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lian pu (脸谱)

Chinese term used to refer to all types of facial makeup used in Chinese Opera, which in Thai is called ngiw. The practice originates from the ancient face painting tradition of Chinese warriors, applied to scare off the enemy and still visible today in representations of Kuan U for one, who is usually portrayed with a dark red face (fig.). In opera, the facial colours and patterns are used to portray both a certain character's role and his or her disposition, with each colour having a different meaning to illustrate ones  emotional state and temperament. In general, red represents loyalty and righteousness, as well as braveness; black stands for roughness, fierceness, as well as impartiality; the royal colour of yellow corresponds to ambition and fierceness; blue stands for great loyalty and steadfastness, and is worn by someone who sticks to one side no matter what; while pink is reserved for any personage with a happy and funny character. White, however, in many Asian countries the colour associated with death, stands for sinister, evil, treacherous, crafty, and suspicious, and anyone wearing a white mask usually plays the villain, often a cunning official. Male actors called lao sheng (老生), i.e. old ones, or xu sheng (须生), i.e. bearded ones’, who play the roles of venerable elderly men, typically wear long artificial beards (fig.). Due to their attractiveness, the colours and patterns of the facial makeup used in Chinese opera are nowadays preserved by duplicating them onto dolls (fig.) and genuine masks (fig.), that for many are popular collectables and which in China are frequently used decoratively (fig.). See also Heng Ko (fig.) and Peking Opera (fig.).