In Peking opera the comic role-type is differentiated into <i>civil</i> and <i>acrobatic</i> or <i>martial</i> comics. In Kunqu the typology is different: (We call it) <i>fu</i> and <i>chou</i>. To explain <i>civic chou</i> and <i>martial</i> (acrobatic) <i>chou</i> I must (first) explain the difference between <i>fu</i> and <i>chou</i>. At the end of the Ming and beginning of Qing dynasties Kunqu was still very popular. Kunqu had a wealth of comic plays. Sometimes there were not enough actors; therefore, the role-type was further divided into <i>fu</i> and <i>chou</i>. What is <i>fu</i>? In Kunqu <i>fu</i> is called the “second painted face” (<i>second flower face</i>). <i>Jing</i> is called the “great painted face” (or <i>great flower face</i>). <i>Chou</i> (clown, or comic) in Kunqu is the “little painted face” (or <i>little flower face</i>); Therefore, <i>great</i>, <i>second</i>, and <i>little</i> (flower face). What kind of character is the <i>fu</i>? <i>Fu</i> are often high status individuals, such as officials. (For example) there is a character in the scene “The dog’s tunnel” from the play <i>The Swallow Letter</i> named Xian Yuji. He (the main character) is lazy and stupid, but he aspires to become the first place scholar
(in the civic examination). By chance he took the name of a man who indeed placed number one. He was discovered and forced to rewrite the examination. But he couldn’t do it. He was locked in the study, so he abandoned his scholar’s gown and his official hat. and crawled through a dog tunnel. This kind of official is a <i>fu</i> character. Then there are landlords, cruel bullies… such as the very familiar character Ximen Qing from <i>Water Margin</i>, a mean hoodlum. In Kunqu, such characters are taken by the <i>fu</i>. <i>Fu</i> characters generally wear long clothes, official gowns, very fancy gowns, rather long. There are exceptions of course: for example there is Lu Fengxuan from the scene “The drunken valet” from the play <i>The Red Pear Saga</i>. He doesn’t wear a fancy gown, but an archer’s long cloak, not short coat and trousers like a little soldier. He is after all, an officer of the government. Also Jiang Shi in the scene “In the reed forest” from <i>The Leaping Carp</i>. He is a young scholar and wears a gown. He is not an evil person; he is a filial son. He obeys his mother in everything. He is one of the <i>Twenty Four Filial Paragons</i>, acted by a <i>fu</i>. So, <i>fu</i> characters are usually educated, or wealthy, or powerful individuals. Frequently, <i>fu</i> characters are negative individuals, mostly undesirable people. Those I just mentioned, Zhao Wenhua, Xian Yuji, Ximen Qing, these are all evil guys. Jiang Shi is not evil, but he is very pedantic. Lu Fengxuan in “The drunken valet” is not a bad person, but he is drunk all the time and confused. He always messes up the good things. In the end he spoiled the meeting. <i>Fu</i> usually are these kinds of characters. The <i>chou</i> (comic) is different from the <i>fu</i>. <i>Chou</i> generally belong to the commoner class. At least they are lower class people, such as wine tenders in a wine shop; or the tea house owner-waiter, tea waiter, fortune teller. Later I will demonstrate the blind man Zhuge An, a comic <i>chou</i>. In general, comic characters are good hearted, such as Zhuge An, or Wan Jiachun in <i>The Happy Fisherman</i>. They are starving themselves, but if someone is in trouble they will stand up and help you out. As for <i>civil comic</i> and <i>martial comic</i> that I spoke of, Kunqu does not make the same distinction. Why? because Kunqu has many types of <i>comics</i>. <i>Old man comic</i> plays old men. <i>Baby comic</i> enacts children. <i>Martial comic</i> are comics who have martial arts training. The acrobatic (or martial <i>chou</i>) is one sub-type of <i>chou</i>. But this division was made into a specialized role-type. Costumes of the <i>chou</i> role-type are mostly short jackets (and trousers). The characters have no long gowns, all short. Although characters such as Zhuge An (blind fortune teller) and Wan Jiachun wear black gowns, (the gowns) are patched, (so-called) “cloak of wealth and honor”. (because eventually the wearer achieve wealth and honor) These all belong to the short jacket category. Of course, characters such as Shi Qian and Jiao Guangpu are surely in short costumes. Because they have martial arts (training); eventually fight with the inn keeper. In “Shi Qian steals the armor” (he) must climb up to the ceiling beam. They wear short tight-fitting costumes. This is the difference in costumes (between <i>fu</i> and <i>chou</i>); one wears long gowns, loose fitting and wide sleeved, the other wears tight fitting costume. The difference between <i>chou</i> and <i>fu</i> is most easily distinguished in facial make-up. <i>Fu</i> is called the “second painted face”, between the “great painted face” and the “little painted face” The “<i>fu</i> painted face” has a big white patch painted (across the face) to the temples. The white patch of the “second painted face” is painted just to the eyes. Basically (the white patch) covers the eyes. The <i>fu</i> face all have that patch of white tofu. Most people know that the <i>chou</i> (comic) role-type has a white patch on the face jokingly called “white dried tofu”. But the <i>fu</i> tofu is a bigger and wider square, four times bigger, and must cover the eyes. The white tofu of the <i>chou</i> covers at most half of the eyes. The white patch of the <i>chou</i> is smaller, therefore, “little painted face”. The white patch on the martial/acrobatic <i>chou</i> is even smaller; not a piece of dried tofu, but a white stripe, something like a strip of “dried white turnip”, painted between the eyes, like in the scene “Halting the horse”. Because the martial <i>chou</i> is trained in gymnastics. Moreover, the martial <i>chou</i> practices acrobatics, therefore, he is very thin. If his body is thin, his face must also be thin. He cannot be a thin man with a fat face… that won’t be consistent. This is why martial comics on stage all have a small face with a white stripe between the eyes. This distinguishes the martial comic. Now I’ve just discussed status, costume, make-up, and face paint. There is another difference: movement. The gait of the three role-types is also somewhat different. Because the <i>fu</i> is aristocratic, (wearing) long gowns with wide sleeves, living in luxury, his movement is proud and arrogant. He has many servants, his movement is stately. The rhythm of his move is slower, and steady. As for the rhythm of the comic, because he is low class: he must work to make a living, his daily life is precarious, his movement is quick and sprightly, he moves non-stop. Of course there are exceptions, like the blind Zhuge An: he can’t move quickly. He is an exception. Generally speaking, for example, a tea house waiter, he must greet guests, “Coming, please take a seat”… similarly the wine steward must practice a springy hopping gait. Similarly the wine shop owner, his movements are nimble and quick. Even more so the fighting comic. Because he is trained in martial arts he is quick and agile. He (martial <i>chou</i>) is trained since youth, and possesses unsurpassed skills, his moves with agility.