oral art storytelling | Ancient Chinese Culture

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Storytelling, also called “Pingshu” in Chinese, is a kind of performing oral art. It is very popular in Northern China.

Its history can date back to the period of Western Zhou Dynasty (BC770~256BC). However, the earliest form of storytelling which was called speaking appeared in the Tang Dynasty (618~907). During the period of Qing Dynasty (1636~1911), it became an independent art form. It also had a deep influence on the novels of Ming and Qing dynasties, such as Romance of Three Kingdoms, etc.

The storyteller always wears a gown and stand behind a table, holding a folded fan and in one hand and a gavel (to draw audience’s attention and enhance the effects of the performances) in another.

Storytellers usually talk in standard Chinese. The content of the storytelling is mainly about the stories of heroes. However, storyteller is the only role in this art form. They act both the author and the actors. In order to attract the audiences’ attention, they often not only use some skills (such as leaving lots of suspense), but also perform with exaggerated facial expressions and stentorian voices.

The content of storytelling reflects the thought, ideals and moral aspirations of Chinese people. It is also a unique chance to get knowledge in ancient times. Nowadays, storytelling is divided into several factions, such as Beijing Style storytelling, Tianjin Style storytelling, Sichuan Style storytelling, etc.

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