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Ambivalent laughter: comic sketches in CCTV's "Spring Festival Eve Gala".


In the years since Zhongyang dianshitai chunjie lianhuan wanhui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The China Central Television's Spring Festival Eve Gala Performance) began in 1983, it has gradually evolved as part of China's ritual celebration of its biggest folk festival, the Spring Festival (Lunar New Year). As a significant cultural event, annually organized and produced by the state media CCTV, the Gala is often seen as a valuable opportunity for the Party or the state to convey central, state-sanctioned, official ideology to the populace. Signaling the official, mainstream discourse, the national language, Putonghua Mandarin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (common speech Mandarin), is predominantly employed in the Gala performance. Xiaopin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (comic sketches), the best-received popular show in the Gala, evokes laughter among the largest national audience. (1) Approximately since the early 1990s, xiaopin has evolved from a training exercise in urban academic drama schools to a dialogue-based comic genre infused with the spirit of folk culture-minjian wenhua [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Chinese. (2) Correspondingly, the xiaopin performers, drawn largely from the "lower," local, rural folk art troupes, tend to speak various local dialects (fangyan) or Putonghua with distinct accents. Zhao Benshan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the acclaimed king of the comic sketch, often played a comic role in Errenzhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a regional performing arts form of duet in Northeast China. His sketches, rendered in Northeast Mandarin, are deeply rooted in the traditional peasant Errenzhuan art that he and his scriptwriters have grown up with. By examining the laughter evoked by the language-based comic sketches in the Gala, with a focus on Zhao Benshan and Errenzhuan, this essay explores the dynamic dialogue between the central, official discourse from above, represented by Putonghua, and the peripheral, folkloric discourse from below, articulated in local dialects. Whereas the central, official discourse attempts to manipulate the peripheral, folkloric discourse for ideological reasons, the latter ends up simultaneously conforming to, and subverting, the former; both involve ambiguity, nuance, and indeterminacy.

Bakhtin's Theory of Folk Humor

Bakhtin's theory, with its fascination with folk culture and obsession with socio-ideologically charged language, provides an insightful theoretical framework for this study. In his oft-cited study Rabelais and His World (1968), Bakhtin examines the culture of folk humor in the spirit of carnival, as depicted in Francois Rabelais's series of novels La Vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel (The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel, 16th C.), written in vernacular French in the Renaissance. According to Bakhtin, the ideal of carnival comprises festive, ritual spectacles such as pageants, comic shows, and open-air amusement, with the participation of clowns and fools. As carnival is predicated on the basis of laughter, Bakhtin ascribes great importance to the nature of carnivalesque laughter:
      It is, first of all, a festive laughter. Therefore it is not an
   individual reaction to some isolated "comic" event. Carnival
   laughter is the laughter of all the people. Second, it is universal
   in scope; it is directed at all and everyone, including the
   carnival's participants. The entire world is seen in its droll
   aspect, in its gay relativity. Third, the laughter is ambivalent:
   it is gay, triumphant, and at the same time mocking, deriding. It
   asserts and denies, it buries and revives. Such is the laughter of
   the carnival. (3)

Fundamental to the corporeal, collective nature of carnival laughter is what Bakhtin terms "grotesque realism." As its essential principles are degradation and debasement, the function of grotesque realism is to transfer things on a high, spiritual, ideal, abstract level to a low, material, bodily, and concrete level. Grotesque realism presents the human body as multiple, bulging, overand undersized, protuberant, and aged. Again, the grotesque body in its exaggerated and distorted form is ambivalent and contradictory. On one hand, it is "ugly, monstrous, hideous from the point of view of 'classic' aesthetics, that is, the aesthetics of the ready-made and the completed." (4) On the other hand, Bakhtin celebrates the unfinished and open body for its positive force, a growing, regenerating, renewing, and creative one. The unity of image and sound demands that the grotesque body seek a grotesque language. For Bakhtin, such grotesque language may take the forms of comic verbal compositions (oral and written), such as parodies and travesties, and various genres of billingsgate, including abusive language, profanities, oaths, slang, humor, popular tricks, and jokes. (5) Consistent with his positive assessment of the lower stratum of the human body, Bakhtin celebrates the vitality of all sorts of "low" and "dirty" folk humor: the forbidden laughter that is usually excluded from official ideology.

