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China's Traditional Art

China possesses one of the world's oldest and most complex civilizations. Chinese art dates back thousands of years, and dominates large geographical territories with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces. Today there are 56 distinct recognized ethnic groups in China. In terms of numbers however, the pre-eminent ethnic group is the Han Chinese. Throughout history, many groups have been assimilated into neighboring ethnicity or disappeared without a trace. At the same time, many within the Han identity have maintained distinct linguistic and regional artistic traditions. The prosperous art forms of China are crystallization of gradual communication among Han Chinese and other nationalities in ancient times.   

Painting

Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world. The earliest paintings were not representational but ornamental. They consisted of patterns or designs rather than pictures. Early pottery was painted with spirals, zigzags, dots, or animals. It was only during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) that artists began to represent the world around them.

Painting in the traditional style is known today in Chinese as Guo Hua, meaning “national painting” in Chinese. Traditional painting involves essentially the same techniques as calligraphy and is done with a brush dipped in black or colored ink. It’s different from western paintings that oils are not used here. As with calligraphy, the most popular materials on which paintings are made of are paper and silk. The finished work can be mounted on scrolls, such as hanging scrolls or handscrolls. Traditional painting can also be done on album sheets, walls, lacquerware, folding screens, and other media.

The two main techniques in Chinese painting are: Meticulous, which is often referred to as "court-style" painting as well as Freehand, the loosely termed watercolors or brush painting.

Artists from the Han (202 BC) to the Tang (618–906) Dynasties mainly painted the human figure. Much of what we know of early Chinese figure painting comes from burial sites, where paintings were preserved on silk banners, lacquered objects, and tomb walls. Many early tomb paintings were meant to protect the dead or help their souls get to paradise. Others illustrated the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, or showed scenes of daily life.

Many critics consider landscape to be the highest form of Chinese painting. The time from the Five Dynasties period to the Northern Song period (907–1127) is known as the "Great age of Chinese landscape". Chinese painting and calligraphy distinguishes themselves from other cultures' arts by their emphasis on motion, and charge with dynamic life. The practice is traditionally first learned by rote. The master showing the “right way” do draw items, which the apprentice have to copy strictly, continuously, until the move become instinctive. In contemporary times, debate emerged on the limits of this copyist tradition within the modern art scenes, where innovation is the rule, while changing lifestyles, tools, and colors are also influencing new waves of masters.

In ancient China, painting and calligraphy were the most highly appreciated arts in court circles and were produced almost exclusively by amateurs, aristocrats and scholar-officials who alone had the leisure to perfect the technique and sensibility necessary for great brushwork. Calligraphy was thought to be the highest and purest form of painting. The implements were the brush pen, made of animal hair, and black inks, made from pine soot and animal glue. Writing as well as painting was done on silk. But after the invention of paper in the 1st century, silk was gradually replaced by the new and cheaper material. Original writings by famous calligraphers have been greatly valued throughout China's history and are mounted on scrolls and hung on walls in the same way that paintings are.

 

Traditional Chinese calligraphy uses the Four Treasures of the Study: the ink brushes to write Chinese characters, Chinese ink, paper, and ink stone. In addition to these four tools, desk pads and paperweights are also used by calligraphers. The shape, size, stretch and hair type of the ink brush, the color, color density and water density of the ink, as well as the paper's water absorption speed and surface texture are the main physical parameters influencing the final result. The calligrapher also influences the result by the quantity of ink/water he lets the brush take, then by the pressure, inclination, and direction he gives to the brush, producing thinner or bolder strokes, and smooth or toothed borders. Eventually, the speed, accelerations, decelerations of the writer's moves, turns, and crochets, and the stroke order give the "spirit" to the characters, by influencing greatly their final shapes.

