There are six set roles:

  1. mun mo sung (文武生) martial man of letters; the clean-shaven scholar-warrior
  2. siu sung (小生) ‘young gentleman’; young scholar
  3. fa dan (花旦) ‘flower’ of the ball; young belle
  4. yee fa (二花) transliteration: ‘second flower’; supporting female
  5. chou sung (丑生) clown
  6. mo sung (武生) bearded male warrior


Applying makeup for Cantonese opera is a long and specialized process.

One of the most common styles is the “white and red face”: an application of white foundation, with red around the eyes and on the cheeks. The eyebrows are sometimes elongated. Lipstick is usually bright red.

Actors are given temporary facelifts by holding the skin up with a ribbon on the back of the head. This lifts the corners of the eyes, producing an authoritative look.

Each role has its own style of make-up: the clown has a large white spot in the middle of his face, for example. A sick character has a thin red line pointing upwards in between his eyebrows. Aggressive and frustrated character roles often have a “ying hong jee” (an arrow shape fading into the forehead) in between the eyebrows.

Strong male characters wear “hoy meen” (開面; “open face”) makeup. Each character’s makeup has its own distinct characteristics, with symbolic patterns and coloration.