The contestants for the finals of the 37th Miss Bikini International wore two-bit pieces designed with Peking Opera elements, the Shanghai Daily reported.
Pictures of the bikini-clad girls performing on stage began circulating on internet, causing an outrage among netizens.
Chinese people criticized the idea as a clumsy attempt to incorporate Chinese traditional elements into pop culture without paying due respect.
The Peking Opera is a 200-year-old form of theatre that combines music, vocal performance, dance and acrobatics.
"It may be a clever idea of commercial promotion, but to Peking Opera, the 'quintessence' of Chinese culture, it's an insult," one internet user commented.
Another said: "The beauty of Peking Opera should definitely not be presented with naked skin. Peking Opera-themed bikinis are vulgar."
The contest organising committee said the intention was to present traditional Chinese culture to foreign audiences.
Arising in Beijing in the late 18th century, the Peking Opera fully developed in the 19th century and flourished in the 20th. However, it declined after the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Beijing: Chinese internet users have criticised a beauty pageant where contestants wore bikinis with designs of a 200-year-old form of theatre that is considered a "quintessence" of Chinese culture.
First Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 16:08