COSTUMES – Toukui, the Headdress

Toukui or opera headdress comprises such items as crowns, helmets, hats and scarves. Crowns are for the emperor and nobles; military generals and warriors wear helmets while ordinary peasants wear soft scarves or straw hats. Some headgear, such as crowns, are rigid, while others are soft. Generally, the higher the character’s rank, the more elaborate his or her headdress.

Emperors, Imperial consorts and noble ladies often wear fantastical and elaborate headdress to signify their importance. 

A ‘Phoenix Crown’ is worn exclusively by Empresses, Imperial Concubines or Noble Ladies in extremely formal situations. The crown is topped by five phoenixes and features strings of cascading pearls and luxuriant silk tassels. These moving parts help to accentuate the movements of the actor’s head, and can be used to display different emotions by a simple twitch.

Scholars are often depicted in soft hats.
Another famous headdress embellishment is the 5-foot pheasant feathers that are attached to the crowns and helmets of young male or female generals. The feathers are not merely for show but are used to display various emotions. For example, an actor displays anger by dropping his head and shaking it in a circular fashion so that the feathers move in a perfect circle. Surprise is shown by what’s called “nodding the feathers.” One can also “dance with the feathers” to show a mixture of anger and determination.
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