Among other forms of carnivalesque language, Bakhtin highlights the tension between Latin, on the one hand, and the French vernacular or dialect employed in Rabelais's novel, on the other:
      The line of demarcation between two cultures--the official and
   the popular--was drawn along the line dividing Latin from the
   vernacular. The vernacular invaded all the spheres of ideology and
   expelled Latin. It brought new forms of thought (ambivalence) and
   new evaluations; this was the language of life, of material work
   and mores, of the "lowly," mostly humorous genres, the free speech
   of the marketplace (although popular language, of course, was not
   homogeneous and contained some elements of official speech). On the
   other hand, Latin was the medium of the official medieval world.
   Popular culture was but feebly reflected in it and was distorted,
   especially in the Latin branch of grotesque realism. (6)

Local dialect, alongside other socio-ideologically charged languages and speech styles, is an important component of Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia. In heteroglossia, a phenomenon found in Renaissance as well as in contemporary Chinese literature, a local dialect is employed to decentralize the central discourse, to distort the standard form, and to excite a perception of critiquing differences and contradictions masked by the master narrative. (7) In the above-cited passage, Bakhtin provides a historic account of heteroglossia. A prominent cultural phenomenon of the Renaissance was that various vernaculars or dialects besieged, penetrated, and relativized Latin and all the unitary, ecclesiastical, feudal, and political discourses that expressed themselves through it. In recognition of the performative power of the vernacular, Bakhtin emphasizes that rather than composing a clear-cut binary opposition, the discourse at the center and the discourse at the periphery form a dynamic, dialogic relationship of interpenetration, interaction, and inter-illumination. "Alongside the centripetal forces, the centrifugal forces of language carry on their uninterrupted work; alongside verbal-ideological centralization and unification, the uninterrupted processes of decentralization and disunification go forward." (8)

Liu Kang defines Bakhtin's heteroglossia as a theory for times of cultural transition: for example, for the ancient Greco-Roman era, the Renaissance, and the turn of the twentieth century. (9) Bakhtin's theory definitely has broad implications for the scene in contemporary China. Undergoing a comparable cultural transition in the reform years, China has witnessed an increasing encroachment of popular, vernacular culture on the realm of official, elite culture, and a further blurring of the boundary between high and low culture. For example, Geremie Barme observes "an uneasy coexistence" among various forms of culture since the early 1990s, "one characterized more by constant compromise rather than simply a mutual antagonism or entrenched opposition." (10) CCTV's annual Spring Festival Gala constitutes precisely such a field of "uneasy coexistence," where the official, state-sanctioned culture, the modern, technologically transformed popular culture, and the traditional, premodern, preindustrial folk culture form a dynamic dialogical relationship, exhibiting Bakhtinian tension, contradiction, and ambivalence.

As the Chinese New Year celebration is fundamentally of folk-cultural origin, the CCTV Spring Festival Gala shares some elements of the utopian ideal of Bakhtinian carnival. The almost five-hour-long performance is an extravagant display of singing and dancing, particularly by groups; language-based comic shows including xiangsheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (comic cross-talk) and xiaopin; xiqu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (folk opera) performance; and other variety shows. The comic, clownish role, as a constant element of the New Year celebration, is manifested most prominently in the Gala's comic sketches, as later analysis will show. The collective laughter the Gala evokes is shared by the roughly 90 percent of Chinese families nationwide watching the show. Coupled with other festive rituals such as nianyefan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (New Year's Eve feast) and shouye [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (staying up late or all night on New Year's Eve), the Gala serves a basic function of carnival in celebrating the death of the old and the birth of the new.

