Roles in Beijing Opera

Jingju roles are divided into 4 main types (male, female, painted face, clown), with several sub-categories. I found it will be the best to use indented lists with short descriptions and photos to sort out these kind of things.
Get more or less familiar with the roles, watch many Beijing opera and you’ll recognize characters in Planck time.

  • shēng(生):male role
    • xūshēng(须生)(lit. bearded) or lăoshēng(老生)(lit. old):bearded male role
      • āngōng(安工)(lit. peaceful) or chànggōng(唱工)(lit. singing):monarchs, officials, scholars Pic1
      • kàobă(靠把)(lit. armour wearing):generals, military leaders Pic2
      • shuāipài(衰派)(lit. weak, feeble):destitute or dejected characters Pic3
    • hóngshēng(红生)(lit. red):laosheng with a red painted face Pic4
    • xiăoshēng(小生)(lit. small):young male role
      • língzishēng(翎子生)(lit. peacock feathered):generals, aristocrats with pheasant tail feathers on their helmets Pic5
      • shāmàoshēng(纱帽生)(lit. gauze cap wearing):government officials Pic6
      • shānzishēng(扇子生)(lit. fan holding):scholars, penmen, copyists etc. Pic7
      • qióngshēng(穷生)(lit. poor, sore):poor scholars Pic8
    • wŭshēng(武生):acrobatic  fighting role
      • chángkào ~(长靠)(lit. long weapon, full military costume):generals in platform-soled shoes Pic9
      • duăndă ~(短打)(lit. short weapon, fighting) :athletic soldiers in flat-soled shoes Pic10
    • mò(末):elderly men, generally wise and righteous Pic11
    • wáwáshēng(娃娃生):children’s role Pic12
  • dàn(旦):female role
    • qīngyī(青衣)(lit. greenish black/youthful clothes):noble female role;  good wives, loving mothers Pic13
    • huādàn(花旦)(lit. flowery, fancy):vivacious young females; flirty misses, funny maids, village girls etc. Pic14
    • huāshān(花衫)(lit. fancy garment):combination of qingyi and huadan; imperial concubines, noble madams, princesses Pic15
    • wŭdàn(武旦):acrobatic fighting role Pic16
    • dāomădàn(刀马旦)(lit. sword and horse):female warrior role of any age; female marshals, generals Pic17
    • lăodàn(老旦)(lit. old):elderly women Pic18
  •  jìng(净)(lit. clean, only) or huāliăn(花脸)(lit. decorated face):painted face role
    •  zhèngjìng(正净)(lit. real jing) or dàhuāliăn(大花脸)(lit. big painted face);  tóngchuí(铜锤)(lit. copper hammer) Pic19 , hēiliăn(黑脸)(lit. black face) Pic20:mostly rely on singing
    • jiàzĭ huāliăn(架子花脸)or fùjìng(副净)(lit. secondary jing):mostly rely on speaking and acting skills Pic21
    • wŭhuāliăn(武花脸)or wŭjìng(武净):mostly rely on martial skills and fighting Pic22
    • shuāidă huāliăn(摔打花脸)(lit. jumping and fighting):mostly rely on acrobatic skills
  •  chǒu(丑):clown
    • wén ~(文):literary, civil
      • guānwén ~(官文)or páodài(袍带)(lit. uniform wearing):low ranking officials, minor functionaries Pic23
      • fāngjīn ~(方巾)(lit. square hat):scholars,  Confucian scholars Pic24
      • jīnzĭ ~(巾子):inbetween of fangjin and chayi; often funny old men Pic25
      • cháyī ~(茶衣)(lit. tea clothes):lower class workers Pic26
      • căidàn(彩旦)(lit. bright color):ugly female, played by men Pic27
    • wŭ ~(武):acrobatic, fighting Pic28
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Pic4 Pic5 Pic6
Pic7 Pic8 Pic9
Pic10 Pic11 Pic12
Pic13 Pic14 Pic15
Pic16 Pic17 Pic18
Pic19 Pic20 Pic21
Pic22 Pic23 Pic24
Pic25 Pic26 Pic27

Photos:, CCTV Forums,