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Storytelling

The traditional form of storytelling in Guangzhou is performed in local dialect free of signing. The art is mostly popular in the Pearl Diver Delta Region and Zhanjiang.

In the late 19th century, a veteran storytelling artist known as "Mr. Lian" made a living by telling stories at the city's eastern drilling grounds. He charged the audience by the length of his storytelling, and the length was determined by the amount of incenses burnt, a practice adopted by later storytellers. Members of the audience paid him as they pleased, and there were no fixed rates for this performance. Later on, in an attempt to attract customers, a couple of local teahouses began offering storytelling performances, and split the earnings from storytelling with the performers on a 30 to 70 basis. Some storytellers performed in the streets, a practice known as "open street performance". A storyteller typically chose a bustling place in the street and then clapped his hands, shouting: "Come here, everyone! Storytelling is about to begin, and today I'm going to tell you the story of Hong Xigong creating an uproar on Mount Emei." He would repeat this a few times to draw the attention of passers-by, and when the crowd around him was thick enough, he would begin his storytelling. He would pause at a paragraph or the climax of the story to give the audience suspense, and started collecting tips by saying "I would go on after this" or "please do me a favor."

Some storytellers also peddled preserved fruits, like liquorice olive, oranges and plums, to the audience to augment their incomes. Some experienced storytellers would have followers or "fans" in modern language. These fans would follow the storyteller rain or shine whenever he staged a performance.

In modern times, with the advent of radios, some highly skilled storytellers were invited to perform on radios, telling historical stories and heroes' legends from classical literary works, such as Outlaws of the Marsh, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Story of the Tang, The Three Heroes and Give Gallants, Jigong, and Hong Xiguan. Famous storytellers are fondly calls "sky novelists". Some storytellers frequently perform in the countryside and at factories and schools, and their performances are often well received.

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