The Art of Chinese Face Mask Changing

On October 18, 2012, in Chinese Art, by admin

变脸, 變臉, Biàn Liǎn more commonly known as face changing is a 300 year old tradition set within Chinese Sichuan opera that began during the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795).

Originally performers would blow into a bowl of coloured powder which would stick to their well oiled skin to actors smearing themselves with paint that would be hidden within the palms of their hands.

The focus of the art is to represent mood and emotion as an actor performs their piece with blacks and reds representing anger and fury while blues would represent calmness.

Biàn Liǎn is a hugely popular art-form with the Chinese being very proud of its history and skill and it shows as crowds still flock today to see the best performers. It has even the source for a 1996 film The King of Masks.

Very few people have been taught Biàn Liǎn and has mainly continued via lineage, although it is noted there are a few people outside of China who can perform this and one Hong Kong pop star Andy Lau had allegedly paid a substantial sum to learn the art but he is yet to master it.

One modern day performer of face changing is He Hongqing who is a master of the art and has practised for many years, he also makes all of his own masks!

The 45-year-old He makes all the brightly coloured masks, which he switches at mind-boggling speed at popular performances, himself and usually wears 10 layers at one show.

The beauty of his art, He says, lies in its secrecy.

“What is amazing about face changing is its mystery. Through performance and movements, performers are in effect playing with magic. In fact, face changing is a kind of magic,” said He.

He can slip off his masks within a fraction of a second, and has been deemed the fastest face changing artist in the country by state-run China Central Television.

Video courtesy of New Tang Dynasty Television @

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Duration : 0:1:49


19 Responses to The Art of Chinese Face Mask Changing

  1. mi yume says:


  2. Koon Leong Poh says:

    ok..orangepeel03 is …
    ok..orangepeel03 is obviously a fking idiot, a fking button he says..a button..where the fk did they get that 300years ago.
    and the trick doesn’t need him to touch their face at all, as the guy revealed, the secret lies within the costume, from what i can see, they are pulling some strings on their costume to pull back the mask, because every time they change their mask one of their hands are always hiding in their costume and most people concentrate on the hand with the fan..

  3. 鹏 姜 says:

    何洪庆 是中国变脸大师,变脸界最受尊 …
    何洪庆 是中国变脸大师,变脸界最受尊敬的人物

  4. xCoolguy101x says:

    How the fuck do …
    How the fuck do they do that?????

  5. dawnmoon90 says:

    wtf u talking about …
    wtf u talking about? only u would come up with a stupid ass way of doing it. they can change the mask by turning their head away super quickly like a twitch almost and their hands r no where near their face.

  6. Isaac Grant says:

    In two words: my …
    In two words: my mom.

  7. Danfitz2010 says:

    @mugerSNM agreed, …
    @mugerSNM agreed, I’m the sort of person who find how magic tricks are done more fascinating than the trick itself. But when it has this much skill and history… Just enjoy the spectacle.

  8. eaglespear1 says:

    Sometimes even if …
    Sometimes even if you do know how to do a magic trick, it still takes lots of practice to do them smoothly and skillfully.

  9. muggerSNM says:

    hate it when …
    hate it when people think they know how they do it,, just shut up and enjoy how he does it…

  10. spids1234 says:

    there in his hat, + …
    there in his hat, + elastic to snap it back

  11. LoserMcBeaver says:

    Then explain 0.47~ …
    Then explain 0.47~0.50 genius.

  12. kingjames81895 says:

    asian dwight…
    asian dwight…

  13. 2222loko says:

    THATS AWESOME !!!! …

  14. fsuchino says:

    amazing. I wish …
    amazing. I wish they didn’t use the trigger though, but its still beautiful to see the different emotions.

  15. Contextcatcher says:

    “Each fresh mask is …
    “Each fresh mask is a different manifestation of power and makes its own effect. Where there are opposing protagonists the dissembling of the one is matched by that of the other. The unmasking of a opponent is the counterpart of this proces. A ruler invites civil or military notables to a banquet and then suddenly, they least expect an act of enmity, has them al butchered. The chance from one form of behaviour to another exactly corresponds to a rapid chance of masks”

    “Crowds&Power” E Canetti

  16. LoveUWhenSeptEnds says:

    It’s brilliant. The …
    It’s brilliant. The trick maybe easy to tell but not any one can do it!!! They r artists and hard-workers! Amazing!

  17. 666friends says:

    it’s secret is not …
    it’s secret is not in technique, but in their body movements, it’s like any other magician perfomance: 20% trick, 80% hand skills

  18. orangepeel0 says:

    its obvious …
    its obvious. the masks are elastic and he has a button on his fan that pulls them back into his head.

  19. ItsUhhWildRush says:


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