xiangsheng


xiangsheng
(cross-talk, comic dialogue)
Xiangsheng is a traditional form of Chinese comic dialogue which can traced back to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). It is translated as ‘cross-talk’, but because it refers to two performers talking to each other in a comic way, it is also translated as ‘comic dialogue’. Xiangsheng usually consist of a story or stories with one or several subjects. Sometimes xiangsheng is performed by one person (dankou xiangsheng), sometimes by a group of people (qunkou xiangsheng). Unlike Western standup comedy, which often consists of a string of one-liners that switch from topic to topic, a xiangsheng piece has a beginning, development and ending. This popular linguistic art tends to be more reserved and conservative than Western comedy. Its puns, homonyms, homophones, neologisms, cultural code words and phrases, use of dialect, and other language-based humour also make xiangsheng very difficult to translate with any degree of satisfaction. Xiangsheng reflects history and everyday life.
It can be used to praise the CCP and government policies or to satirize social maladies. A piece called ‘Yaogun shunkouliu’ [Rock’n’roll Doggerel] satirizes corruption. Xiangsheng performers are almost all men, but women have also appeared, first in Taiwan and now on the mainland. On 8 March 1992, over forty pairs of women participated in the first ‘Spark Cup’ female xiangsheng competition in Beijing, marking International Women’s Day. The oldest were two grandmothers in their seventies, the youngest a first-grade pupil. Occasionally you may still catch Mark Rowswell, or Dashan (Big Mountain), a Canadian fluent in the Beijing vernacular, cross-talking with his Chinese partner.
Kaikonen, Marja (1990). Laughable Propaganda: Modern Xiangsheng as Didactic Entertainment. Stockholm: Institute of Oriental Languages.
HELEN XIAOYAN WU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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