The Art of Face Changing (bian lian)

Several years ago I watched this beautiful narrative film about the art and lore of “face changing” (bian lian), a fascinating street performance tradition in Sichuan province.  This was The King of Masks, directed by Tian-Ming Wu.  It’s such a moving, powerful, and also entertaining film, and it tells the story of a gifted street performer who desperately seeks to pass his “mysterious” art down to a son.

Well, last night we dined at this wonderful place called Hua’s Restaurant, on “Gui Jie” in Beijing (a restaurant row packed with eating establishments and lit up at night by all of these red lanterns–see pic below).  The restaurant not only made a delicious Beijing duck, but it also featured a face-changing performer.  Truly amazing and riveting!  Here is a clip of the performance we saw after dinner.  I uploaded it to YouTube and then embedded it here:

Also, I should not neglect the impressive meal we had–our last traditional dinner in Beijing before heading to Dalian.  The Beijing duck was delicately prepared and incredibly tasty.  What an exquisite production and beautiful evening with colleagues.

Beijing duck 1

Beijing duck 2

Beijing duck 3

Gui Jie 1

Gui Jie, in front of Hua’s Restaurant

Gui Jie 2


3 Responses to “The Art of Face Changing (bian lian)”

  1. 1 Jane Hseu
    May 18, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Oooh, I’m soo jealous, about Peking duck, bian lian performances, red lantern streetscapes, and more . . .

  2. 2 Martin Tracey
    May 18, 2013 at 3:58 am

    Great stuff! … “The King of Masks” (1996) itself appears to be available in its entirety on YouTube. Here’s a link to Part 1 of 10: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHmNzhGEyj4

  3. May 19, 2013 at 3:45 am

    Thanks, Martin. I love that film! Jane–yes, you would love the duck. The performance of carving the duck is so impressive!

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