China has more than 360 kinds of local operas which are the most ancient forms of theater that still flourish today. Opera combines acting, singing, poetry, dialog, and acrobatics. Peking Opera is regard as the national opera in China and called “Daxi”(drama with complicated plots) for it has a long history and a complete system of stage performance. Other local operas are called “Xiaoxi”(drama with a simple plot), usually developed from singing and story-telling mixed with folk songs and dances.
Peking Opera is a purely Chinese opera form which dates back to the yera 1790. At the year, four local operas troupes of Anhui Province came to Beijing on a performance tour at the order of the imperial court. The tour was a hit and the troupes stayed. The artists absorbed the tunes of the Hubei local opera and drew on the best of Kunqu opera, Qingqiang opera and Heibei Bangzi and other local operas.
Sheng, Dan, Jing, and Chou are just the terms for four different types of roles. Sheng is the positive male role, Dan is the positive female role, Jing is the supporting male role with striking character, and Chou is the clown. Every type has its telltale facial make-up and decoration.