--- SEARCH ---
Learning Chinese
Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes
Exchange Rates
Hotel Service
China Calendar

Hot Links
China Development Gateway
Chinese Embassies

Pingshu Master Lian Liru

Lian Liru was Beijing's first professional story-teller. Now 62, she's just opened a traditional tea-house in one of the capital's many old hutongs, or alleys, where you can hear pingshu, traditional story-telling every day of the week. It's the first story-telling teahouse in Beijing for almost two decades.
Unlike ballad singing, pingshu has no musical accompaniment. The performer stands behind a desk with a fan, accompany themselves on a wooden percussion instrument.

CRI: What are the most important skills for pingshu performers?

Lian Liru: The most important skills are knowledge about life and a grasp of language. As a pingshu performer, you've got to be able to make all kinds of impressions, imitate different voices, and know how to keep listeners interested by creating suspense. Pingshu storytellers are different from actors; they must have their own opinions and a special perspective on society. It's a difficult art form to grasp: it is not only matter of technique, it's how much you understand the story and how you put it into words that really counts.

CRI: Are you bringing changes to pingshu storytelling?

Lian Liru: Although we tell stories from the past, only by knowing what people now are thinking about can we be successful. And our stories can't be separate from present life. I like watching sports, and I believe everything can be put into pingshu. In my stories, there is e-mail and Michael Jordan! I put everyday life into my stories.

CRI: Why make the changes?

Lian Liru: To be honest, I don't want my audience only to be made up of old people! If its only old people who listen to it, then the art form has no future.  I hope young people can come and listen to it, and now over 90% of the customers coming to the pingshu teahouse are young people.

CRI: Have pingshu teahouses been replaced by TV and radio?

Lian Liru: Pingshu storytellers must sharpen their skills in pingshu teahouses. Many storytellers are busy giving performances on TV, and they have scripts with them, but that will not improve their skills. Perhaps they don't dare give performances in front of live audiences. This is how I learned pingshu: by listening to stories at pingshu teahouses, then by practicing on stage; and you see practicing on stage is the only way to improve your skills. For audiences it's the same, you know the difference between hearing stories live and hearing them on the TV or radio after you've been to a teahouse.

CRI: Is the art of pingshu in a good position?

Lian Liru: When I was learning pingshu, there were about 40 pingshu teahouses around Beijing, and there were even more earlier on with big audiences. Usually, a pingshu teahouse gave two or three performances a day and they were full! But pingshu has lost its audience now, and although many pingshu lovers want to listen to it, its very difficult to find.

CRI: Can your efforts help bring back the dying art?

Lian Liru: I can't be too optimistic about the future of pingshu. Many audience members come up to me after a show and say if I stop performing, there will be no more pingshu storytellers in Beijing. If there were one pingshu teahouse in each district, with a dozen performers giving performances in turn, then there could be a good atmosphere, but we can't do it now and I find myself doing this alone.

CRI: Does your teahouse do good business?

Lian Liru: I can manage to make ends meet, and I think that's fine with me. Although a monthly income here may be even less than a performance outside, I don't care.  Despite the fact that I'm not in great health, as long as I can perform, I will keep on going.

 Listen to a clip of Lian Liru's storytelling.

(CRI July 16, 2004)

Print This Page
Email This Page
About Us SiteMap Feedback
Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688