“I only want to be your supporting actor” – the story of Zhang Yunlei and Yang Jiulang

“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.

“If fate be willing, we will be together “

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Ten Quotes of Love by Zhang Yunlei X Yang Jiulang

” May we never again face separation in neither life nor death.  Thank you to all the powers that be that let me still  be by your side. ”    – Yang Jiulang to Zhang Yunlei

Here are ten off-stage exchanges between the  most romantic and dramatic duo, singer-comedian Zhang Yunlei and his partner Yang Jiulang. Their on-stage lines are also super cute (ex: “I don’t need friends, just Yang Jiulang. ”  “It’s not that I can’t play the lead, but I just want to be the supporting actor to you.”)

If you’re interested in seeing them live, they will be headlining their first overseas event in New Zealand and Australia this September. More info here.

“It’s not that I can’t play the lead, but I just want to be the supporting actor to you.” – Yang Jiulang (while in-character)

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Ten things about Zhang Yunlei, the artist making Chinese opera cool again

Zhang Yunlei
Thousands of fangirls singing along to Chinese opera is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, but here we are with Zhang Yunlei.

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.

  1. Thanks to him, millennial fans are singing along to traditional music like Taiping Lyrics version of Madame Lady Snake , Peking Opera Suolin Pouch, modified Suzhou PingtanDongbei errenzhuan , and the extremely catchy Ping Opera Qiankun Belt.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Zhang Yunlei and fans singing Visiting the Qingshui River.

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