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Peking Opera-featured helmets of Olympic champions become popular

Helmets painted with the faces of famous Peking Opera characters have become hot topic in China after cycling athletes Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi wearing them won the women's team sprint in the Rio Olympic Games on Friday.

The special pattern of painted faces on helmets drew attention when the duo bowed their heads during the race, as the helmets with the Chinese features made the athletes stand apart.

Posts and photos of the helmets on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China, have been viewed around 1.4 million times as on 11 am on Monday. Lots of people expressed their "likes" after the posts.

"It is really Chinese style, and really represents China's manufacturing," said Wodexiaoxiaoderichang, an internet user from Xiamen, East China's Fujian province. "I wonder if other countries will follow to show their unique cultures."

"This is really a surprising creative product," said Xiaolucaicainiao, an internet user from Weihai, East China's Shandong province.

A workshop named Incolor in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province, designed and produced the helmets, the newspaper Nanfang Metropolis Daily reported.

Zhang Dongliang, a designer from the workshop, said that Xu Chao, another cycling athlete of national team, told one of Zhang's friends that he wanted to use specially designed helmets that could be identified by Chinese easily in Rio.

Using Peking Opera's painted faces was an idea of Jiumei, a high school graduate who was on a summer vacation, Zhang said.

The workshop spent more than two months on refining the design and producing three helmets, compared with a normal helmet that can be produced within about two weeks, Zhang said. They are all free.

The image on Gong's helmet is of a legendary heroine named Mu Guiying from Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD) and a prominent figure in the Generals of the Yang Family legends. Brave, resolute and loyal, Mu is a cultural symbol of a steadfast woman.

The image on Zhong's helmet is of Hua Mulan, a legendary female warrior from Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD). Hua, who took over her aged father's place in the army, fought for 12 years and gained much acclaim, but she refused any reward and retired to her hometown instead.

The image on Xu's helmet is Zhang Fei, a military general in the Three Kingdom Period (AD 220-280). Zhang Fei was highly praised for his loyalty and courage.

The popularity of the helmets with painted faces has also created businesses for some online shoppers of Taobao.com, a popular shopping site in China. Similar helmets with painted faces are sold on Taobao.com for about several hundreds yuan. Two shops received at least 10 orders as of 11 am on Monday.

However, Zhang Dongliang said the helmets sold on Taobao.com were not produced by his workshop, and they will not make any more helmets with painted faces, in an effort to keep the uniqueness of the three they produced intact.

He said he hopes the success would let more people know that there are Chinese who work hard to produce artifacts in the spirit of craftsman, who should be respected and protected.

 
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