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Peking Opera at the ECC

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With the Chinese New Year dawning upon us, many activities are being held (and planned) in all our school divisions in honor of the most important holiday in our host country. On this particular day, one of the Pre-Kindergarten students’ parents (playfully referred to as “Mrs. Max’s Mama”) graciously took time out of her busy schedule and volunteered to teach the students the basics of the wonderful and mysterious world of Peking Opera. By starting with the question, “What is Peking Opera?” she was able to get their attention. With the children curious, she delivered a fact-filled presentation that was not only interesting, but also great fun for the students.

As a traditional form of art, Peking Opera combines the worlds of music, mime, dance, and acrobatics into a performance unlike any other. Four main types of performers are featured, which the parent pointed out and described in detail. She stated Sheng are the protagonists of the story, with three types specified: wusheng (warrior), laosheng (scholar), and xiaosheng (young person). The Tan roles portrayed the females of the story, with five types described as: quingyi (recognized by the light blue trimming on their sleeves), huatan (flirtatious woman), laotan (older woman), wutan (war heroines), and ch’outan (low class ugly woman). The Ching are probably the most well-known, with their striking painted faces. They usually possess a supernatural power. Lastly, the Ch’ou is a clownish character, usually of lower status, that creates much of the humorous scenes.

The guest parent speaker also emphasized that the beautiful and elaborate costumes the performers wear, as well as the face paint and masks they use to make the characters alive are highly important. The colors involved are in fact of great value, representing many aspects of these characters, such as certain personality traits, characteristics, and emotions. The parent showed some videos and photos of these during this part of the presentation. With this in mind, the children were then prepared to participate in the final part of the lesson, which was to paint their very own masks! Each of the students was given paints and a mask (representing one of the four characters) to paint in the style matching the character, serving as a great way to end another exciting parent-led lesson (as well as culminating in a wonderful group picture)!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our guest parents for taking time out of their busy schedules to teach our students about Chinese culture and traditions. Please stay tuned for more interesting lessons!


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