Chinese opera performances are renowned for heavy face makeup. There are two techniques that actors employ to put on such makeup. It is either directly painted on the face or worn as a decorated cloth. The main colour of the mask represents the character of the role played. Common colours seen in performances and their associated meanings are explained further below.  Colours like gold and silver represent  gods and spirit.


Red represents loyalty, heroism, intelligence and courage. An example would be a general of the period of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu, who was known for his loyalty to his Emperor, Liu Bei.

Black symbolizes forcefulness and boldness. An example of such a character is the famous Bao Gong , an impartial judge of the Song Dynasty who was described as bold and fearless.


Yellow signifies ferocity and  ambition. Yellow may also refer to a cruel and evil character.


White represents hypocrisy and craftiness. It is commonly reserved for the powerful villain of a performance.


Blue represents intelligence and loyalty. Xiahou Dun, Cao Cao’s most trusted general, is an example of a blue character.


Purple symbolizes uprightness, justice and sophistication. Sometimes, purple may substitute the colour red. An example of a purple character would be Hou Yi, a grain officer in the opera, ” Green Dragon Pass” .


Green represents a character who is impulsive and violent.

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