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The 70-year-old Fan Club Brings a Private Sichuan Opera Troupe Back to Life

By XINYI LI|Jul 05,2022

Every Sunday, a group of Sichuan Opera fans, with an average age of over 70, come to Ciqikou Ancient Town, Shapingba District, from different parts of Chongqing to watch performances together. The oldest of them is 92. The weekly performance is staged by Longqun Sichuan Opera Troupe, a private troupe.

Pan Changfu, a fan of Sichuan Opera, has been paying a regular visit to Ciqikou Ancient Town from Yubei District every Sunday for nearly a decade. Each bus trip takes an hour and a half. Pan Changfu grew up watching his grandfather's Sichuan Opera performances, so he has a deep affection for the opera.

Longqun Sichuan Opera Troupe (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Tan Xuebin, another opera fan, now comes to Ciqikou Ancient Town from Fuling District through online car-hailing. He used to take a coach and then transfer to the town by bus, which took nearly three hours in total. Tan Xuebin had fallen in love with Sichuan Opera since he was young. He recalled that during every business trip to Sichuan, he spent time watching Sichuan Opera performances as they have different characteristics in different parts of the province. Tan joked, "I have a fanatical interest in Sichuan Opera. It seems like some weird disease without cure!"

There are about 150 aficionados of Sichuan Opera like Pan Changfu and Tan Xuebin. According to Pan Changfu's introduction, they are attracted by Longqun Sichuan Opera Troupe because it retains the opera's original features. Since its founding in 1995, the troupe's performance venue has changed several times, but opera fans always follow it.

Audiences (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Mr. Wang, an old opera fan, said that the troupe once staged performances at three places in Ciqikou Ancient Town. In 2019, the troupe spent more than 200,000 yuan decorating a performance venue in the town. Unfortunately, less than half a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, and Ciqikou suffered severe flood damage after the pandemic prevention and control improved.

In 2021, Qin Yuan, owner of Ciqikou Wharf Society, was touched by the persistence of the troupe and its fans and invited the troupe to settle down. "It is higher here and less prone to flooding," said Qin.

Sichuan Opera (Photo provided to iChongqing)

The elderly love appreciating opera performances there as the performances are beautiful memories of their youth. Many performers at the troupe graduated from drama schools and have devoted themselves to the career for decades. They are still unwilling to give up even though they have grown old. Zheng Feng, more than 70 years old, used to be a professional Sichuan Opera actor. Since his retirement, he has been working at the troupe. Besides performances on stage, he is also in charge of shooting and production. "Sichuan Opera is not only my occupation but also my lifeblood," said Zheng Feng.

The 86-year-old actress Li Yuzhen still performs amazingly in Sichuan Opera. She said the most attractive thing about Sichuan Opera was its beautiful words. For example, in the sentence "When pear blossoms fall, and apricot blossoms bloom, I travel around Chang'an's twelve streets in my dream, the writer expresses a longing to meet her beloved, but she did not even receive a letter, for which she spent countless nights tossing and turning. The feeling conveyed is very touching," said Li Yuzhen.

As a private troupe, Longqun Sichuan Opera Troupe has experienced countless difficulties in its development. Fortunately, it embraces a clutch of actors and actresses who love Sichuan Opera and quite a few loyal fans. In addition, it is supported by all sectors of society. It will definitely be able to persevere and make the beauty of Sichuan Opera seen by more people.


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