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Jeremy | all galleries >> Travel Images - Chengdu-Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China >> In & Around Chengdu > Famous 'Bian Nian' Performance (Aug 06)
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Famous Bian Nian Performance (Aug 06)

Famous 'Bian Nian' Performance (Aug 06)

Face (mask) changing or 'Bian Nian' is the essence and highlight of Sichuan Opera. It is a kind of stunt which involves the on-stage change of mask or facial makeup, via masks or facial painting, without the audience noticing. It is amazing that, with a magical sweep of a hand, the actors can change their masks successively in an incredibly short time. Face changes first appeared 300 years ago. Initially the opera masters changed their face during a performance by blowing into a bowl of red, black or gold powder, which immediately stuck to their oiled skin. By the 1920s, actors began to use layers of masks made of oiled paper. During the performance, actors could peel off one after another in a very short time. Now, the masters use silk masks. No matter how closely you watch, you donít see the mask being changed.

We were seated at the back of the viewing hall in the teahouse, which made it difficult to take decent pictures, especially under the dim lighting conditions. Even after pushing up the ISO to 800, and setting the exposure compensation to -2/3 of a stop, I could achieve a max shutter speed of about 1/60 only, which was simply not quick enough to freeze the motion of the fast-moving performers on the stage. The picture above is a satisfactory shot under the circumstances, even though there is obvious motion blur in some parts of it. Reviewing the picture now, I know I should have tried to shoot at ISO 1600 instead, even if this might make the pictures look more grainy.

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Chan Seng Ho15-Jan-2007 10:21
In fact I was there watching the changing face before flying off to Tibet.
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