Last summer, we took a very special trip to China for adoptive families, with the China Ties program. The group is unique in that it offers cultural activities and visit to allow our kids who were born in China, to reconnect with their heritage culture. What an amazing trip!!! One of the activities we did was a visit to No. 1 Branch School of Capital Normal University High School in Beijing. The school has about 300 students, between the ages of 13-15. Many of them speak English as most students in China begin studying English in kindergarten. Our large group was divided into three and toured the school with the sweet students. Then we got the opportunity to participate in an interactive, cultural activity: one group did Chinese calligraphy, another did polymer clay making, and our group made Beijing Opera masks. I want to share this great multicultural craft from China, that kids of ANY age will enjoy.
Beijing (Chinese) opera, sometimes called Peking Opera, combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It started in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. China’s form of musical theater and drama has been encouraged by past court emperors and officials, and is a customary art form. The songs are accompanied by conventional musical instruments, such as the gong, flute, and Erhu.
Performers start training from a very young age and train in acrobats, singing, dancing, and martial arts. One of the most well-known traditions is lianpu or face painting, which exaggerates facial expressions. The painting or use of masks is not only a costume detail or decoration, but the colors symbolize personality characteristics, their role, or their fate. There are certain color, type and shape of designs: usually, eyes, foreheads and cheeks are painted like wings of butterflies, swallows and bats.
First, we looked at the symbols of the colors in Chinese opera masks, and then we got started painting:
Materials Needed for Beijing Opera Masks
Generally the Beijing Opera masks are made of ceramic, but there are masks made of simple materials such as paper and tissue, and there are also others whose base is made of silk.
I found these paper masks on amazon, which can be painted.
For younger kids, or a cheaper craft, you could print this coloring sheet of Beijing Opera Masks.
We made our masks in the school’s lovely art room, and shared paints and paintbrushes with our tablemates:
While the kids are painting, these video are really interesting and engaging for the kids!