Chengdu is one of the cradles of Sichuan opera, which is the most representative opera in Sichuan area and also existent in other areas like Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hubei and Taiwan provinces.
Sichuan opera enjoys a long history. As early as in Three Kingdom dynasty, there was “Canjun opera”. In Tang dynasty, a band of five came into being in Chengdu. In Song dynasty, the opera developed into Tsa-chu. In Ming dynasty, artist of Sichuan opera performed the skill in Jinling (now Nanjing). During the period of Yongzheng and Qianlong in Qing dynasty, as the “Huabu” drama propered, Kunqu, Yiyang aria, Bangzi aria and Pihuang aria merged with local languages, folk customs, ditties, yang-kos and Dengdiaos in Sichuan as they moved into the place. At the end of Qing dynasty, Sichuan opera was played from temple fairs, halls and yard to urban theaters.
In 1910s, Chengdu Sanqing Opera Association combined five melodic forms that include Gaoqiang, Kunqiang, Huqing voice, Tanxi and Dengdiao. The melodic system is largely Gaoqiang. Yuelai Teahouse became then the gathering place for Sichuan opera, and Yue Chun was acclaimed as the “opera cream” and Kang Zhilin “the opera saint”.
With a repertoire of thousands of plays, Sichuan opera is said to have “3000 Tang stories, 800 Song tales and endless Three Kingdom anecdotes”. Being famous for its comedies in particular, Sichuan opera is delicate and vivid in acting, varied in performing, strongly local-flavored and humorous. The traditional performing formula is quite systematic in that it combines the stunts like face-changing, Tihuiyan, sword-hiding, fire-spitting and beard-changing with the plot and different characters, highlighting the romanticism of opera in a magical and exaggerated manner.
The application of gongs and drums in Sichuan opera is also very different: the pitch is high, while the voice is resonant and primitive. In recent years, a great number of excellent traditional plays and stunts are created in Chengdu, like Hibiscus Fairy, Good Man from Sichuan, Shangangye, Haojunmei and Princess Wencheng, all of which invariably won the national prize. And Plum Blossom Prize winners like Xiao Ting, Liu Yun, Chen Qiaoru, Liu Ping and Sun Yongbo have emerged. In addition, Sichuan opera fans in Chengdu are very active, and shows by private organizations and fans are widely propagated in both rural and urban areas. And the Association of Sichuan Opera Fans is established and plays an important role in the cultural dimension.