Popular Chinese folk artists and performing artists gathered at Penn Wharton China Center (PWCC) to highlight traditional Chinese performing arts and promote cultural exchange between Penn and China.
Hosted by PWCC in Beijing, the performance attracted a full house, including Geoffrey Garrett, Dean of the Wharton School, alumni from Wharton, various schools of the University of Pennsylvania, and local friends.
Dean Garrett said the event was fantastic. “The combination of comedy and song was beautiful. It’s wonderful for me to be in China, as always.”
Chinese Comedy and Song
The May 17 performance included artists from the China Broadcasting Performing Arts Troupe, entertaining the audience with a xiangsheng (pronounced she-ang shung) act focused on traditional Chinese poetry.
Xiangsheng, which translates to “crosstalk”, is one of the oldest comedic traditions in China. Commonly, two or more performers dressed in traditional garb exchange witty banter using a set of four skills: speaking, imitating, teasing, and singing. The closest cultural reference for Americans would be the classic Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine.
The artists included Feng Gong, Jia Xuming, Cao Suifeng, and Hou Linlin. One of the most celebrated comedians in China, Feng Gong first became famous for performing xiangsheng in the 1980s.
Gong and the other performers are popular for their regular appearances at the CCTV New Year’s Gala, also known as the Spring Festival Gala. An annual tradition since 1983, the live television event celebrates the Lunar New Year with millions of viewers each year and has set TV ratings records in China and around the world.
Yue Lu, a soprano from the China Broadcasting Performing Arts Troupe, serenaded the audience with her renditions of several beloved Chinese folk songs, including the tremendously popular “Jasmine Flower.”
Wharton MBA alumnus, Jin Yuchen, WG’14, joined the performance. The singer who plays the bamboo clappers, a traditional Chinese percussion instrument, is part of the neo Chinese folk-rock duo NoTwoBros.
Since his collaboration with singer and guitarist Tianyi (Timmy) Liu began in 2014, the pair has performed at notable venues around the world, including the Lincoln Center in New York City. NoTwoBros also performed for more than 200 Penn and alumni at the 2018 Penn Wharton Shanghai Alumni Annual Party earlier this year.
For their set at PWCC, the two wowed the audience with their unique mix of eastern and western musical elements and their original song “Hong Qiu Ku.”
“It’s a very special event because it brings Chinese culture and folk performances to the Center, adding variety to academic or commercial talks,” said Yao Jiusi, a 2016 alumna from Penn’s Graduate School of Education.
Posted: June 20, 2018