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Costume of Sichuan Opera – Get to Know Characters from What They Wear


In China, every part of the land inspires an operatic tradition, distinctive to its region. Sichuan Opera prevailed in its home province for centuries, giving voice to the values and cultural essence of the people.

When talking about Sichuan Opera, what first comes to mind? Face changing, acrobatic actions or the dynamic singing method?


Few people pay much attention to what characters wear because they look similar to that of Peking Opera. That is true. The costumes of Sichuan Opera are made from the style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and also referred to the clothes of the previous Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279), Yuan (1271-1368) and the following Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. All the clothes are in the same style and there isn’t any difference about the dynasty, the area or the seasons, so it is design, color and pattern that set them apart to fit characters of different gender, social status, temperament and age.


Actors who play the roles of emperors, generals and ministers wear exquisite and colorful clothes; xiaosheng (young male characters) are tastefully dressed in simple style robes; clothes of dan (female roles) are gowns with long water sleeves (long flowing sleeves that can be flicked and waved like water). In Sichuan Opera, there are a variety of characters, and every character has specialized costume. There is an old saying popular in Sichuan Opera that goes, “better to wear worn-out clothes than be in the wrong costume.”

“When actors appear on the stage, the costume they wear first tells the audience who they are,” said Gu, a professional in making costumes for Sichuan Opera in Chengdu.

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