Painted faces

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-09-11 08:47:23

Painted faces

Painted faces

Ghaffar Pourazar practices Peking Opera at Taoranting Park in Beijing. Zou Hong / China Daily

The colorful makeup of Peking Opera masks Ghaffar Pourazar's nationality, and at the same time reveals the lifelong dedication of a true lover of the art, Raymond Zhou discovers in Beijing.

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The guard at the entrance took one look at Ghaffar Pourazar and waved him through. He did not have to pay the 2 yuan (32 cents) entrance to Taoranting Park in southern Beijing as we took a weekday stroll through it recently.

Pourazar, or Gefa in Chinese, is one of the multitude of Peking Opera practitioners who vocalize or play the fiddle, using the park as their main rehearsal venue. These are mostly amateurs with a passion for the traditional art, and also a few retired professionals who relive their glory days by reprising the roles they used to sing.

But Gefa is in a league of his own. The Englishman of Iranian descent is not just a fan of Peking Opera, but also a practicing actor of the Chinese art. And more than his Chinese peers, he takes it around the world - teaching, demonstrating and performing.

Like the Chinese connoisseurs, Gefa cannot help lamenting the three-decade decline of the genre.

"People get concerned when they lose something valuable," he says. "And Peking Opera has reached that stage, or even beyond that." One sign, according to Gefa, is the unwillingness of professionals to have their children carry on the baton. It is hard to make a living as a Peking Opera performer.

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