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ART & LEISURE:Tianjin One of a kind
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One of a kind

By Nadia N.

3725321316782406374China is quite a diverse country, where customs, cuisine, language and even people's main characteristics can vary from one city to another - from North to South, from centre to periphery. So, consequently, customs and traditions range from one city to another. A great number of Chinese people traveling around the country find Tianjin's culture peculiar, as there are some things that only can be found here.

XiangSheng or Comic Crosstalk

132077609 11nWhen expats arrive in China, and master their first "Ni Hao!" – they feel the world belongs to them. However, many people say that time to put a crown on yourself comes when you are able to understand the Crosstalk or XiangSheng. It is traditionally performed by two-three comedians on the stage of Tianjin or Beijing theatres. Well, generally, you can think that it is a Chinese copy of Kevin Hart's or some other famous comedians' stand-ups, but it would be a terrible mistake and generalisation.

Tianjin Crosstalk is old and has earned absolute love of Chinese all over the country. Though, why would foreigners listen to Chinese Crosstalk? Basically, it is not optional! This type of comedy is one of the most popular programs on radio, and if you ever wondered why listening to extremely fast dialogue makes your current taxi driver burst with laughter - he's just appreciating a joke from the Crosstalk. This type of performance usually delivered in dialogue, uses rich and metaphorical language and is spoken rapidly and emotionally. You won't confuse it with any boring news report on the radio!

While American comedians make audience laugh, by mentioning sexual or racial differences, Chinese colleagues enjoy mocking of foreigners and their attempts to assimilate in China, have fun with their language and make jokes of their own cultural specialties. So, if after laughing about the joke he heard on the radio, your taxi driver asks you weird cliché questions, don't take offence - Crosstalk victim is just confirming the info!

Yangliuqing Colourful Wash Painting

12a4H055G0 44B4Chinese art, especially painting, is definitely pretty distinctive and has caught on all over the world in different ways. For the past years, it has been a certain style, implemented in interior, clothing, and even tattoos! How many people around the world are walking around with the unknown character on their necks or other part (only hoping that it means what they had been told that it does)? So, Tianjin, as a city considered to be very special in China, has its own style of painting.

Yangliuqing (Green Willows) is a tiny town situated 15 km away from Tianjin's urban area. Apart for other less well-known customs, this town is famous for its wash painting. Earliest paintings can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty - well, you cannot expect less!

These paintings are made using rice paper and special kind of paint - so they would not fade and lose colour. The plot usually is very simple, yet humorous. It is practically impossible to confuse Yangliuqing paintings with any other kind - you won't see black bamboo sticks, mountains, heroes and lonely boats. However, usually colour wash paintings show chubby blushing babies holding carps or lotuses in their hands. A lot of Chinese people, while visiting Tianjin, try to buy one or two paintings as a souvenir and symbol of auspices. Frankly, Yangliuqing paintings will definitely lose to traditional Chinese "philosophic" pictorial art pieces in a battle for being a fashionable interior solution, but these definitely deserve attention and sympathy.

c9Zhang's Clay Figures

While taking a walk along the Ancient Culture Street in Tianjin, you may find a wide variety of curious folk art. It can be elegant fans, handmade shoes and clothing, paintings and so on. One of the traditional Tianjin ones is Zhang's clay figures. Mr. Zhang, the creator of these vivid figurines, lived in Tianjin during Qing Dynasty (1826-1908). He started to make clay characters in his small workshop, and with time it gained popularity all over China, so by now it is has nearly 180 years of history.

Some of the figurines are made to represent historical or religious activists, others are those of famous modern people, like politicians or actors. Even if Chinese parody or sarcasm on politicians is quite a rare phenomenon, some figurines would definitely upset a president or two. So, Chinese customers stop by the shop of Zhang's clay figures to buy one and have a good laugh.

Wei's Kites

Img249042773Kite making is one of the most fascinating things created in China. So everyone who has ever tried to make a "flying dragon" must have found out what a fine art it is. Kite making has countless number of technologies - different shapes, materials and prints. One of the most famous masters of kites lived in China and left his heritage to be carried on by his followers. This traditional Tianjin handicraft has been around for quite a while - first kites were made in 770-464 BC. Wei kites are famous for the fact that these can be folded into a fraction of their full size which can be very convenient. These kinds of kites developed to being over 300 different types, and now, as we are not in BC anymore, they can be made with modern materials: soft-winged, hard-winged, three-dimensional, and other. Nowadays, setting kites is still a popular leisure activity among Chinese, so, a lot of them prefer traditional Wei kites to other types.


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