Conversely, many critics point out that even Bakhtin's notion of a carnival is a licensed affair, sanctioned or endorsed by the authorities themselves, and that, therefore, the Bakhtinian carnival spirit does not necessarily undermine authority. Max Gluckman asserts that although the "rites of reversal obviously include a protest against the established order [...] they are intended to preserve and strengthen the established order." (11) In the Chinese form of the carnival during the Lunar New Year, the state broadcast media CCTV sees the Spring Festival Gala as an invaluable opportunity to inculcate the Party ideology into the populace, as well as to showcase the official mainstream culture. Nevertheless, in an era of cultural transition, the state media policy has correspondingly had to undergo gradual infrastructural changes. Therefore, Bakhtinian "grotesque realism," characteristic of folk culture, is allowed temporarily to rupture hegemony, challenge authority, and dissolve ideology. However, this brief carnivalesque laughter, generated by comic sketches and the like, in turn serves to solidify the position of the long-term Party leadership. Prepared under the scrutiny of censors, each year the Gala is carefully orchestrated to stay safely within the Party line, initiating and structuring a process of self-containment and ambivalence.

Evolution of Xiaopin in CCTV's Spring Festival Gala

Xiaopin, which literally means a short skit, originally referred to a theatrical performance sketch serving as a training exercise in metropolitan, professional film and drama schools. This academic acting tradition is discernible in early Gala sketches by the famous film actors Chen Peisi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Zhu Shimao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who both largely speak Putonghua. Chen plays a comic role as an extra in a movie shoot in the sketches "Chi miantiao" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Eating Noodles," 1984) and "Pai dianying" tSltfti ("Shooting a Film," 1985). The mode of "sketch within a sketch" is also in evidence when Chen plays a supporting role as a traitor who tries by every means to steal the show from the lead role, an Eighth Route Army officer played by Zhu in the sketch "Zhujue yu peijue" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("The Leading Actor and the Supporting Actor," 1990). The playfully subversive theme in this sketch seems to exhibit the genre's potential to incorporate carnivaleque, folk-cultural elements. Lu Xinyu further points out that xiaopin is better suited than either xiqu or xiangsheng for modern television transmission: the plot development of the typical sketch framed in time and space corresponds to the linear movement of the television camera. (12) Thus the televised xiaopin proves to be a key comic genre for the CCTV Gala to legitimatize itself as a traditional festive ritual celebration. The comic, clownish role, always indispensable in rural folk festival celebrations, is manifested most prominently in the increasingly "folkified" comic sketches.

In the CCTV Gala of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the comic figure played by the school-trained professionals gradually evolved from an urbanite who speaks Putonghua into a "lower," rural peasant who speaks a variant of Northern Mandarin or who speaks Putonghua Mandarin with a distinct accent. Guo Da [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], from Xi'an Huajuyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the Xi'an Spoken Drama Theater) at that time, plays a "feudal" peasant husband and speaks Shaanxi Mandarin. He is anxiously hoping for an infant son instead of a daughter in "Chanfang menqian" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("In Front of the Delivery Room," 1987). In "Lanhan xiangqin" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("A Slacker's Blind Date," 1989), Song Dandan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], trained in Beijing Renyi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the Beijing People's Art Theatre), speaks a strongly accented Mandarin. She plays a single-minded, provincial rural young woman, whose most memorable line is "My name is Wei Shufen, female, 29 years old, not married yet." [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. In "Chaosheng youjidui" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Birth-quota-exceeding Guerrilla," 1990), Song and Huang Hong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a Shandong-native comedian from a Shenyang military performance troupe, both speaking an identifiable Northeast Mandarin, play a shabbily dressed and uncouthly behaved rural couple. With three daughters already in tow, the expectant wife is protuberant with a fourth. In order to evade the heavy fine demanded by the Birth Control Policy, they lead a guerrilla-like vagrant life.

