Chinese Culture 101

Tonight a few of us (both Americans and Chinese) decided to visit the Laoshe Tea House, where they have a variety show dealing with various aspects of Chinese culture. No, it’s not a centuries-old establishment, but is less than ten years old. It’s done up in a traditional style, however. In the entryway is a musical trio:
Right to left, yangqin (zither), erhu (bowed instrument) and tuned bowls (can't find a Wikipedia article for those!).

Up on the third floor is the show room. For ¥380 you get all the tea you can drink, snacks, and the show.
The first act was the Laoshe Tea House Show Team. In Mandarin, the same word, yuedui, is used for both musical groups and sports teams.
The ensemble did a folk song, then a soloist came out with a variety of wind instruments.

No, that’s not his voice, he put a little whistle in his mouth that you can’t see. Still, it’s an amazing performance, and a lot of fun to watch.

Next up was a scene from a famous Peking Opera.
There was some mock sword fighting, a little bit of acrobatics (not from this character), and lots of cymbals crashing.

Next up was a woman doing a humorous song backed by a sanxian.
Parts of it were kind of spoken, and it must have told a humorous story since many people laughed.

The next act was three dancers wearing lanterns on their heads.
They did a stately dance. Notice the shoes, and imagine dancing in them.

Next on the bill were Shi Lei and Jiao Jiandong doing Hand-Shadow Drama. These guys are kind of well-known in China. I saw them on the Spring Festival Gala on CCTV.
This one involved the romance of a pair of birds.
The result was a baby bird in a nest.

The also picked a girl from the audience and tried to teach her to make a rabbit.
She eventually kind of got it after one of them moved her fingers into the right shape.

The next act was a magician who specialized in sleight of hand. For his final trick, he picked my colleague BR from our table to join him on stage.
BR helped him tie up his assistant, then they put BR in a jacket and hat.
BR and the assistant were covered by a curtain, much waving of hands ensued, and the curtain dropped, revealing BR’s jacket on the assistant…underneath her rope bindings!

The next act was the Olympic wannabe sport of tea pouring.
Five performers dressed in colors matching the Olympic rings danced around with long-spouted teapots and poured water into cups in the midst of their jumping around.

Next we got three acrobats doing the twirling plates routine.
And following that was a Sichuan Opera Face-changing artist.
He has a series of cloth masks and switches them so fast you can’t see the change. Just a pass of his arm before his face and it’s a different character.

The finale was what you might call Kung Fu Choreography: martial arts moves timed to music.
One of the guys broke a piece of metal against his head. I got to touch it, and it was indeed solid metal.
They jumped around a lot:
So maybe it’s a little corny, but it was a fun evening, and quite different from most of the nights out I’ve written about here.

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