the most exciting BUZZ word in the past two days. The stock market fluctuated with the announcement that Disneyland is finally coming to Shanghai, according to all the major local medias.

We knew there has been a rumor that the first Disneyland amusement park in Greater China Area was supposed to open in Shanghai instead of Hong Kong a few years ago. But the Chinese government wanted this project to stimulate the travel industry of Hong Kong after SARS. Now, at the moment of global economy recession, a lot of local investors or companies are so exciting to see the project will pull the domestic consumer needs. It is said that the real estate/land price around the park location has gone up 30% in a few days since the news came out.

The amusement park will be built in an area called Huang Lou (黄楼) in Pudong, 15 mintues drive from Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG).  The most attractive policy is that China will issue 48-hours in-transit permits for travelers who have no valid visa. Isnt’ it cool?

I am so looking forwards to a day when Chinese citizens can visit more foreign countries without applying visas, and happy to see that China will make this first step in the coming few years!