Roughly at the same time, the casting of xiaopin actors also quickly turned away from urban stage actors, trained by the academic schools, and reached down to favor more authentic peasant performers of lower, regional folk art troupes. The late Zhao Lirong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] had long played caidan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the female comic role) in Pingju [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a folk opera allegedly originating among the village beggars in the Hebei area. Zhao Benshan, Pan Changjiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Gong Hanlin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] had traditionally played comic roles in Errenzhuan in their home villages. For instance, Zhao Benshan's hometown is at the bottom of the administrative hierarchy--Shizui village, in Lianhua town, Kaiyuan county, Tieling city, in the Liaoning Province. Mirroring these casting changes, the sketch scriptwriters were increasingly drawn from those who had been working on folk art production. For example, Shi Lin, who wrote most of Zhao Lirong's sketches, works in a Quju [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] troupe in Beijing. Zhang Chao, Cui Kai, He Qingkui, and Zhang Huizhong, the scriptwriters or directors responsible for most of Zhao Benshan's sketches, are peasant artists on Errenzhuan in the local folk art troupes in Northern Liaoning.

In the various dialect-speaking sketches in the CCTV Galas, a key difference between the staged Mandarin varieties and the standard Putonghua Mandarin is the Chinese characters' tonal change in the phonetic sense (see the table below).
Performer     Mandarin          Tones in the   Tones in
              Variety           Sketches       Putonghua

                                [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Chen Peisi    Mandarin          (Urumqi)
              with a Uygur      wu53 lu55      wu55 lu214
              accent            mu55 qi53      mu51 qi35

                                [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Shen Fa       Sichuan           ("play Mahjong")
              Mandarin          da42 ma31      da214 ma35
                                jiang 12       jiang51

                                [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Song Dandan   Mandarin          ("my mom said")
              with an           rjae~ 35       an214
              unidentifiable    niang45        niang35
              accent            suo55          shuo55

Ni Ping       Shandong          [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
              Rongcheng         ("weather forecast")
              Mandarin          tian31 qi21    tian55 qi51
                                yu12 baor21    yu51 bao51

                                [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Huang Hong    Northeast         ("you know?")
              Mandarin          zi35 dao       zhi55 dao51
                                bu44?          bu?

                                [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Guo Da        Shaanxi           ("exchanging rice")
              Xi'an Man-        huan55         huan51
              darin             da55 mi53      da51 mi213

                                [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Zhao Ben-     Northeast         ("don't be nervous")
shan          Mandarin          bie51 jin214   bie35 jin214
                                zhang22        zhang55

                                [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
Zhao Lirong   Hebei Tang-shan   ("say whatever you want")
              Mandarin          you214 sha53   you214 sha35
                                shuo35 sha51   shuo55 sha35

Performer     Sketch Name             Year

Chen Peisi    "Yangrouchuan"          1986
              (Skewering the Shish

Shen Fa       "Jie Qi"                1988
              (Pick up the Wife)

Song Dandan   "Lanhan xiangqin"       1989
              (A Slacker's Blind

Ni Ping       "Tianqi yubao"          1990
              (Weather Forecast)

Huang Hong    "Chaosheng youjidui"    1990
              ing guerrilla)

Guo Da        "Huan dami"             1991
              (Exchanging Rice)

Zhao Ben-     "Wo xiang you ge jia"   1992
shan          (I Want a Family)

Zhao Lirong   "Mama de jintian"       1993
              (My Mother's Today)

From the table, the Mandarin varieties, identifiable or unidentifiable as specific dialects, could be viewed as forms of accent liberation from the single Putonghua Mandarin. The intonation of the official language can relatively freely undergo deployment and differentiation within the range of its basic, standard tone. In this sense, Putonghua is no longer uni-accentual, isolated or closed, but can be exaggerated, distorted, or diffused, thus becoming multi-accentual, plural, unfinished, and unpredictable.

Among others, Zhao Lirong's sketch "Yingxiong muqin de yitian" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("A Day in the Life of the Hero's Mother," 1989), scripted by Shi Lin and Zang Li, manifests the folkloric subversion enacted by the local dialects against the official discourse represented by Putonghua. In this sketch, Zhao Lirong plays an ordinary rural old woman speaking Hebei Tangshan Mandarin. Upon going out to buy tofu, Zhao is visited by a Putonghua-speaking television director, surnamed Hou. He has come to make a documentary of Zhao's daily life in celebration of March 8th International Women's Day. Because her son became a hero for capturing a criminal, Zhao is cast by Hou as a model of a hero's mother. Director Hou reads the bombastic and grandiose conception for shooting the documentary from his folder:
      Through you, we want to set up a glorious image of a hero's
   mother. Through you, we want to capture the spiritual perspective
   and the characteristics of the time period of women in the 80s;
   through you, we will track how the hero grows up; through you, we
   also want to reflect the aesthetic pursuits of Chinese women.

