Sichuan Opera

Sichuan Opera is a type of Chinese opera originating in China's Sichuan province around 1700. Today's Sichuan opera is a relatively recent synthesis of 5 historic melodic styles. Regionally Chengdu remains to be the main home of Sichuan’s opera, while other influential locales include Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hubei and Taiwan. Initially there were 5 distinct opera styles. The history of each style varies greatly.

Sichuan Opera Show Chengdu

At least one of the Chinese operatic styles began as early as the Three Kingdoms period (220-280)with some form of Canjun opera. During the Tang dynasty(618-907), a band of five came about in Chengdu. In the Song dynasty(960-1276), the opera developed into zaju. In the Ming dynasty, artists performed the skill in Jinling (modern-day Nanjing). During the reign of Yongzheng and Qianlong emperor in the Qing dynasty(1644-1912), in the Huabu areas, Kunqu, Yiyang, Bangzi and Pihuang melody merged with local languages, folk customs, ditties, yang-kos and Lantern theatre (Dengdiao) in Sichuan.

Sichuan Opera Face Changing

During the early 20th century, a revival movement began to reform the art. The best known reformer was Kang Zhilin, who led the Sanqinq (Three Celebrations) Company. This company was one of the most notable opera troupes, established in 1912, and combined the 5 styles into a single opera on the same stage. Each style retained its own music. One of the classic skills devised by Kang Zhilin included a high kick that leaves a "third eye" in the middle of the forehead. This has remained one of Sichuan Opera's trademark moves.

Sichuan Opera Chengdu China

During the Cultural Revolution, the art form suffered somewhat. But it continued to flourish afterwards, especially since the 1978 Chinese economic reform.

Overall the art form is well known for its singing, which is less constrained than that of the more popular Beijing opera form. Sichuan opera is more like a play than other forms of Chinese opera, and the acting is highly polished. The music accompanying Sichuan Opera utilizes a small gong and an instrument called a Muqin, which is similar to the Erhu. The traditional formula is quite systematic with a combination of stunts like face-changing, tihuiyan, sword-hiding, fire-spitting and beard-changing with the plot and different characters.


Depending on the style, face paint is also limited compared to other related forms. Jing characters do not appear, and the only painted face characters are those with a small white patch in the middle of the face, which indicates a slightly evil character. The face paint colors are traditionally limited to black, red, white and grey.

Sichuanese Opera Face Changing

Face Changing

Face changing, or "bian lian," traces its history back some 300 years, is an ancient, and fading, unique art form at the heart of traditional Sichuan Opera and where performers rely on silk masks to reflect their characters' mood changes. The beauty of face changing lies in its secrecy.

Where to See Sichuan Opera in Chengdu?

Sichuan Opera is a characteristic of Sichuan culture. Chengdu is the home of this opera. Sichuan opera features melodic singing, refined acting, rich percussions and unique skills. These unique skills in Sichuan opera like faces changing, lamps rolling, shadow playing, marionette figures (stick-puppets), fire spitting and sword-hiding are very different and fabulous. In Chengdu, you  can see Sichuan Opera in these places:

1. Shufengyayun Sichuan Opera House

Address: Chengdu Culture Park, 23 Qintai Lu, Chengdu

2. Wuhou Temple Grand Stage

Address: 231 Wu Hou Ci Street, Chengdu

3. Sichuan Opera Theater

Address: 20 Zhuangyuan Street, Chengdu

4. Jinjiang Stage

Address: 54 Huaxingzheng Street, Chengdu

5. Shunxing Old Teahouse 

Address: 258 Shawan Lu (Chengdu International Expo Center, 3rd Fl.), Chengdu

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