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Xiangsheng

What is Xiangsheng?

Xiangsheng, often translated as "crosstalk", is a traditional form of Chinese comic dialogue. The famous "Who's on First" routine by Abbot and Costello would be a close Western equivalent, although xiangsheng tends to be more reserved and conservative than Western comedy. Unlike Western standup comedy, which is usually composed of a string of one-liners that may skip from topic to topic, a xiangsheng piece consists of one cleary defined subject or a story that has a definite beginning, development and ending.

Xiangsheng is revered in China as the "art of language", much the same as are calligraphy and poetry. It's heavy reliance on puns, double-meanings and other language-based and culture-specific humor makes most xiangsheng difficult if not impossible to translate.

First Foreign Performer

Jiang Kun, Tang Jiezhong & Dashan in 1990

During one of his first performances Dashan was introduced to China's premier comedian, Jiang Kun. Jiang took Dashan under his wing and began to teach him xiangsheng. Later that year Jiang Kun formally accepted Dashan as his pupil in a public ceremony held at Beijing University. This was the first time a foreigner had ever been accepted into the formal xiangsheng hierarchy, as Dashan officially became a member of the 9th generation of xiangsheng performers.

Dashan was invited back on the CCTV New Years Eve Special in late 1989, this time appearing with Jiang Kun and partner Tang Jiezhong to perform a 3-man xiangsheng. After a full year in China his language level had improved dramatically and this show was the first time such a large audience had ever seen a foreigner perform xiangsheng.

With xiangsheng Dashan gradually carved out a his own niche, evolving from overnight success story to a regular feature on national television. Apart from appearing with a number of prominent xiangsheng masters, Dashan began a steady partnership with Ding Guangquan that continues to this day. Dashan has also dabbled with solo performances, considered to be the most difficult form of xiangsheng

In 2004, Dashan took his xiangsheng performing for a tour of Singapore. Invited by the Singapore government to help promote Chinese language studies in Singapore, Dashan performed solo as well as with Ding Guangquan.

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