The casualties were reported in three villages near the city of Suining, in eastern Sichuan, according to the official state Xinhua news agency.
Xinhua reports a total of 4,700 homes were damaged with at least $4.5 million in material losses.
Suining has a population of about 3.8 million people and had not previously been known to be prone to quakes.
Xinhua says only three minor tremors measuring about 2.0 in magnitude have occurred in the area during the past 20 years.
The epicenter of the quake was about 125 miles southeast of where a 7.9 magnitude temblor left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing on May 12, 2008.
Sunday’s quake struck at 5:37 a.m. local time at a depth of about 12 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.