The subgenre of the "model-setup" has been an entrenched propaganda technique since the Maoist era. In it, the grand, ideal, abstract ideology is materialized and personalized by a concrete, real human body. In this sketch, the director, or the Party, the authority, attempts to materialize Zhao's body and to have her project the morality of a hero's mother in the 1980s: an educated, urban, fashionable, and extraordinary woman with a positive outlook on life. However, Hou's attempt at materializing the ideal is thwarted by Zhao's materialization working in the opposite direction, that is, toward degradation and debasement, the essential principle of Bakhtin's grotesque realism. At every turn, Hou's sublime, ideal, spiritual, and grand message is lowered by Zhao's flippant and vulgar utterances.

Hou: (following his purported reasons for shooting) Do you understand what I've just said?

Zhao: (raising head from doing chores): Oh, yes. [I] understand... Well, what did you say just now?

Hou: (disappointed) Anyway, stay where you are, and let's get to work. What do you do when you get up every morning? I mean, the FIRST thing?

Zhao: The first thing? Can I say anything?

Hou: Say whatever you'd like.

Zhao: The first thing is to GO TO THE TOILET.

Hilariously, her response deflates the director's expectation of something lofty or unique, and lowers the interview to quotidian, bodily functions such as excretion. Zhao's materialization of her own body defies the materialization expected or assigned by the director: elsewhere, she dismisses the movements of disco dance, a fashionable metropolitan cultural form at the time, as less attractive than the motions of a policeman directing traffic in her neighborhood. She sings the then-popular Taiwanese melodrama theme song "Zuoye xingchen" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ('The Constellation Last Night") so that it gradually devolves into a Pingju tune. And she never correctly pronounces the title of the "meaningful" ancient story about the literati, "Sima Guang za gang" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Sima Guang Breaking the Jar"), (13) whereas she is quite familiar with "superstitious" folk ghost stories and fairy stories.

Puns are also a ubiquitous element in the xiaopin shows as they appear in the Gala. Punning is one of the forms of what Bakhtin calls grammatica jocosa, which, as Peter Stallybrass and Allon White explain, is a form of locution where "grammatical order is transgressed to reveal erotic and obscene or merely materially satisfying counter-meaning."14 They further cite Arthur's argument on the punning in Bakhtinian style:
   [The pun] violates and so unveils the structure of prevailing
   (prevailing) convention; and it provokes laughter. Samuel Beckett's
   punning pronouncement "In the beginning was the Pun" sets the pun
   against official Word and at the same time, as puns often do, sets
   free a chain of other puns. So, too, carnival sets itself up in a
   punning relationship with official culture and enables a plural,
   unfixed, comic view of the world. (15)

The sketch "A Day in the Life of the Hero's Mother" makes frequent use of punning. For example, Hou's identity as a daoyan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (director), a prestigious job title, is degraded by Zhao as daoye [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a derogatory word for blackmarketeer/profiteer. The same holds true for punning on the abstract professional jargon-word gousi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (conception) with the word for the concrete, everyday food doufusi (sliced tofu), on jikuair IiIP&JNl (several episodes) with jikuair [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (several chunks of tofu), and on xiayige danyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the next unit of camera shots) with xiayige danyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a downstairs unit of a building), and so forth.