 

In ancient China, the oldest Chinese characters existing are Jiaguwen (inscription on oracle bones or tortore shells)characters carved on ox scapula and tortoise plastrons, because the dominators in Shang Dynasty carved pits on such animals' bones and then baked them to gain auspice of military affairs ,agricultural harvest, or even procreating and weather, etc. During the divination ceremony, after the cracks were made, the characters were written with a brush on the shell or bone to be later carved. With the development of Jinwen (Bronze ware script) and Dazhuan (Large Seal Script) "cursive" signs continued. Moreover, each archaic kingdom of current China had its own set of characters.

In about 220 BC, the emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first to conquer the entire Chinese plain, imposed several reforms, among them Li Si's character unification, which created a set of 3300 standardized Xiaozhuan characters. Despite the fact that the main writing implement of the time was already the brush, few papers survive from this period, and the main examples of this style are on steles.

Lishu style (clerical script) which is more regularized, and in some ways similar to modern text, has been also authorized under Qin Shi Huang.

Kaishu style (traditional regular script), which was attributed to Wang Xizhi and his followers, is still in use today and even more regularized. Its spread was encouraged by Emperor Mingzong of Later Tang (926-933), who ordered the printing of the classics using new wooden blocks in Kaishu. Wang Xizhi was a famous Chinese calligrapher who lived in the 4th century AD and has long enjoyed the reputation as Calligraphy Sage. His most famous work is the Lanting Xu, the preface of a collection of poems written by a number of poets when gathering at Lanting Pavilion near the town of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province and engaging in a game called "Qu Shui Liu Shang" (floating wine cup along the winding water, a tradition of ancient scholars). The Kaishu shape of characters 1000 years ago was mostly similar to that at the end of Imperial China while small changes have been made.

Cursive styles such as Xingshu (semi-cursive or running script) and Caoshu (cursive or grass script) are less constrained and faster, where more movements made by the writing implement are visible. These styles' stroke orders vary more, sometimes creating radically different forms. They are descended from Clerical script, in the same time as Regular script (Han Dynasty), but Xingshu and Caoshu were used for personal notes only, and were never used as standard. Caoshu style was highly appreciated in Emperor Wu of Han reign (140-87).

Blang, also spelled Bulong, is a Chinese ethnic group which lived in the Lancang river valley during ancient times. It is believed that these people were one branch of a number of peoples that were collectively known to the ancient Chinese as the “Baipu”, literally the "Hundred Pu".

Traditionally, Blang people considered teeth blackened by chewing betel nuts a beauty characteristic. The people of this minority are mostly animists, in addition to ancestor worship. They also combine their native beliefs with Theravada Buddhism.

Ceramic

Ceramic of China show a continuous development since the pre-dynastic periods, and is one of the most significant forms of Chinese art. China is richly endowed with the raw materials needed for making ceramics. The first types of ceramics were made during the Palaeolithic era. Chinese ceramics range from construction materials such as bricks and tiles, to hand-built pottery vessels fired in bonfires or kilns, to the sophisticated Chinese porcelain wares made for the imperial court. World recognized China from porcelain, which is also often called "china" in English. And this is where China got its name. Porcelain is a collective term comprising all ceramic ware that is white and translucent, no matter what ingredients are used to make it or to what use it is put." The Chinese tradition divides two primary categories of ceramics, high-fired “Ci” (porcelain) and low-fired “Tao” (pottery). The oldest Chinese dictionaries define porcelain as "fine, compact pottery". Present-day China comprises two separate and geologically different land masses, brought together by the action of continental drift and forming a junction that lies between the Yellow River and the Yangtze River.

Chinese porcelain is mainly made by a combination of the following materials:

Kaolin --- essential ingredient composed largely of the clay mineral kaolinite.

Pottery stone --- are decomposed micaceous or feldspar rocks, historically also known as petunse.

Feldspar and Quartz

Porcelain is made from a hard paste made of the clay kaolin and the feldspar called petuntse, which cements the vessel and seals any pores. Most china pots come from the city of Jingdezhen in China's Jiangxi province. Jingdezhen, under a variety of names, has been central to porcelain production in China since at least the early Han Dynasty and enjoys the reputation of “the Capital of Porcelain”. While Yixing, a small city in Jiangsu Province, is “the Capital of Pottery” as it produces the best Zisha (red porcelain) Teapot in the world.

