Beijing Opera (京剧, Jīngjù) rose during the 18th century as an evolution of many different dramatic forms. This type of theater performance includes a synthesized style of action, singing, dialogue and mime, acrobatic fighting and dancing to create a story with different characters. Plays are a combination of literature, dance, and music that emphasize a rich background of Chinese fairy tales and historic events.
Performers wear detailed costumes and use props that describe the role of the characters they are playing, while face paint and colored masks are used to distinguish one character from the next. The way the hands are used tells the audience whether the character is male or female. Traditional Chinese melodies are played with percussion instruments throughout the opera, and the melodies are separated to three categorizes: aria, fixed-tune, and percussion pattern.
When acting, the players’ pronunciations change so that they use fewer vowels and have higher-toned voices. The techniques are used in both speeches and songs during each enactment. Length of performances vary, but one play can last an extremely long time.