From a sociological perspective, Wang Liejun is quick to point out that the model-setup is a technique of power control prevalently both in society generally as well as in the yearly Gala. (16) The "Parody of the Lofty Model" in the sketch "A Day in the Life of the Hero's Mother," when compared with the dominant "model-setup" form exalted in other shows in the Gala, can be seen to serve as a necessary lever of power rather than as an instance of resistance to it. Such sketches are arguably an alternative technique of power control devised by the state media, thus helping to form a "compromise equilibrium" in the Gramscian sense, where the power exercised by dominant groups operates through subtle and complex negotiations and compromises rather than through explicit domination of, or direct conflict with, subordinate groups. (17) In this light, both Du Wenwei and Zhao Bin only partially make sense of the legitimatization of xiaopin in the statesanctioned Gala. While Du attributes the popularity of xiaopin exclusively to its critical potential for lampooning the commercial ethos in the market economy, (18) Zhao goes to the other extreme by arguing that xiaopin, as the most popular form of entertainment, is made to convey effectively the packaged official propaganda. (19) Nevertheless, all three authors fail to identify the traditional folk culture in which xiaopin is implicitly grounded, and thus they are unable to fully comprehend how the dominant ideology legitimizes itself by staging folk forms in the major cultural productions of the modern broadcast media, such as the CCTV Gala. It is true that the various folk forms (folk opera and ballads, folk songs, as well as the folk performing arts integrated in the comic sketches) are a way for the Gala to establish continuity with the traditional festive celebrations, and it is equally true that these premodern, preindustrial folk entertainment forms have been increasingly threatened and marginalized by the modern, industrial, popular forms of entertainment such as television. In this way, by staging, recognizing, and even possibly valorizing the folk forms in the CCTV Gala, the most prestigious cultural spectacle of the mainstream media, the state and the mainstream society alike seem to convey a cultural message that no valuable cultural heritage has been sacrificed, victimized, or will perish in China's modernizing process. At the same time however, these authorities may not be aware that to inculcate the populace with any such ideological message is to employ a double-edged sword. The comic sketches embedded in the peasant folk performance art can simultaneously conform to and subvert the state ideology in an ambivalent and nuanced way, as Zhao Benshan's comic sketches most clearly illustrate.

Zhao Benshan's Comic Sketches and Northeast Errenzhuan

Ever since his first appearance in the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 1990, Zhao's sketch has become a perennial staple in the yearly Gala, ushering in a tradition of comic sketches delivered in Northeast Mandarin. Zhao Benshan is often claimed to be the key figure who transformed xiaopin from a training exercise used in metropolitan drama and film schools to a comic genre, charged with peasant folk performance art. His achievement in these sketches is inseparable from the Errenzhuan he and his long-time collaborators have grown up with. As his scriptwriter Cui Kai comments, the common characteristic of all of Zhao's comic roles, encompassing various ages, genders, and personality types, is chou i (ugly or grotesque), which is applicable to his appearance, language, or slapstick behavior. (20) Choujue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is the comic role Zhao has long played in the local Errenzhuan troupe in his home village in North Liaoning. In Errenzhuan, Choujue is also called xiazhuang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the lower dress), which is consistent with Bakhtin's analysis of the clown's grotesque body as "the lower bodily stratum." By inverting the bodily hierarchy of spiritual upper functions and vulgar lower ones, the Choujue clown's body image is ambivalent: destroying and generating, swallowing and being swallowed. (21)

For choujue or xiazhuang, the most characteristic part of his performance is shuokou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (speaking), as opposed to singing, dancing, or acting. According to Wang Qiuying et al., there are at least ten interwoven types of shuokou delivered in the colloquial Northeast Mandarin, such as pingkou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (strictly or loosely rhymed, toned in ping and ze), xiangsheng kou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (delivering the punch line of a joke), zhuakou/geda kou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (spontaneous improvisation), and gushi kou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (short stories or jokes). (22) As its main function is to evoke laughter, the language is often discredited as being vulgar, low, and dirty. Here is a typical excerpt from a traditional Errenzhuan work, Wang Meirong Guanhua [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Wang Meirong Enjoys the Flowers), as cited in Ma Qiufen. (23) Wang speaks to herself when meeting her future husband, Mr. Right:
      A newlywed couple sleeps in the quilt. One leg--a mushroom root;
   two legs--Dominique Hen; three legs--a tripod griddle; four legs--a
   table for eating; face to face--a small mirror; mouth to mouth--a
   longstemmed pipe's mouth; leg intertwined with leg--twisted fried


The humor arises from a series of witty, rhymed metaphors made between erotic sexuality and familiar objects of rural life. The folk, unofficial laughter is evoked, not only because it strongly emphasizes the bodily, material level of food, drink, digestion, and sexual life, but also because of an ambiguous, plural, comic world the double-voiced utterances reveal.

