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Teahouse Crosstalk of Tianjin
2008-07-31 08:23:56     CRIENGLISH.com

The front door of the new Mingliu Teahouse on the Ancient Culture Street in Tianjin on Saturday, July 12, 2008. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

Crosstalk, a traditional Chinese folk art that is gradually losing popularity among television audiences, gains momentum for renaissance in teahouses in northern China's Tianjin Municipality.

One of the earliest forms of showcasing crosstalk, the face-to-face performances in teahouses draw audiences in close to the artists. The interactions between the two parties boost the comic effects of the art.

(In Mingliu Teahouse, a famous teahouse with the longest continuous history of crosstalk performances, the laughter of a male audience member and the ensuing reactions of the performers added a new dimension of fun to the performance.)

Tianjin, a city with a more than hundred-year history of crosstalk, has maintained widespread interest in the traditional folk art. Local citizens appreciate crosstalk performances through television and broadcasts, but the live performances in teahouses are their favorites.

Thirty-one-year-old Zou Zongjun has been watching crosstalk performances at Mingliu Teahouse for one year. Although he lives far from the teahouse, the longtime crosstalk fan comes every weekend for the light-hearted atmosphere.

"I feel very joyful. I come here to release myself from work pressure, to relax and forget my worries. I began listening to crosstalk broadcasts when I was a teenager, and have come here frequently since last year. The atmosphere of a live show is quite different from a broadcast. We can interact with the performers."

The atmosphere in the city also helps generate more crosstalk performers like Luo Feng. Luo began learning crosstalk at age sixteen, and the prizes-winning performer now does regular shows with a local folk art group at Mingliu Teahouse.

"Teahouse crosstalk is closer to the audience than TV crosstalk. Most teahouse crosstalk pieces are traditional ones, with fewer new pieces. The traditional pieces have been improved by generations of performers. They are longer, with more funny elements, and their effects are better than TV crosstalk."

Although the folk art originated in Beijing, crosstalk has thrived in neighboring Tianjin. Generations of crosstalk masters have come from the city and improved the traditional folk art. With modern elements added to traditional pieces and witty performances in teahouses, crosstalk has found a new way to survive in its original form.

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