Cross-talk genius

Updated 2018-01-24 10:25:01 China Daily

Cross-talk actor Cao Yunjin (left) and fellow performers from the Tingyunxuan troupe, all clad in long robes, put on traditional xiangsheng performances with an added youthful twist at the Laoshe Teahouse in Beijing on Jan 21. (Photo provided to China Daily)

When Cao Yunjin walks into a room on the third floor of Laoshe Teahouse, a popular site for showcasing traditional local arts of Beijing, his sunglasses, chic haircut and sharp suit are in stark contrast with his surroundings, which feature old photos, traditional Chinese furniture and ink paintings.

The 32-year-old Cao is a comedian, who is known for practicing the traditional Chinese art form, called xiangsheng, or cross-talk.

At the same time, more than 200 people are gathering in the small theater downstairs waiting for a show by the comedians from the Tingyunxuan troupe to start. Cao is the last performer.

At 3 pm, the show starts. While munching on sunflower seeds and sipping tea, the audience laugh and cheer at the performance.

When Cao, along with his longtime partner Liu Yuntian, appears onstage in traditional long robes, which xiangsheng actors wear, the crowds burst into applause and some even call out to Cao.

Tingyunxuan is a troupe Cao founded in 2010.

Cross-talk actor Cao Yunjin (left) and fellow performers from the Tingyunxuan troupe, all clad in long robes, put on traditional xiangsheng performances with an added youthful twist at the Laoshe Teahouse in Beijing on Jan 21. (Photo provided to China Daily)

The troupe, comprising more than 20 actors, and whose name mean "listening to Cao", gives shows on weekends at two small venues in the capital's downtown.

The troupe is so popular that 2,000 tickets for one of its shows sold out in one minute online in 2010, a record for xiangsheng performances, says Wang Jingjing, the manager of the troupe.

Cao was so completely occupied with starring in films and taking part in TV shows that he didn't have time for a single xiangsheng performance in 2017. So, the recent show at the Laoshe Teahouse is Cao's first xiangsheng performance of 2018.

On Jan 28, he will do a show at the Poly Theater in Beijing along with performers from Tingyunxuan.

Asked why he has cut back on his xiangsheng performances, Cao says: "I've spent 15 years making a name for myself as a xiangsheng actor. Now, I want to use the next 15 years to let people forget about my identity as a xiangsheng performer.

"I don't want to narrow my scope as an actor. Xiangsheng is just one aspect of my career, and I want to move on."

Cross-talk actor Cao Yunjin and fellow performers from the Tingyunxuan troupe, all clad in long robes, put on traditional xiangsheng performances with an added youthful twist at the Laoshe Teahouse in Beijing on Jan 21. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Xiangsheng, a comedy form that originated in Beijing in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) as a street art, usually involves two performers onstage.

The shows typically comprise witty talk, jokes and creative puns, and deal with topics like daily events, family life and social issues.

Speaking about the art form, Zhao Yun, a 30-year-old Beijing native, who joined Tingyunxuan in 2012 after standing out from about 150 candidates, says: "Traditional Chinese art forms, like xiangsheng, are among my favorites. Since becoming a xiangsheng actor, I enjoy the instant feedback given by the audience.

See Also

Most Popular

Sky Running Comes to Asia

This February saw the first ever Asian Sky Running Championship race come to Hong Kong. The competition is one of the most physically demanding a runner can put their body through.

Travel Videos

Photo Gallery

Worship Season in Lhasa

Lhasa, capital city of Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, has entered the worship season. Buddhists from across Tibet come to the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple for worship.

Hello Kitty Theme Park Opens in Zhejiang

The first Hello Kitty theme park outside Japan officially opened on Thursday, the first day of the year in the Anji county, Huzhou city, East China's Zhejiang province.

News:
China World Business Sports Showbiz Audio
Video:
C4 My Chinese Life The Sound Stage China Revealed Showbiz Video Travel Video
Photos:
China World Fun Travel Entertainment Sports
Travel:
Beijing Shanghai Guangzhou
Lifestyle:
Live Music Opera & Classical Movies Traditional Shows Exhibitions
Learn Chinese:
Chinese Studio Living Chinese Everyday Chinese Just For Fun Chinese Culture Buzzwords