The most noticeable difference between porcelain and the other pottery clays is that it "wets" very quickly (that is, added water has a noticeably greater effect on the plasticity for porcelain than other clays), and that it tends to continue to "move" longer than other clays, requiring experience in handling to attain optimum results. During medieval times in Europe, porcelain was very expensive and in high demand for its beauty.

Sculpture

Artifacts from China date back as early as 10,000BC and skilled Chinese artisans had been active very early in history, but the bulk of what is displayed as sculpture comes from a few select historical periods. The first period of interest has been the Western Zhou Dynasty (1050–771BC), from which come a variety of intricate cast bronze vessels. The next period of interest was the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), beginning with the spectacular Terracotta Army assembled for the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the important but short-lived Qin Dynasty that preceded the Han. Tombs excavated from the Han period have revealed many figures found to be vigorous, direct, and appealing 2000 years later.

The first Buddhist sculpture is found dating from the Three Kingdoms period (3rd century), while the sculpture of the Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang, Henan Province (Northern Wei, 5th and 6th century) has been widely recognized for its special elegant qualities. The period considered to be China's golden age is the Tang Dynasty, and this era is known for its decorative figures. Considered especially profound, was the Buddhist sculpture, often monumental, begun in the Sui Dynasty, inspired by the Greco-Buddhist art of Central Asia, and many are considered treasures of world art.

Places to learn more about Chinese sculpture

Terracotta Army, locates in the eastern outskirt of Xi’an City, consists of more than 7,000 life-size tomb terra-cotta figures of warriors and horses buried with the self-proclaimed first Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang) in 210–209 BC. The figures were painted before being placed into the vault. The original colors were visible when the pieces were first unearthed. However, exposure to air caused the pigments to fade, so today the unearthed figures appear terracotta in color. The figures are in several poses including standing infantry and kneeling archers, as well as charioteers with horses. Each figure's head appears to be unique, showing a variety of facial features and expressions as well as hair styles.

Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya is a 108-metre statue of the Bodhisattva Guan Yin, sited on the south coast of China's island province Hainan near the Nanshan Temple of Sanya. The statue has three aspects; one side faces inland and the other two face the South China Sea, to represent blessing and protection by Guan Yin of China and the whole world. One aspect depicts Guan Yin cradling a sutra in the left hand and gesturing the Vitarka Mudra with the right, the second with her palms crossed, holding a string of prayer beads, and the third holding a lotus. This is currently the tallest statue of Guan Yin in the world. The statue took six years to build and was enshrined on April 24, 2005, with the participation of 108 eminent monks from various Buddhist groups in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and Mainland China, and tens of thousands of pilgrims.

Leshan Giant Buddha was built during the Tang Dynasty (618–907AD). It is carved out of a cliff face that lies at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers in the southern part of Sichuan province, near the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below his feet. It is the largest carved stone Buddha in the world and by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world. Apparently the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing boats.

Stele Forest, or Xi'an Beilin Museum, is a museum for steles and stone sculptures which is located in Xi'an. Founded in 1944, it was the principal museum for Shaanxi province on the site of what was formerly an 11th century Confucius Temple. Because of there were large number of steles, it was officially re-named as the Forest of Stone Steles in 1992. Altogether, there are 3,000 steles in the museum, which are divided into seven exhibitions halls where mainly display works of calligraphy, painting and historical records. Stele Forest began with the Kaicheng Shi Jing Steles and Shitai Xiao Jing Steles, two groups of steles both carved in the Tang dynasty and displayed in the temple to Confucius in Chang'an. In 904, a rebel army sacked Chang'an, and the two steles were evacuated to the inner city. In 962, they were again moved to the rebuilt temple to Confucius. In the Song Dynasty, a special hall, with attached facilities, was built to house and display the two Stele groups. It was damaged in the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake during the Ming dynasty. In 1936, famous Chinese calligrapher Yu Youren donated his entire collection of more than three hundred rubbings from Stele to the Xian Forest of Stele Museum. It houses nearly 3,000 steles and it is the biggest collection of steles in China. Most of its exhibits are steles of the Tang Dynasty. Among the unusual examples is Guandi Shizhu (Emperor Liu Bei and his general Guan Yu use a poem in the bamboo leaves to communicate) which appears to be a bamboo forest, but on examination the leaves and branches form a poem.

