Peking opera (also called Beijing opera) is a form of
traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. The form was extremely popular in the
Qing dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing and
Tianjin in the north, and Shanghai in the south. The art form is also enjoyed in
Taiwan, and has spread to other countries such as the United States and Japan. Beijing opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Beijing opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilize the skills of speech, song, dance, and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements.