Xiangsheng is one of the most popular and influential types of quyi. It can be said that nobody in China does not know and like it. it is humorous and highly satirical by nature. Though similar performance had been popular for centuries. it was only in the reign of Emperor Xianfeng of the Qing Dynasty (1851 -1861 ) that XiangSheng became established as an independent art form. The first XiangShap artists were Zhang Sanlu and Zhu Shaowen. the latter`s stage name being Qiong Bupa. He used to perform in the entertainment quarter of Beijing known as Tianqiao. He always began with a ragged verse which started and ended with the same word (something like a palindrome phrase). Then he imitated the street hawkers` peculiar cries and sang some ancient songs. As the audience grew. he started his proper xiangsheng item. His stage name originated from a poem inscribed on a pair of bamboo clappers (a kind of percussion instrument). which he had used- The words on the clapper were. ``Eating by begging from many houses and sleeping in ancient temples. Never do anything against the law. and don`t be afraid of seeing the emperor.`` Zhu`s four apprentices all had stage names in a similar style. Zhu and his two contemporaries. A Yantao and Shen Chunhe formed the earliest three big categories of Xiangsheng artists who passed on their skills to their disciples. After over a century`s development. xiang art has ushered in its eighth generation of artists.
Since the late Qing Dynasty and the early years of the Republic. xiangsheng art has made great advances in content and skills. and representative artists have emerged in different periods. For instance. in the late Qing period a group of artists whose names all contained the character ``de`. were Yu Delong. jiao Dehai. Zhou Deshan. and others. People called them the Eight ``Des`` of xiangsheng There were Li Dexi with the stage name of Wan Renmi and Zhang Shouchg art. in the period of the Republic. After the founding of New China talented artists Hou Baolin. Ma Sanli. Ma ji. who was Hou`s student. and Maji`s student jiang Kun all displayed highly distinctive skills and have become very famous artists.
there are three forms of xiangsheng The earliest form was performed by one person. and was called dankou xiangsheng its contents were mostly jokes and humorous stories. Later. dchu xiangshengor ``cross talk.`` performed by two persons. appeared. One man was called duogen. and the other. pengn. When A is the primary talker while the B side chimes in. this is called yitouchen(heavy-at-one-end). and the Subject of argument between them is called Zhaugen. Recitals and narration are called guankouhuo. and imitations of opera songs and words are called huhuo. The third form of xiangsheng performed by three or more persons is called qunkou Xiangsheng it calls for one artist to say funny things. while others chime in and yet another makes them stray from the subject. Of the three forms. cross talk was the most popular and widespread.
A xiangsheng performer is required to have not only a clear enunciation. but to be skillful at imitating various kinds of people and things with sound effects. and especially good at creating laughter or doubaofu. At the same time. he must have a good voice and be able to learn opera melodies and popular songs. Naturally. every artist has his own style. The basic aim of the Xiangsheng performance is to make the audience laugh. The punchline is called baoluer. meaning that it contains a theme which will abruptly emerge after several foreshadowing. There fore. the performer should be able to make a feint to the east and attack to the west. make present concessions for the sake of future gains. and utilize deliberate misunderstanding and coincidence. puns and rhetorical skills. Satire is nearly always present in xiangsheng performances. Xiangsheng is known all over China. and is often performed in local languages and dialects. Such as the ``dialect xiangsheng`` in Tibet.
Master Performers Hou Baolin and Ma Sanli
In the historical development of XiangSheng art. Hou Baolin (1917-1993) was the most renowned practitioner.
A native of Beijing. Hou was born into a poor family. He began to learn Peking Opera at the age of 12. but later switched to XiangSheng which he learned from Zhu Kuoquan. He performed at Gulou and Tianqiao in Beijing for a time. In l94o. he went to Tianjin. where he made a name for himself. From 194o he performed for 2o years with Guo Qiru as his partner.
Hou Baolin lived in a turbulent period of Chinese history. After the founding of New China. the social status of folk artists rose considerably. Hou joined the Quyi Art Troupe of the Chinese Broadcasting Recitation and Ballad Troupe and enthusiastically plunged into the movement of reforming Xiangsheng by discarding the dross and selecting the essential. so that the contents became more wholesome.
Hou`s contributions to the art of xiangsheng were numerous. First. he took the lead in purifying the language in the scripts by getting rid of vulgarities. He re-edited a lot of traditional scripts and then performed them on the stage. Second. he stressed theoretical research into xiangsheng while creating and performing. He made friends with scholars. and co-authored on the origin of xiangsheng A Collection of Articles on the Art of xiangsheng and other works. Third. he wrote some 30 scripts. of which the most representative are Marriage and Superstittan. A Miraculous Skill Brings Destruction. Lord Guan Fights Qin Qiong Story of a Night journey Opera and Dialect. Changing one`s trade. The Drunkard and The opera Fan.
