Captivating story-teller Shan Tianfang dies at 84

China | 12 Sep 2018 12:51 pm

Shan Tianfang, considered to be the "godfather" of Pingshu performance – a traditional Chinese art form of storytelling, died after a long battle with illness yesterday, state media reported.

Shan, a household name in China especially during the golden era of radio, was 84, CGTN reports.

According to Xiao Jianlu, general manager of Shan Tianfang Culture Communication Co, the great master of Pingshu performance died at 3:30 p.m. at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing.

Born in 1935 in Yingkou City, northeast China's Liaoning Province, Shan started his career as a Pingshu performer at the age of 14 and then established himself as one of the premier Pingshu artists.

Different from other performing arts such as cross-talk, Pingshu, or "storytelling" in Chinese, is a one-person performance that was extremely popular in the 1980s.

The storyteller, wearing traditional gowns and standing behind a table, individually performs the entire story – embodying all of its characters – with nothing but a fan and gavel in hand. The performer uses the latter prop to strike the table as a warning to the audience to be quiet at the beginning or during intervals, as well as a means of attracting attention during an important part of the tale.

Most of the stories originate and are adapted from ancient Chinese history. Pingshu performers usually add their unique commentaries to the storyline in the course of storytelling.

As a traditional form of entertainment, Pingshu enjoys considerable mass appeal, especially in north and northeast China. In 2008, Beijing Pingshu performance was inscribed on the second batch of The National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of China.

Shan was then officially announced as the inheritor of this national intangible cultural heritage and is widely regarded as one of the four most renowned Pingshu artists in the country, with the others being Yuan Kuocheng (1929-2015), Liu Lanfang, and Tian Lianyuan.

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