China honors crosstalk master

Hou given revolutionary sendoff

BEIJING — Chinese crosstalk legend Hou Yaowen, who died June 23, is to receive a memorial service on Saturday at Beijing’s famous Babaoshan cemetery, where the country’s top revolutionaries are interred.

Crosstalk, or xiang sheng, is an ancient form of comic dialogue — like a cross between standup comedy, theater and rapping — traditionally performed in teahouses. It is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Beijing.

Hou, who was one of the top practitioners of the art, died of a heart attack at the age of 59 at his home in Beijing. Colleagues, students and friends will attend the ceremony.

The son of crosstalk master Hou Baolin, he learned xiang sheng from an early age.

Crosstalk has existed in its current form since the late 19th century. After the communist revolution in 1949, it went into decline, with many of the teahouses closing down, and was banned during the Cultural Revolution. As the country began to open up, crosstalk performers mostly got jobs in TV or as comedians.

Hou was particularly popular among older people, while younger fans preferred the biting satire of young performer Guo Degang, who has done much to revive the art’s popularity.

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