The Trip to Chengdu

The cultural show that we watched in Chengdu was not simply a show for tourists, but a show put together by performing artists who had real talent and hard-work to show off. The show was held in a large outdoor theatre that revived the ancient designs of theaters, with its dark wood seats and tables, lanterns hung high above from the ceiling and the half-wall, half-canopy featured older Chinese architectural design. Sitting in my seat, I strained my neck to observe the waiters pour hot tea into the customers’ cub with their long-spout kettles. They made even serving hot water artistic! In fact, the first dance was of two girls dressed in Ming Dynasty outfits, dancing with the long-spout kettles and showing different ways that they can hold the kettles to pour water. Their movements were slow and graceful, but beyond the grace, the twists and turn and exact aim shows exactitude in their performance that mirrors the nuance nature of Chinese culture. Following that act, there were opera singers who sang parts in the local opera, 川剧,in which all plot line went over my head because they were sung in the local dialect. However, the story about 佘太君, the head woman of the famous Yang family who fought bravely and died for their country was a familiar story to me. The elaborate makeup and outfit of opera was always interesting to observe; however, due to my little background knowledge in the local opera, I was able to apply little meaning to the entirety of the decorations. Next, two actors played the “jokester” play, a form of comedy that often features a story about common folks rather than nation heroes and royalty. The story was about a wife punishing her husband for playing mahjong with various difficult tasks, such as dancing with a candle on his head or going underneath two stools with the candle still burning. This act provoked laughter from the crowd, especially the children who thought the punishment for such a goofy character was incredibly funny. However, beyond the comedic aspects, this particular act impressed me in two ways. First, because it was a local opera, the strong and impressive female role portrayed the value of women in the local area. As a character, the wife was intuitive (her husband would not get away with lying to her) and down-to-earth (she knew exactly how to make her husband feel bad). In addition, her husband respects her judgement and takes on the punishments, knowing that he made a mistake. Second, the actor who played the husband was a brave and talented one despite his silly and foolish persona. He crawled underneath two low stools with the candle burning on his head and his exaggerated facial expressions that match the music in the background show the hours and hours he spent practicing in front of the mirror. The best part of the entire show, however, were changing faces. Changing faces, an extremely famous and popular local art form that has gained international recognition, was my most anticipated act and it did not disappoint. I have seen such performances on television when I was younger but it was even more exciting to watch in-person. The performers changed the color and design of the faces so quickly that the naked eye would not see beyond the trick. They created a lot of built-up with the low drums before they exposed the different faces – the crowd exclaimed in surprise (even though they knew it would be a different face) and awe. The history of changing faces may have originated from the Qing Dynasty during Emperor Qian Long who enjoyed watching changing faces whenever he visited Sichuan. Since the emperor liked it, the form of art spread across the nation and became a popular spectacle across the nation. The central idea behind changing faces is to portray a character’s thousands of emotions and thoughts that change by the second. To this day, no one quite knows the exact trick behind to their millisecond of transformation because it is considered the nation’s greatest treasure. Bibliography: 川剧变脸。