Jin-Mei Masked Opera

Although Jin-Mei society is highly stratified with three primary castes, and many sub-castes within them, the culture has several means of easing tensions between the different groups. Traditionally, one of the most popular means by which caste divisions were prevented from boiling over into conflict was the Jin-Mei masked opera called "Lan-Bei." This form of opera remains highly popular at every level of Jin-Mei society.

Stock characters within the Lan-Bei operas include the benevolent Sang Do overlord, the faithful Saan Go retainer, and the cheerful Jing Ko adventurer seeking his or her fortune. There are many variations on the basic caste themes, including the corrupt Saan Go-Si tax collector, a buffoonish Sang Do-Qi minor lord and a mercenary Kang Lo soldier. All of the standard characters and caste archetypes are represented by colorful and highly stylized masks that are always worn by performers in the Lan-Bei operas.

Certain operas are written with a view to pleasing an audience of a particular caste, say a high status gathering of Sang Do lords, or a large theater full of Jing Ko workers. Others are more universal and in fact are the most popular and highly regarded operas, for these do not try to elevate one caste above another. Rather, they show both the good and bad sides of each group through well-developed characters and stories.