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Quyi is a general name for several hundred of speaking and singing art forms. Quyi is profoundly rooted in Chinese time-honored history and culture. In ancient times, both storytelling and comic performances were widespread and popular among not only common people, but also in the palaces and the mansions of nobility. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), many old and new stories were created, some of them were from Buddhist scriptures and some were accompanied by folk songs. During the Song Dynasty (960AD-1279AD), the prosperity of trade and the growth of cities and urban populations speeded up the development and flourish of storytelling and other Quyi forms.

There are about 400 forms of Quyi. All take speaking and singing as their major expression. Therefore, the language must be lively, simple, vivid as well as colloquial, and easy to memorize and recite. As Quyi arts employ speaking and singing as its major mediums, the artists have to try their best to stimulate the audiences through their words and songs so as to inspire them to conjure up images. Unlike to drama or opera, Quyi usually needs only one or two performers who may play several roles. In addition, the contents of Quyi are shorter and earthlier than other art forms, and the artists usually compose, edit and design by themselves.Here top china travel introduces some of the most popular forms of Quyi to you.


Pingshu is a Quyi art form of oral storytelling, enjoying the wide popularity especially in Northern China. The Pingshu performer wears a gown and sits behind a table, with a folded fan in one hand and a gavel in another. The gavel serves as a prop to strike the table to give a warning to the audience to be quiet or as a method of attracting attention and strengthen the effect of the performance, especially at the beginning or at the intervals. Pingshu performers talk in standard Chinese, basing on Beijing dialect. The storytellers often added their own commentaries on the subjects and the characters. Therefore, the audience was not only entertained, but also educated and enlightened while watching the performances. With time goes by, pingshu goes fading. The main audience are older generation, it’s rare to see any younger generation show up in the theater to watch pingshu.


Suzhou Pingtan

Suzhou Pingtan is a general name of pinghua (Suzhou storytelling) and tanci (ballad singing) in the Suzhou dialect. Flourishing in Suzhou, it also enjoys wide popularity in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Province as well as Shanghai. It can be performed in solo, duet or trio. Generally speaking, pinghua is solo, tanci is duet or trio. Pinghua is a performance telling story about military history and hero legend, while the theme of tanci is about love stories and folk tales. The small three-stringed plucked instrument and Pipa are employed as accompaniment. The wooden clappers are used to produce various kinds of tone and melody. After a long time of development, Suzhou Pingtan boasts a great diversity of styles in singing and storytelling.



Crosstalk (Chinese name: xiangsheng), known as Chinese comic dialogue, is one of the most popular and influential folk forms of Quyi. It took the shape as an independent art form during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng in Qing Dynasty. The crosstalk is usually performed by two performers. One is for making fun with jokes; the other is for helping the leading role make the audiences laugh with words or expressions.

The first Crosstalk artists were Zhang Sanlu and Zhu Shaowen, the latter with the stage name of Qiong Bupa means fearing no poverty. His stage name originated from a poem inscribed on a pair of bamboo clappers, a kind of percussion instrument, which he had used.


The words on the clapper were, ‘Eating by begging from many houses and sleeping in ancient temples. Never do anything against the law, and don't be afraid of seeing the emperor.' He used to perform in Tianqiao area in Beijing. Zhu always began with a ragged verse, something like a palindrome phrase, and imitated the street hawkers' cries as well as sang some ancient songs.

Since the late Qing Dynasty to the early years of the Republic of China, Crosstalk art has made great advances both in content and in skills. There are three forms of Crosstalk. The earliest form is performed by one person namely Dankou Crosstalk. Its contents are mostly jokes and funny stories. Later, Duokou Crosstalk or ‘cross talk' appeared, which are performed by two people. The third form performed by three or more people is called Qunkou Crosstalk. It calls for one artist to say funny things, while others chime in and yet another makes them stray from the subject.


Errenzhuan is a song-and-dance duet popular in the northeast of China, which involves storytelling, singing and dancing. It originated in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongiiang Province in Northeast China.

Errenzhuan has a history of about 200 years. With the script written in popular language, errenzhuan is easy to understand, spread and full of local life style and flavor. The vocal music is based on northeastern folk songs. The singing is high-spirited and of an explosive type, sincere and moving. The dancing is derived from local farmers' dances celebrating sowing and planting. It also features the folk dance technique of waving fans or handkerchiefs.