Costume dramas

A cosmetician applies makeup to a customer.

As the quintessence of Chinese culture, most people imagine that being part of a Peking Opera is a rarefied experience only available to the lucky, and talented, few.

And yet there is a chance for the common man - and woman - to immerse themselves in this world. The movements, dialogue and songs may be beyond them, but who's to say they cannot indulge in the costumes and makeup? And in Shanghai there are three studios that give people exactly this opportunity.

Li Yuan Image

The Li Yuan Image Studio was started in January, 2006 by the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe.

The studio is a non-profit organization that exists as part of the troupe's promotional work.

"We aim to arouse interest among Shanghai youngsters in order that they will grow to know and love the art form," project leader Chen Wenying told the Global Times.

Hundreds of costumes are available at the studio. "Whatever costumes you see being worn on stage, can also be worn by our customers," Chen said.

Chen says makeup is the key factor in determining the quality of photographic portraits the studio provides for customers to remember their experience by.

The makeup, she believes, needs to be a lot more subtle and detailed than that used for stage performances. This is because the distance between performers and viewers in a theater lessens the need for total accuracy.

There are three professional cosmeticians working in the studio and each customer usually takes between one and one and a half hours to prepare.

"Because of the time involved, we are usually restricted to between three and four people a day. And customers are advised to make reservations at least a week in advance," Chen said.

Address: No.7, Lane 17 Hengshan Road


Price: From 1,188 yuan to 4,888 yuan (more than eight sets of photos are provided)

Call 6433-7973 or visit www.pekingopera.sh.cn for details

Ji Yun She

The name Ji Yun She was coined by the store's owner Zheng Jiehua. "Ji Yun She means a gathering together of the charms of Peking Opera, and I aim to provide a place where men and women can experience what it is like to be an opera star."

The studio opened in late 2009, and puts emphasis on "fashion" as opposed to pure tradition. Zheng has brought many background elements to the studio such as traditional red lanterns, Chinese-styled dressing tables and round flower pots with classical decorative patterns.

Ji Yun She boasts more than 20 costumes, all of which are exquisitely embroidered, some with diamonds and gold threading.

The studio hires two professional cosmetic artists from professional Peking Opera troupes, and also employs technical staff to process the photographs.

To date, the studio has welcomed more than 600 from places as far flung as Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.

Zheng has a big dream: to make his studio the most professional Peking Opera portrait studio in Shanghai.

Address: 6/F, No.15, Lane 1178 Shangcheng Road


Price: From 1,400 yuan to 3,200 yuan (six sets of photos are provided)

Call 138-1897-3423 or visit www.jiyunshe.com for details

Hua Xiang Zui Meng

Yao Shen, owner of the Hua Xiang Zui Meng Peking Opera Portrait Studio is obsessed with photography and also loves watching Peking Opera. And operating his studio fulfills both passions.

"It's an art created by the combination of two arts," said Yao.

He set up the studio in July 2011 and he bought his dozen or so costumes from garment makers in Beijing.

Yao points out that the items were all very expensive: "The costume for Yang Guifei in The Favorite Concubine Becomes Intoxicated cost me some 10,000 yuan ($1,588), and even the most ordinary-looking one cost 2,000 yuan each," said Yao.

Yao's customers have ranged from a 4-year-old to a 47-year-old, but he admits most of them are women in their 20s.

Some young couples even choose the studio as the venue for their wedding photos.

Address: Room 803, No.7, Lane 2999 Gonghexin Road


Price: From 550 yuan to 800 yuan (five sets of photos are provided)

Call 189-1612-8725 for details

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