Arts of Asia in Reach
Peking Opera Mask Lesson Plan
1. Lesson Overview

A Lesson for Prospect Open Room, Students Ages 7 to 10, Grades 3 & 4
Designed by Loren Fawcett, Education Assistant, Allen Memorial Art Museum


Peking opera (also known as Beijing Opera) has a history of over 200 years. The music originated from Xipi and Erhuang, in Anhui and Hubei, respectively, and over time techniques from many other local operas were incorporated.

Peking opera began when the famous four Anhui opera troupes came to Beijing after 1790. Peking opera developed quickly during the reign of Emperor Qianlong and the Empress Dowager Cixi under the imperial patron, and eventually became more accessible to the common people.

Long ago, Beijing Opera was performed on open-air stages in markets, streets, teahouses, or temple courtyards. In order to be heard over the crowds, the orchestra was forced to play loudly while the performers had to develop a piercing style of singing. The stages were lit by oil lamps and were so dim that the costumes were intentionally designed to be gawdy and made from harsh, contrasting colors.

Peking Opera is a harmonious combination of Grand Opera, Ballet and acrobatic display, In each performance, there is dancing, dialogue, monologue, acrobatic combat and mime. This type of opera is thus more physically demanding, requiring an actor or actress to be more diversely qualified than those in other forms of performing art. He or she has to be a performing artist, a singer, and a dancer at the same time. It usually takes the student more than ten years of training to learn singing and acrobatic skills. Therefore, it is often extremely difficult and challenging to become an able performer in Peking Opera.

  1. Students will become familiar with Peking Opera.
  2. Students will recognize symbolism in peking opera such as colors in make-up and costumery.
  3. students will recognize and overcome stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans in performing arts and media.
  4. Students will design and create their own masks using the symbolism evident in peking opera masks.
  5. Students will gain experience handling art materials such as paint and paintbrushes.

Academic Content Standards

  1. Visual Arts
    • NA-VA K-4.1: Students use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.
    • NA-VA K-4.2: Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas.
    • NA-VA K-4.3: Students know the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures.
    • NA-VA K-4.4: Students identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum.

Ohio State Standards
  1. Social Studies
    • Describe the cultural practices and products of people on different continents.
    • Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence the behavior of people living in a particular culture.
    • Demonstrate skills and explain the benefits of cooperation when working in group settings
    • Demonstrate self-direction in tasks within the school community
    • Obtain information from oral, visual and print sources.

  2. Math
    • Use mathematical strategies to solve problems that relate to other curriculum areas and the real world; e.g., use symmetry in artwork.

  3. Visual Arts
    • Benchmark 1A: Recognize and describe visual art forms and artworks from various times and places.
    • Benchmark 1B: Use historical artworks such as paintings, photographs and drawings to answer questions about daily life in the past
    • Benchmark 2B: Establish and communicate a purpose for creating artworks. Identify, select and use art elements and principles to express emotions and produce a variety of visual effects.
    • Benchmark1C: Identify and describe the different purposes people have for creating works of art
    • Benchmark 2A:Demonstrate knowledge of visual art materials, tools, techniques and processes by using them expressively and skillfully.
    • Benchmark 2B: Identify, select and use art elements and principles to express emotions and produce a variety of visual effects.
    • Benchmark 2D: Begin to revise artwork to a level of personal satisfaction.
    • Benchmark 3B: Use context clues to identify and describe the cultural symbols and images in artwork.
    • Benchmark 4A: Apply basic reasoning skills to understand why works of art are made and valued.
    • Benchmark 4C: Talk about their thoughts and feelings when looking at works of art.
    • Benchmark 5A: Demonstrate the relationship the visual arts share with other arts disciplines as meaningful forms of nonverbal communication. (Use visual art materials to express an idea from a song, poem, play, or story.)
    • Benchmark 5B: Use the visual arts as a means to understand concepts and topics studied in disciplines outside the arts.


Peking opera melody derived from Anhui and Hubei Opera
A performing art consisting of a dramatic stage performance set to music

acting using gestures and body movements without spoken language

Peking Opera
Chinese musical drama using pantomime, symbolism, and

a form of clapper opera

Continue to: 2. Lesson Materials