Who knew the Chinese entertainment company with the most overseas performances (don’t quote me on that) would be a comedic group? I knew I should’ve stanned them earlier instead of artists who never come to America except to film commercials and MV’s. Four groups will be performing in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada (two groups), the UnitedStates (two groups), and Dubai this September and November. Two groups have also performed in Japan, Thailand, and Vancouver earlier this year.
First you slander, then you apologize. Then, stand on high moral ground and evaluate everything, and you’ll get famous. I even wrote the press release. “I, Wang Jiulong, has attacked plenty of celebrities and now my life is in danger, but my partner deserves none of the blame. … Sure I’m just a comedian, but if I weren’t trying to promote our culture, increase national pride, and reduce the influx of foreign influences, I wouldn’t have been going around slandering people. On first sight, my crosstalk works are spreading joy and love, but on the grand scale of things, they’re letting the world know what is Made in China.”
-Zhang Jiuling teaching Wang Jiulong how to be famous in their satire
Meet the latest and hippest duo in town as they debuted on TV this summer. While other xiangsheng/crosstalk artists like Zhang Yunlei specialize in traditional arts, 25-year-old Zhang Jiuling and 24-year-old Wang Jiulong are on top of the latest trends. In addition to releasing their own rap song with The Rap of China’s Hui Zi, their newest original piece is a brilliant satire of ways to get famous in the entertainment world with digs at artists who beef for fame and those who use “made in China” as an excuse for poor quality. If you follow Chinese entertainment, it’s hilarious and full of memorable lines such as “How will people get to know your comedy if you don’t have a tragic backstory?”
Here are some random facts about them:
The two are great at synchronized kuaiban, but have also tried rapping with beatbox. Watch a segment of their kuaiban below and one of their best skits with kuaiban with Chinese subtitles here. More Chinese subtitled programs here, though my favorite program of theirs is definitely their unsubtitled entertainment industry skit here.
Brother Liu, you speak without reason
How can one say women enjoy leisure without labor?
Men fight on the borders,
while women spin and weave at home.
Lyrics translation for one of my favorite pieces of Chinese opera, a selection from Yu Opera Hua Mulan. The piece is a rare take on Mulan that points out the strength of women lie not just in their ability to succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields, but also in the often over-looked importances of traditionally female occupations. Plus, it’s easily one of the most catchy opera pieces.
“When I was in the Intensive Care Unit, he promised me … ‘ In the future, whatever makes you happy, whatever you want to do, go do it and I’ll follow you.’ ” – Zhang Yunlei
Yang Jiulang kept his word. According to a director of a variety show, in the two years since Zhang Yunlei came out of the ICU, Yang Jiulang completely molded himself to fit Zhang Yunlei.
He would wheel him around in a wheelchair off stage and be his crutch on stage. He would stay up until 3am waiting for word that Zhang Yunlei got home safely from filming. He doesn’t even hand Zhang Yunlei water without first unscrewing the cap. He almost never sings but knows the lyrics to every song Zhang Yunlei sings on stage. If Zhang Yunlei wants him to sing, all Zhang Yunlei has to do was to stop mid-sentence and look to the left, and Yang Jiulang will finish his sentence without missing a beat.
From love at first meal, two miraculous comebacks, learning to walk three times, to plenty of foreshadowing and climaxes, the story of singer-comedian Zhang Yunlei and his partner Yang Jiulang unfolds as if it were a carefully constructed drama. Zhang Yunlei’s life story is a miracle in itself, but the story of their journey together is a fitting parallel plot.
*warning* Because they’re comedians, everything they say is a lie or a hyperbole. I will try to stick to off-stage interviews here, but I hold no responsibility for recounting lies they fed me.
From a homeless fourth-grade dropout to surviving a four-story fall to becoming one of the hottest new stars making century-old tunes hip again, singer-xiangsheng comedian Zhang Yunlei is a Republican-era prima donna teleported into the modern era. Here are ten things to know and love about rising star Zhang Yunlei.
Zhang Yunlei is most widely known for his modern rendition of Beijing folk song Visiting the Qingshui River. He released his first single, Yuzhen, last year, and has already recorded more songs.