Chinese martial arts, also referred to by the Mandarin Chinese term Wushu and popularly as kung fu, are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as "families", "sects" or "schools" of martial arts. Examples of such traits include physical exercises involving animal mimicry, or training methods inspired by Chinese philosophies, religions and legends. Styles which focus on breathe manipulation are labeled as internal, while others concentrate on improving muscle and cardiovascular fitness and are labeled external. Geographical association, as in northern boxing and southern boxing, is another popular method of categorization separated by the Yangtze River.

The genesis of Chinese martial arts has been attributed to the need for self-defense, hunting techniques and military training in ancient China. Hand-to-hand combat and weapons practice were important in training ancient Chinese soldiers. While it is clear that various forms of martial arts have been practiced in China since antiquity, very little detail on specifics can be recovered for times predating the 16th century. By contrast, there is a variety of sources on the topic from the Qing Dynasty. Detailed knowledge about the state and development of Chinese martial arts becomes available from the Nanjing decade (1928-1937), as the Central Guoshu Institute established by the Kuomintang regime made an effort to compile an encyclopedic survey of martial arts schools. Since the 1950s, China has organized Chinese martial arts as an exhibition and full-contact sport under the heading of Wushu.

Qigong

Qigong, also spelled Chi Kung, is a powerful system of healing and energy medicine from China. It is the art and science of using breathing techniques, gentle movement, and meditation to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate the life energy (Qi). Qigong practice leads to better health and vitality and a tranquil state of mind. In the past, qigong was also called Nei gong (inner work) and Dao yin (guiding energy).

 

Qigong includes many types for people to practice:

Healing Qigong, or Yi Gong, sometimes translated as "Medical Qigong", is the preventive and self-healing aspect of Chinese medicine. In Qigong theory, people are all exposed to stress. Qigong teaches people how to control reactions to stress so that life events do not cause such symptoms as high blood pressure, frustration, or anxiety. Healthy people practice qigong to become super-healthy. Healers use qigong to prevent "healer burn-out" and to maintain a positive presence.

External Qi Healing, or Wai Qi treatment, is a kind of non-contact treatment in Qigong’s sophisticated system of health assessment. The healer learns to tap into a well of healing energy in nature and "funnel" it through his or her body. Unlike some purely intuitive systems, External Qi Healing includes exercises that increase sensitivity to energy fields and efficacy of treatment. External Qi Healing techniques may be used as a stand alone form of wellness treatment or may be combined with massage, acupuncture, osteopathy, or any other form of body-work. Because treatment is generally performed at a distance from the body, External Qi Healing does not violate psychotherapists' professional ethics (which do not allow touching the patient) and is thus an ideal adjunct to body-centered psychotherapy.

Spiritual Qigong, or Fo Gong, Tao Gong, is a spiritual discipline evolving from Taoism and Buddhism. Qigong leads to self-awareness, tranquility, and harmony with nature.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi Ch'uan or Tai Chi boxing, literally "Supreme Ultimate Fist", often shortened as Tai chi in the West, is a type of internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity. As a consequence, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of Tai Chi's training forms are especially known for being practiced at what most people categorize as slow movement.

Today, Tai Chi has spread worldwide. The philosophy of Tai Chi is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certain to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to Tai Chi theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting Yang ("realistic," active, fast, high-impact) with Yin (slow, repetitive, meditative, low-impact). Done correctly, this balance in combat, or in a broader philosophical sense, is a primary goal of Tai Chi training. Lao Tzu provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, "The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong."

