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Sichuan Opera History

Sichuan Opera
  • Initially there were 5 distinct opera styles. The history of each style varies greatly.
  • At least one of the Chinese operatic styles began as early as the Three Kingdoms period with some form of Canjun opera. During the Tang dynasty, a band of five came about in Chengdu. In the Song dynasty, 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, 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.
  • 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 Sichuanese opera’s trademark moves.
  • During the Cultural Revolution, the art form suffered somewhat. But it continued to flourish afterwards, especially since the 1978 Chinese economic reform.

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chengdu face change show

SiChuan Opera

Sichuan Opera. Most guest houses and travel agencies offer to arrange visits to these traditional shows. It is more like a burlesque cabaret than an actual opera, sometimes including magicians, traditional musicians, shadow plays, comedy (spoken in Chinese though), and dancers besides the traditional pieces. Of course the most famous is never omitted: quick face-changing and fire spitting performed by dancers clad in colourful traditional costumes.

Face-changing is a kind of characterization trick used in Sichuan Opera,and a romantic technique to reveal inner emotions and thoughts of characters in the play. It is said that face-changing originated from the ancient people who drew different shapes on their faces to scare the invading beasts for survival. Sichuan Opera performs face-changing on the stage and makes it a unique art with marvellous skills. The techniques adopted in face-changing roughly fall into three categories: smearing, blowing and peeling.

Smearing is to smear the colored paints on certain part of face and during performance the actor would smear the paint to turn his face to another color. The paints can be smeared either on the actor’s forehead and eyebrows to change the entire face or on his cheeks and nose to change the lower half of the face. The paints can be smeared only on a specific part to change that part. Many characters such as Xu Xian in Madame White Snake, Pei Yu in Releasing Pei, Ghost Chen Lun in Fei Yun Sword are performed by smearing.

Blowing can only apply to powders, like gold, black and silver powders, etc.A small bowel is placed on the stage with powder in it and during performance the actor would dance to throw his face close to the bowel and blow the powder, which will adhere to the actor’s oiled face quickly and change it to another color. The actor must pay attention to close his eyes, mouth and hold his breath when blowing. Zi Du in Capturing Zi Du and Yue Yangzi in Zhi Zhong Shan are performed by blowing. Peeling is a relatively complicated way to change face, which requires to draw the facial mask on a piece of silk beforehand, cut it and tie a handful of silk thread to each mask before pasting them to the actor’s face.

The silk thread is tied to the actor’s costume like his belt, which is easy to operate but not eye-catching. During the performance, the mask will be peeled one by one under the cover of dancing. For example, bowel boy in Madame White Snake can change face into green, red, white and black and so on for seven or eight times on end. Moreover, the thief in Jiu Zheng Building and Niu Long in Wang Niang Beach are also performed by peeling. Peeling is somewhat difficult. For one thing, the adhesive can not be used too much in case the mask can not be peeled or all the masks are peeled in one stroke; for another, the actor’s movement must be neat and fast and conduct a skillful performance to deceive the eyes of the audience.

sichuan opera,chengdu face change show
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sichuan opera,chengdu face change show