梅兰芳 (Meí Lánfāng) was a cross-dressing legend of Chinese opera. The first name that comes to mind when many Chinese people think of opera, Meí Lánfāng is for many synonymous with the genre.
Chinese opera makes use of a range of highly stylized character types with costumes, make-up, and mannerisms that reflect their personalities. Meí Lánfāng made his name specializing in female roles known as dàn, one of the main categories of characters.
Meí Lánfāng helped spread the art form outside China. He met Charlie Chaplin and inspired Bertolt Brecht’s dramatic theories. He is famous for refusing to sing for the Japanese during the occupation in World War II, instead growing a beard and making a living by selling paintings and calligraphy.
Most young Chinese people don’t know much about opera. It's an acquired taste, but it's also a national treasure, and it has delighted millions with its colorful characters and sounds.
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