1st Edition

Beijing Opera Costumes
The Visual Communication of Character and Culture

ISBN 9781138504776
Published January 23, 2019 by Routledge
432 Pages

USD $74.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Beijing Opera Costumes: The Visual Communication of Character and Culture illuminates the links between theatrical attire and social customs and aesthetics of China, covering both the theory and practice of stage dress. Distinguishing attributes include an introduction to the performance style, the delineation of the costume conventions, an analysis of the costumes through their historical precedents and theatrical modifications, and the use of garment shape, color, and embroidery for symbolic effect. Practical information covers dressing the performers and a costume plot, the design and creation of the make-up and hairstyles, and pattern drafts of the major garments. Photographs from live performances, as well as details of embroidery, and close-up photographs of the headdresses thoroughly portray the stunning beauty of this incomparable performance style. Presenting the brilliant colors of the elaborately embroidered silk costumes together with the intricate makeup and glittering headdresses, this volume embodies the elegance of the Beijing opera.

Table of Contents






List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Pattern Drafts


Chapter 1: The World of Traditional Jingju

Role Types


Visual Components


Aesthetic Principles


Chapter 2: The World of Traditional Jingju Costumes

Costumes and Roles

Identity through Costumes

Absence of Time Period

Absence of Season

Absence of Region

Dramatic Circumstances

Selection Process

Costumes and Movement

Costume Sources

Chapter 3: The Form and Historical Roots of Costumes

Historical Background

Cloth-Based Sources of Clothing

Han Garments and Traditional Jingju Costumes

Hide-Based Sources of Clothing

Manchu Garments and Traditional Jingju Costumes

Theatrically Based Clothing

Form and Conventions of Usage

Patterning and Cut of Costumes



Chapter 4: The Symbolism and Application of Color

History of Color Symbolism

Upper and Lower Colors

Meanings of the Upper Five Colors

Meanings of the Lower Five Colors

Color Combinations by Role Type

Aesthetics of Color Composition

Fabric and Embroidery Floss Colors

Lining Colors

Chapter 5: The Aesthetics and Meanings of the Embroidered Imagery

Embroidery in Chinese History

Embroidery Techniques



Chapter 6: The Costume Compendium

The Major Costumes

Mang (Court robe)

Nümang (Female court robe)

Qimang (Manchu court robe)

Gailiang mang (Reformed court robe)

Pi (Formal robe)

Nüpi (Female formal robe)

Kao (Armor)

Nükao (Female armor)

Gailiang kao (Reformed armor) and Gailiang nükao (Female reformed armor)

Xuezi (Informal robe)

Nüxuezi (Female informal robe)

Fugui yi (Garment of wealth and nobility)

The Long Costumes

Kai chang (Open robe)

Guanyi (Official robe)

Gailiang guanyi (Reformed official robe)

Eunuch Robe (Taijian yi)

Xueshi yi (Scholar’s robe)

Jianyi (Archer’s robe)

Longtao yi (Attendant robe)

Dakai (Big armor)

Gongzhuang (Palace garment)

The Short Costumes

Magua (Riding jacket)

Baoyi (Lit. "leopard" or "embracing" clothes)

Kuaiyi (Lit. "fast" clothes) and Bingyi (Soldier’s clothes)

Chayi (Lit. "tea" clothes)

Big-sleeved Robe (Daxiu)

Prisoner’s Clothes (Zuiyi)

Executioner’s Clothes (Guizishou yi)

Jacket and Skirt (Aoqun) and Jacket and Trousers (Aoku)

Zhan’ao zhanqun (War jacket, skirt, and trousers)

Caipo ao (Colorful jacket for old women)

Duantiao (Lit. "short and convenient for playing" robe) and An’anyi (Children’s clothing)

The Specific Costumes

Religious Costumes

Bagua yi (Eight trigrams robe)

Fayi (Priest’s chasuble)

Sengyi (Buddhist robe)

Xiao sengyi (Young monk’s robe)

Head Monk Cloak (Jiasha)

Seng kanjian or wuseng yi (Military monk vest)

Sanse dao beixin (Three-color Daoist vest)

Daoist Nun Vest (Daogu kanjian)

Mythological Creatures and Beings

Ethnic Clothing

Qipao (Manchu gown)

Bufu (Coat with a badge)

Special Characters

Lady Yu

Guan Yu

Zhong Kui

Monkey Costumes

Zhiduyi (Combat clothes for the Monkey King)

Monkey Clothes (Houyi)

Houjia (Monkey armor)

Little Monkey Clothes (Xiao houyi)

Mei Lanfang Designs

Guzhuang ("Ancient-style" dress)

Cloud-terrace Costume (Yuntai zhuang)

Accessory Pieces

Trousers (Kuzi) and Colored Trousers (Caiku)

Skirts (Qunzi)

Vests (Kanjian): Male

Vests: Female

Large Apron (Da fandan) and Small Apron (Xiao fandan)

Capes (Doupeng)



Inner Garments

Water Sleeves (Shuixiu)

Chapter 7: Makeup, Hair, and Headdresses

Women’s Makeup

Men’s Makeup

Lianpu (Lit. "face chart")Makeup

Hairdressing and Accessories

Men’s Hair



Ceremonial Headdresses



Soft Caps

Supplementary Styles

Chapter 8: Dressing Techniques and Costume Plots


Patterns of Selection

Layering Patterns

Deviations from Dressing Patterns

Costume Plots

A Costume Plot and Two Performances

Dressing Techniques

Trunks and Storage

Appendix I: Costume Pattern Drafts

Appendix II: Dictionary of Jingju Characters


List of Performances


View More



Alexandra B. Bonds is Professor Emerita of Costume Design at the University of Oregon. Her passion for Beijing Opera costumes began when she received a Fulbright to teach at the National Institute for the Arts in Taiwan in 1990. As an award-winning designer of costumes, she became the first foreigner to study costumes at the Academy for Traditional Chinese Opera in Beijing, China. Her research in this area has been recognized for excellence in writing for the performing arts by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology


"This book is a very detailed and thorough examination of costuming (including makeup) in traditional Beijing opera as practices today. This book with its ample illustrations and clear structure, is an excellent guide to the symbolic system used to differentiate the characters on the Beijing opera stage and it could also be said to represent a guide to the visual world of Beijing opera in general. It is the only book of its kind in English and it is very hard to conceive of it being surpassed any time soon."

Professor David Rolston

University of Michigan


"Alexandra Bonds’ remarkable book is possibly the most extensive study of Jingju costume in any language, and by far the most complete coverage of the subject in English. It explores an impressive range of subjects in relationship to costuming, from role types, color and design symbolism, and makeup and beards, to the training of dressers."

Professor Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak

University of Hawai’i at Mānoa


"Beijing Opera Costumes is by far the best resource I have encountered in my time as a theatre student. Professor Bonds has created one of the most insightful and thorough compellations of information on Jingju costumes, and the accessibility of her writing for readers and learners at any level is what makes the text a stand-out contribution to the field."

Grace Heller

Theatre Student

Western Washington University