Tai Chi's martial aspect relies on sensitivity to the opponent's movements and center of gravity dictating appropriate responses. Effectively affecting or "capturing" the opponent's center of gravity immediately upon contact is trained as the primary goal of the martial Tai Chi student. The sensitivity needed to capture the center is acquired over thousands of hours of first Yin and then later adding Yang martial training through forms, pushing hands, and sparring. Tai Chi trains in three basic ranges: close, medium and long, and then everything in between. Pushes and open-hand strikes are more common than punches, and kicks are usually to the legs and lower torso, never higher than the hip, depending on style. The fingers, fists, palms, sides of the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees, and feet are commonly used to strike, with strikes to the eyes, throat, heart, groin, and other acupressure points trained by advanced students. Joint traps, locks, and breaks are also used. Most Tai Chi teachers expect their students to thoroughly learn defensive or neutralizing skills first, and a student will have to demonstrate proficiency with them before offensive skills will be extensively trained.

In addition to the physical form, Tai Chi schools also focus on how the energy of a strike affects the other person. A palm strike that looks to have the same movement may be performed in such a way that it has a completely different effect on the target's body. A palm strike that could simply push the opponent backward, could instead be focused in such a way as to lift the opponent vertically off the ground, breaking his/her center of gravity; or it could terminate the force of the strike within the other person's body with the intent of causing internal damage.

Opera

Opera is a popular form of drama and musical theatre in China with roots going back as far as the third century BC. Canjun opera of the Three Kingdoms period was one of the first Chinese operatic forms. Chinese opera in a more organized form began in the Tang Dynasty with Emperor Xuanzong (712–755), who founded the "Pear Garden", the first known opera troupe in China. The troupe mostly performed for the emperors' personal pleasure. To this day operatic professionals are still referred to as "Disciples of the Pear Garden".

Masks are used in Chinese opera, and each color has a different meaning. They are used to portray a character's role and illustrate one’s emotional state and general character.

White: Sinister, evil, crafty, treacherous, and suspicious. Anyone wearing a white mask is usually the villain.

Green: Impulsive, violent, no self restraint or self control.

Red: Brave, loyal.

Black: Rough, fierce, or impartial.

Yellow: Ambitious, fierce and cool-headed.

Blue: Steadfast, someone who is loyal and sticks to one side no matter what.

Peking opera or Beijing opera is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing Dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing and Tianjin in the north, Shanghai in the south. Peking opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilize the skills of speech, song, dance, and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements. Performers also adhere to a variety of stylistic conventions that help audiences navigate the plot of the production. The layers of meaning within each movement must be expressed in time with music. The music of Peking opera can be divided into the Xipi and Erhuang styles. Melodies include arias, fixed-tune melodies, and percussion patterns. The repertoire of Peking opera includes over 1,400 works, which are based on Chinese history, folklore, and, increasingly, contemporary life.  In recent years, Peking opera has attempted numerous reforms in response to sagging audience numbers. These reforms, which include improving performance quality, adapting new performance elements, and performing new and original plays, have met with mixed success.

Qinqiang

Qinqiang, or Luantan is the representative folk Chinese opera of the northwest Province of Shaanxi. Called Qin thousands of years ago, its melodies were originated from the rural areas of ancient Shaanxi and Gansu. The word itself means "the tune or sound of Qin".

The genre uses the Bangzi (woodblock) as one of the accompanying instruments, from which it derives its other name, Bangzi opera. Bangzi tune is the oldest, most affluent opera tune in China's Four Great Characteristic Melodies. Qinqiang is the representative of the Bangzi opera and the most important origin of other Bangzi operas. Tan Dun, the composer for the opera The First Emperor, researched Qinqiang for the opera, in order to learn more about "ancient Chinese vocal styles".