Hou`s xiangsheng art is full of wisdom and humor He unearths and refines materials from everyday life. Hou is noted for being able to sing passages from local operas of various places and imitating their dialects. In three of his representative works. Notes on operas. opera and Dialect and Changing one`s Trade. one can clearly see his talent in this aspect. This. coupled with his fresh and precise language and easy manner on the stage forms the Hou School` Ma Sanli was born in Beijing in 1914. and was a contemporary of Hou Baolin. He comes from a well-known family of quyi artists of the Hui ethnic group. He grew up in Tianjin. and got his schooling there. At the age of 15. he started to study xiangsheng under Zhou Deshan. and has performed with Geng Baolin. Hou Nchen and Zhang Qingsen. He excels at wengen literary jokes and guankou recitals and narratives. His most famous pieces are The Writers` Salon. Moonlight over the xiang River on Steamed Corm Bread and Tongue Twister After the founding of New China. Ma joined the tianjin Quyi Troupe. and performed both cross-talk comic dialogue and solo comic dialogue. of which some of the most famous are Eating Sweet dumplings and The yellow crane Tower. Buying Monkeys. written by famous XiangSheng writer He Chi. has become a XiangSheng classic because of Ma`s distinguished performance. in it he vividly portrays a typically careless person. ``Ma Daha``. When his boss sends him to buy ten boxes of Monkey-brand soap. he returns with ten monkeys. Now. the name ``Ma Daha`` has become a synonym in Chinese for those who do their work carelessly.
Ma Sanli`s solo Xiangsheng performances are unique in that they always have a social message. Ma Sanli`s performances are full of the feelings of ordinary people. In both cross-talk comic dialogue and solo comic dialogue his performing style is to use mild but popular language. Although he belongs to a style of cool-headed humor. actually he is full of warm heartedness. So he enjoys the reputation of being an ``artist of the ordinary people``.
Ma Ji and Jiang Kun
if Hou Baolin and Ma Sanli are representatives of artists who have inherited the traditions of Xiangsheng and forged the modern art of xiangsheng the representative artists who emerged following the founding of New China are Hou Baolin`s student Ma Ji and Ma ji`s student jiang Kun. Ma Ji. originally called Ma Shuhuai. was born in 1934 in Beijing. For a time he was an apprentice in a factory. In 1951. he began to take an interest in xiangsheng. performing small at festival celebrations. In 1956. he was enrolled by the Central Broadcasting Recitation and Ballad Troupe as a professional xiangsheng actor. and he studied under Hou Baolin in his spare time. He excels at per forming new items reflecting real life. Apart from satire. he pioneers new items praising the new life and new heroes and heroines. ode to Mountaineers Dratw a Portait and Looking for Uncle are among his most popular per formance. In addition to performing traditional items he started writing and performing cross-talk comic dialogues such as ode to Friendship Storm on the Sop and Multistory Restaurant. and solo comic dialogues like The Universal- Brand Cigarette. In Five others Contend for Fame he is joined by several other comedians. Maji also set great store by theoretical research into Xiangsheng so as to make his creations more socially relevant. His books include Selected xiangsheng by Maji and An informal Discussion on the Art of Xiangsheng Ma is especially good at using homophones.
jiang Kun was born in 1950 in Beijing. He took to literature when he was a primary school pupil. and joined dramatic activities organized by the local Children`s Palace. At the age of 18. he went to the countryside and joined the Heilongjiang Province Production and Construction Corps. but he never gave up his amateur Cultural activities. in 1976. he was transferred to the Central Broadcasting Recitation and Ballad Troupe as a Xiangsheng actor He studied under Maji in his spare time. Before long. another actor in the troupe. Li Wenhua. became his partner in per forming cross-talk comic dialogue. Taking Photos. which he wrote himself. reflects the ultra-``left`` atmosphere during the Cultural Revolution. It established his position in the field of Xiangsheng Since the 1980s. he has performed a number of cross-talk comic dialogues with Li and other partners. including Poems. Songs and Love. The Story of the Nose and Watching Television. His most Popular items are those written by Xiangsheng writer Liang Zuo and performed together with Tangjiezhong. They are Reverie in the jaws of Death. Front Page News and An Adventure in an Elevator These vividly portrayed the state of mind of ordinary people in the early period of reform and opening to the outside world. These items are called xiangsheng which reflect social psychology. As the items compiled and performed by jiang Kun mainly deal with the joys. contradictions. aspirations and helplessness of people who find it hard to keep abreast of the times. so it is very hard to classify his items by the usual rules in the categories of satire and praise. Compared with his seniors. Jiang Kun has a more original performing style and pays more attention to entirety in terms of the expression of the content of his performances. His performances have little trace of deliberately showing off his special talent. for he puts more stress on harmony.