Chinese Opera: An Enthralling Date With Fire-spitting Performers

Jinjiang Theatre in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, holds daily shows for performing arts lovers.


Chinese people are great lovers of entertainment and their well-preserved culture and traditions that date back thousands of years. As a result, “elite” theatre or opera halls are usually filled, suggestive of the people’s growing prosperity. And so it was the case on May 26, 2017, when 26 African journalists joined a capacity crowd of about 500 people to watch “Fu rong guo cui” (The Legend of Face-changing). The one-hour Chinese opera show was performed by Jinjiang Theatre in Chengdu, capital of the Southwestern Sichuan Province.

The troupe of about 40 young men and women is said to be famous in the city and province. The opera piece is described as “the most innovative show in Chengdu, which is recommended by the local authorities.”  It holds every night in Jinjiang Theatre located in downtown Chengdu. The setting of “Fu rong guo cui” is “Sanqin Union,” one of the birth places of Sichuan opera. A little boy, Sanqing, is eager to learn Sichuan opera and starts working hard. Until a trainer comes along to help him. A little beautiful girl, Huanhua, admires Sanqing and they eventually fall in love. But Childe Ma, a wicked fellow, seizes her and orders his thugs to burn Sanqing’s face with spitting fire.  

Sanqing ends up as a street beggar using masks. With the encouragement of his trainer-master and Huanhua, he learns face-changing opera techniques and is able to change six faces smoothly. The May 26 performance consisted of four episodes – “Beginning,” the hand shadow show, “Unexpected,” traditional Sichuan repertoire, “Encounter with the Da Bing,” “Rolling oil lamp” and the stick puppet shows. The concluding episode, “Legend,” was a revisit of traditional Sichuan opera.

A young male performer creeping on the floor with his belly while carrying a jar of flaming fire on his head stole the show. Also, sound and visual effects of heavy rainfall on the stage accompanied by loud thunderbolts drew endless applause from guests. Masked performers in traditional Qiang attire resembling “Koungang” Bamileke masquerade dancers were outstanding. The face-changing and fire spitting concluding episode was aptly described by the female compere as “sensational!” With modest cost tickets worth 280 Yuan Renminbi (about 24,000 FCFA), opera lovers went home beaming with smiles as aspects like lighting, costumes, choreography and sounds effects, were simply enthralling.

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