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Teahouse Tellers Stage China Comeback

The Telegraph (Calcutta, India) , June 15, 2005


Harassed by emperors and hounded by communists, China’s traditional teahouse storytellers are now trying to find favour with the new force ruling the country ­ the marketplace.

In a country rich in myth and history, China’s storytellers, who often told their tales in teahouses, have been one of the main bastions of popular culture. Like the minstrels of Europe, they entertained, created and perpetuated myths, taught religion and protested politics, often with a wry subtlety that infuriated local mandarins.

When communists seized power in 1949, storytelling and other traditions, which Mao believed were the cause of China’s social decay and political subjugation at the hands of Western and Japanese powers, were banned.

Now, as China is transforming itself, Zumei and a few surviving storytellers are determined to revive their art and pass it on to a new generation of students and listeners. In a nation that wants to revive the ancient culture it almost lost, people are listening.

Storytellers are performing to growing audiences in new and reopening teahouses across China. Some are even reviving forgotten stories on radio shows.

Subjects Covered: education

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