Face Mask Changing: Biàn Liǎn: 變臉

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Monday, 10 August 2009 5 comments

變臉 (Biàn Liǎn)
literally: "Face-Changing"

Biàn Liǎn is cross between art, illusion and magic. The performers change masks and sometimes entire costumes in the blink of an eye. Face changing has been a part of Sichuan opera since the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795)...

Face changing was first used in a story about a Robin-Hood styled hero who stole from the rich to help the poor. When feudal officials caught him, he changed his face to puzzle them and escaped as a result.

Performers wear brightly coloured costumes with vivid masks and move to quick, dramatic music. The more accomplished performers can change masks with their sleight of hand up to 60 times in a performance. By using methods of distraction, their glittery costumes and the dancing, they change their masks mysteriously and wow audiences. Biàn Liǎn is a secretive performing art and is only passed down from one generation to the next within families.

In fact, only males are permitted to learn Biàn Liǎn. The old way of thinking was that women do not stay within the family, and would marry out. As such, there was the risk the secret would be passed to another family. Therefore, the art is technically forbidden to women, although more recently a Malaysian Chinese girl named Candy Chong has recently become a popular performer after learning it from her father.

Biàn Liǎn is also not permitted to be learnt by foreigners, and is rarely seen outside of China. Modern times have seen Biàn Liǎn evolve. In the Qing Dynasty, they used to use red, black or gold powder to change the colour of their face by blowing into it.

Other methods included smearing coloured paste concealed in their hands over their faces. In the 1920s oiled paper or dried pig bladder were used to create masks. Skilled performers could peel off one mask after another in less than a second. Modern-day masters use full-face painted silk masks, which can be worn in layers of as many as twenty-four, and be pulled off one by one.

The performer pictured here is Wai Shui-kan (韋瑞群) and has perfected the art of Biàn Liǎn (face changing) over 20 years. Below is a video to show just how quick he can change.

here is another really quick clip of another performer;

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Daily Chinese Proverb: Self-Contradiction

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Zì Xiāng Máo Dùn

There was once a peddler who sold weapons. (The ancient word for “weapons” was máo dùn 矛盾 – which now means “contradict”.) When he arrived in a new town, he would give a performance to attract a crowd, and then proceed to pitch his wares.

“This spear is the best in the world,” he would say. “It can go through anything.”

Then he presented a shield and said, “This shield is made of the finest leather. Nothing can pierce it.”

Someone called out from the crowd, “If you take the spear and shoot it at the shield, what will happen?”

Since that time, a person who contradicts himself is described as 自相矛盾 zì xiāng máo dùn.

1 Million Evactuated as Typhoon Morakot hits China

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Tyhoon Morakot has landed in the coastal area of Beibei in Fujian with heavy rain and winds of 118.5 kmp/h. The typhoon has already dumped 100 inches of rain on Taiwan in just 24 hours this weekend. Dozens are lost, and it is reported several have died in this storm. Morakot, which claimed 21 lives when it hit the Philipines on Friday, is the first major storm to hit Taiwan during this year's typhoon season which runs from July to September.

In China weather stations issued a "red alert" - the highest possible - in anticipation of Morakot's arrival which is expected to bring winds in excess of 70mph.

Early reports said that parts of Fujian already had 12 inches of rain from early Saturday until Sunday morning, Xinhua added.

More than 490,000 residents of Zhejiang and 480,000 residents of Fujian have been relocated and some 35,440 ships called back from the sea. So far; 155 passenger ship sailings and 34 domestic flights have been cancelled. Most major highways have also been shut down as a preventitive measure.

Beijing Airport has confirmed that airlines have canceled their flights bound for Fujian and Zhejiang provinces in east China. Precaution measures were put in place, there were no major passenger delays.

Some villages in Fujian and Zhejiang were already becoming cut off by rising waters, with official riding bicycles to distribute drinking water and instant noodles to affected households, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency. Many villagers from these regions have been on rescue missions to save the fish they have bred from the fish farms.

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Huffington Post
Shanghai Daily

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