Consummate Skill of Sichuan Opera – Face Changing

Face Changing refers to the special performance skill of changing facial masks several times in the blink of an eye. The performance is used in a wide variety of operas but is best exemplified in Sichuan Opera.

Allegedly, the talent was used to scare away fierce beasts. In order to survive, people painted their faces with different patterns to threaten wild animals. Sichuan Opera performers perform the skill on stage and have made it a unique art.

Face Changing can be divided into Major Face Changing and Minor Face Changing. Major Face Changing means changing one’s mask three to nine times. Minor Face Changes mean switching parts of one’s face – ears, nose, mouthpieces – but not the entire facial mask altogether.

The techniques of face changing are roughly divided into three types: smearing, blowing and pulling. Smearing means to smear the prepared ink on the brows or temples to change the face’s color. Blowing is a more difficult skill to master -- performers need to blow colors onto their faces to make them change colors. Pulling means pulling masks that cover the face in layers. Some are loose and some are tight. In performances, performer can also pull down the masks one by one.

To change faces at lightening speeds, performers must be swift and flawless. This skill is mainly used to express sudden emotional changes such as panic, despair and anger.