Victoria Abbott Riccardi
Considered a national treasure, Peking opera is said to have developed when four opera troupes came to Beijing in 1790 to entertain the emperor on his birthday. Various elements from each troupe were combined to create this fifth opera form. Through singing, dancing, mime and acrobatic martial arts and fighting, each Peking opera tells a story much like a fairy tale. Actors and actresses don richly hued robes, wigs and headdresses, and use colorful face paints to create their characters. Chinese instruments accompany the singing that expresses either negative moods like anger or sorrow or more positive ones such as happiness. As with Western opera, famous stories are performed over and over.
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Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing illicit about smoking a narghilè, the Turkish name for water pipe, also known as a hookah, hubble-bubble or shisha. Only tobacco (not hashish or any other drug) is used, and both men and women enjoy the ancient Turkish custom of smoking a narghilè, mainly in cafés. The word narghilè comes from the Persian word nargil, meaning “coconut,” since the first water pipes were made from dried coconut shells. Modern-day Turkish pipes consist of a glass body filled with water, a flexible hose with a detachable mouthpiece, and a tiny bowl on top of the pipe to hold plain or flavored tobacco.