Sichuan Opera is the most featured art of Sichuan Province. Since the Han Dynasty, Sichuan has been renowned for Hundred Arts including acrobatic and musical drama. In Tang Dynasty, Sichuan had well-developed musical drama, music and drama, and was reputed as “Sichuan arts, No.1 in the world”. In Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties, the “Sichuan arts” developed further. In Yongzheng and Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty, with local Sichuan troupe, which has become popular since the Ming Dynasty, the Kun, Gao, Bangzi and Pihuang dramas were introduced into Sichuan and combined with local dialects, folkway, folk musical drama and show, transited into a featured sound arts of Sichuan, which promotes the establishment and development of Sichuan Opera. After the Chinese Revolution, through the “drama improvement” advocated by “Sanqinghui” as an association of various troupes and theatres, which integrated various sounds (like Kun, Gao, Hu, Tan and Deng) and various stars, established the Shengping Tang for training talents and Yanjingshe for discussing skills, and invited many famous writers to compile playbooks. The drama improvement carried out and Sanqinghui marked the maturation of Sichuan Opera officially. Sichuan Opera became popular in Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces, with abundant traditional repertoires.
Gong and drum play an important role in the music of Sichuan Opera, including typical small drum, hall drum, large gong, large cymbal and small gong (also as Jiaozi), which are called “five methods”, added by strings and Chinese oboe (total 6 methods), and commanded by small drum.
Sichuan Opera has profound convention of realism and has acquired unique and ideal performance procedure, which enables it to be true, delicate, humorous and with strong sense of living. Many of its incomparable skills, including sustaining, eye opening, face changing, fire circle crossing and knife hiding, make the stage colorful, secret and ever changing.
Its roles have strict division, including 6 types: Sheng, Dan, Jing, Mo, Chou and Za.
Main factions of Sichuan Opera include Wan (Huaxian) for Dan role, Fu (Sanqian) and Cao (Junchen, for fighter Sheng and Chou, also called King Cao) for Chou role. Besides, the factions also include Western Sichuan (mainly for Gao and Deng sounding), Ziyang (mainly for Gao sounding), Northern Sichuan (mainly for playing) and Eastern Sichuan (mainly for fiddle), classified according to region of popularity.
After the founding of the P.R.C, Sichuan province carried out comprehensive reform on Sichuan Opera. The Drama Research Office of Sichuan was established in 1952, and collected 3109 traditional repertoires. The committee of Sichuan Province for authenticating traditional repertoires of Sichuan Opera was established in 1955. Till 1959, it collected 4000 traditional repertoires, authenticated 450 traditional repertoires, and founded the magazines including Research on Sichuan Opera Arts and Sichuan Drama, which indicates the prosperity of Sichuan Opera. After the Third Meeting of the 11th Session of CPC, Sichuan Opera School and Sichuan Opera Theatre in provincial level were resumed, and the research institute of Sichuan Opera was established. In 1982, the Committee of Sichuan CPC advocated “developing Sichuan Opera”, and proposed the policy of “rescue, inherit, reform and develop”. In 1983-1996, Sichuan held several joint performances for developing Sichuan Opera, and there came a group of excellent new-edition chronicle dramas and modern dramas including Siguliang, Yidanda, Dianzhuang, Bashan Xiucai, Sister Tian and Zhuangzhou, Furong Fairy, Pan Jinlian, Wang Xifeng and Fairy of Baishe. The modern dramas including Jiangjie, Siguliang, Sishuiweilan, Bianlian and Gold has a significant influence, and acquired the award of national excellent drama and the award of show, and some were made into arts video and film.
The old-generation of artists of Sichuan Opera including Zhou Qihe, Chen Shufang, Yuan Yukun, Xu Qianyun and Zeng Ronghua and the youth artists of Sichuan Opera including Xiao Ting, Liu Yun, Gu Xiaoqin, Shen Tiemei and Chen Zhilin have won the Meihua Award of Chinese Operas, and Wei Minglun and Xu Fen have become nationwide renowned dramatists. The drama of Fairy of Baishe and Furong Fairy of Sichuan Opera were showed in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Japan and Hong Kong, with great success.