Nails from his left leg.
In August 2016, over twenty terminally ill notices were released for Zhang Yunlei after he fell from the equivalent of a four-story drop-off at a railroad terminal. He miraculously returned to the stage, but with 108 nails inside his body and one less lung. For his earlier performances, they would wheel him up to stageside, and then he would walk up with the help of his partner, Yang Jiulang. There have been times where after he goes backstage, they would find out the nails had poked through his ankles and bled all over.
Zhang Yunlei began studying Chinese opera and music at the age of five, and quit school in 4th grade to train under xiangsheng and opera performer Guo Degang. Zhang Yunlei’s performances of xiangsheng’s special ballad form, Taiping lyrics 太平歌词, are so good that their company still uses recordings of him for lessons. Zhang Yunlei singing Taiping lyrics here.
At the age of 13, he lost his boy soprano voice and thought he would never return to the stage. While getting by on odd jobs in Beijing, he once slept for a month at McDonald’s since it was open all night. Last year, he became a brand ambassador for McDonald’s.
This Tang dynasty relief come to life under Song Jia and co. as they sing of a better life.
Using star power, original songs, and innovative stage performances, variety showNational Treasure 国家宝藏 has made artifacts and museums come to life to the audience. A round-up of the best song and dance numbers, with performances from Chen Xiao, Song Jia, Purba Rgyal, Zhai Tianlin, and Wu Tong. Embedded videos are set to where the performance starts.
Students from the Beijing Dance Academy perform a dance that perfectly encapsulates the youthful playfulness and grace of young scholars. Watch the viral practice room version here. If you like this style, I also recommend Zhao Lei, Yan Xujia, and Guo Zifan’s performance of West Chamberhere. I want a boyband with this style of performances.
You might not be able to tell by his talk or gait, but Zhang Yunlei has lived with 108 iron nails inside his body for two years after surviving a 20m (65 ft) fall (he was drunk). The nails were only removed a month ago.
One of last year’s biggest breakout pop idols, xiangsheng comedian, Ping opera, Peking opera , xiaoqu, etc. artist Zhang Yunlei and his partner Yang Jiulang will finally be headlining their first international event this year. The pair will be at the Melbourne Convention Centre on September 23, The Star Event Centre in Sydney on September 29, and in Auckland on the 26th.
Tickets for Sydney are already on sale through Wechat (QR code below), and tickets for Melbourne go on sale at noon local time on April 20th here. Tickets for Auckland go on sale on the 23rd here.
The closest thing xiangsheng has gotten to a concert.
Ren Suxi’s live performance in Hunan TV’s new live musical show, Phantacity 幻乐之城，is full of childhood wonder but also made me cry like an idiot at the airport.
The series features Faye Wong as she overlooks the production of four 10-minute mini-live musicals per episode. Episode one featured Yi Yangqianxi and Hu Xianxu, Huang Xiaoming, Ren Suxi, and Lei Jia. Yi Yangqianxi and Hu Xianxu’s work with Peng Youlun was visually stunning and a decent watch, but the breakout performance was definitely director Xin Shuang and actor Ren Suxi’s “Time Machine.”
Chinese opera sensation Li Yugang‘s dance drama on Wang Zhaojun, one of the famed four beauties of China famous for entering into a marriage alliance between the Xiongnu and Han dynasty, has released a trailer. This version seems to draw heavily from not only Chinese opera and dance but also other sources such as modern stage techniques and stage costuming Be on the lookout for a potential tour should this strike your interest.
More stills below the cut, with captions as always.
No… I don’t drink coffee… but I do have to have a daily dose of period pretty or things do not go well…
Clips of the China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater’s production of Confucius has been released. My favorites so far include Cai Wei (the lyrics are based on an ancient poem) and Incense.. Watch the whole thing here (can’t complain too much but hoping for a better quality release later).
It seems they may still be touring so maybe you will be lucky enough to catch a performance if they visit your city. On the whole, there’s dance, music, pretty costumes, and bits people versed in Chinese history and literature will enjoy. Something for everybody.
By the way, we don’t do posts like this often. What do you think? Should we continue if the opportunity presents itself?