Cantonese opera

Cantonese opera is one of the major categories in Chinese opera, originating in southern China's Cantonese culture. It is popular in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong and Macau regions. Like all versions of Chinese opera, it is a traditional Chinese art form, involving music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics, and acting.

Cantonese opera share many common characteristics with other Chinese theatre genres. Commentators often take pride in the idea that all Chinese theatre styles are similar but with minor variations on the pan-Chinese music-theater tradition and the basic features or principles are consistent from one local performance form to another. Thus, music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics and acting are all featured in Cantonese opera. Most of the plots are based on Chinese history and famous Chinese classics and myths.

The four skills and five methods are a simple codification of training areas that theatre performers must master and a metaphor for the most well-rounded and thoroughly-trained performers. The four skills apply to the whole spectrum of vocal and dramatic training: singing, movements, speech delivery, and martial skills. While the five methods are categories of techniques associated with specific body parts: hands, eyes, body, hair, and walking techniques.

There are four types of roles: Sang, Daan, Zing, and Cau. Sang are male roles, Daan are female roles, Zing are known for painted-faces which are often male characters such as heroes, generals, villains, gods, or demons. Cau is known for clown figures in Cantonese opera.

Kunqu

Kunqu, also known as Kun opera or Kunqu Opera, is one of the oldest extant forms of Chinese opera. It evolved from the Kunshan melody, and dominated Chinese theatre from the 16th to the 18th centuries. It is listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2001.

Kunqu (Kunshan play) was developed during the late Yuan Dynasty by Gu Jian of Qiandeng town in Kunshan, and due to its influence on other Chinese theatre forms, it is known as the "teacher" or "mother" of a hundred operas, including the Peking Opera. Its emergence ushered in the second Golden Era of Chinese drama.

There are many Kun plays that continue to be famous today, including The Peony Pavilion and The Peach Blossom Fan, were originally written for the Kunqu stage. In addition, many classical Chinese novels and stories, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Journey to the West were adapted very early into dramatic pieces.

Sichuan opera is a type of Chinese opera originating in Sichuan province around 1700. Today's Sichuan opera is a relatively recent synthesis of five historic melodic styles. Regionally Chengdu remains to be the main home of Sichuan opera, while other influential locales include Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan and Hubei.

Initially there were five distinct opera styles including Gaoqiang, Kunqiang, Huqing voice, Tanxi as well as Lantern play. The history of each style varies greatly. At least one of the Chinese operatic styles began as early as the Three Kingdoms period with some form of Canjun opera. During the Tang dynasty, a band of five came about in Chengdu. In the Song dynasty, the opera developed into Zaju. In the Ming dynasty, artists performed the skill in Jinling (modern-day Nanjing). During the reign of Yongzheng and Qianlong emperor in the Qing dynasty, in the Huabu areas, Kunqu, Yiyang, Bangzi and Pihuang melody merged with local languages, folk customs, ditties, yang-kos and Lantern play in Sichuan.

During the early 20th century, a revival movement began to reform the art. The best known reformer was Kang Zhilin, who led the Sanqinq (Three Celebrations) Company. This company was one of the most notable opera troupes, established in 1912, and combined the five styles into a single opera on the same stage. Each style retained its own music. One of the classic skills devised by Kang Zhilin included a high kick that leaves a "third eye" in the middle of the forehead. This has remained one of Sichuan opera's trademark moves.

Overall the art form is well known for its singing, which is less constrained than that of the more popular Beijing opera form. Sichuan opera is more like a play than other forms of Chinese opera, and the acting is highly polished. The music accompanying Sichuan opera utilizes a small gong and an instrument called a Muqin, which is similar to the Erhu.

The traditional formula is quite systematic with a combination of stunts like face-changing or mask-changing, tihuiyan, sword-hiding, fire-spitting and beard-changing with the plot and different characters. Depending on the style, face paint is also limited compared to other related forms. Jing characters do not appear, and the only painted face characters are those with a small white patch in the middle of the face, which indicates a slightly evil character. The face paint colors are traditionally limited to black, red, white and grey.

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