Zhao's dialogues in the sketches are rooted in the folk art tradition of Errenzhuan, and especially in the colloquial speech art of shuokou. In a series of sketches since 1990, Zhao has successfully set up a number of comic scenarios featuring the speech styles of niangen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Niangen could be translated as "cold humor." Nian describes somebody who appears honest and speaks sparingly, and gen means a punch line. Niangen has been hailed as the highest achievement of the shuokou art, where intonation is paramount. The music critic Li Wan highly praises the resourcefulness of intonation in Errenzhuan. (24) The various intonation patterns within the same wording create a mood of paradox, through which an ambiguous clarity emerges. He further points out that the distinctive feature of this local art form is biaoqing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (emotiveaffective) instead of biaoyi Sit (semantic-referential), insofar as the meaning is expressed not in the content but in the form of intonation. Li's observation echoes Volosinov's argument (25) that intonation makes the word it attaches to "virtually empty semantically." (26) From a more theoretical perspective, Volosinov elaborates on the social nature of intonation. He argues that a different treatment of intonation is the key distinction between discourse in art and discourse in life, though both discourses remain dependent on their direct contexts to varying degrees. In the extraverbal context, intonation "always lies on the border of the verbal and the nonverbal, the said and the unsaid," (27) therefore exhibiting "the greatest sensitivity, elasticity, and freedom" (28) when compared with other factors of verbal utterances.

Zhao Benshan is a master of such intonation. (29) Most of his catchy lines are registered with unique, expressive intonation. In the sketch "Xiang qin" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Blind Date," 1990) scripted by Zhang Chao, although most of his dialogue is muffled, conveying shyness or uneasiness, his forceful, emotion-charged articulation rhymed with ao "just let you young people dance and jump, kiss and hug, so the elderly are left to be lonely?" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] highlights the social issue of remarriage among the elderly at the time. In the sequel "Laonian wanhun" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Laonian Getting Married," 1991) scripted by Zhang Chao and Zhang Huizhong, Zhao parodies the Cantonese accent of his peasant fiancee, who has changed considerably following several months' stay in Shenzhen. In order to test her love, Zhao feminizes his voice and plays an elderly woman engaging her in conversion. (30) In the "Lao bainian" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("The Elders Pay a New Year's Call," 1993) scripted by Cui Kai and Zhang Chao, since the traditional opera troupe has been marginalized in the booming modern market economy, the Errenzhuan master Zhao has to pay a New Year's call on his former students-turned-entrepreneurs in order to find a job. As his line goes:
      Our local opera troupe has become a Qigong training class; the
   rehearsal room has been rented to the peddlers; I've been pushed
   aside, and for me EVERY DAY IS A SUNDAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.


The intonation epitomizes the style of niangen, that is, puping dianwen jiedexiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a controlled foreshadowing leads to a more effective climax). In "Honggaoliang Mote Dui" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Red Sorghum Fashion Model Group," 1997) scripted by Cui Kai and He Qingkui, Zhao makes a hilarious analogy out of "hidden similarities" (31) between modern model training and rural insecticide spraying:
      To push your belly in is to cinch up your belt; to lift your hip
   is to buckle on the spray box; to cast a sidelong glance is to look
   towards the fruit tree; while pumping direct the spray. The beat is
   like this: yi ci ci/ er ci ci/san ci ci/si ci ci [the sound of
   spraying in the rhythm of Viennese Waltz, % time].

In "Bainian" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Paying a New Year's Call") scripted by He Qingkui and Zhang Qingdong, Zhao stammers when he suddenly realizes the xiangzhang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (town leader), a distant cousin whom he had assumed to have been dismissed, allegedly due to corruption, has actually been promoted to the higher position of xianzhang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (county magistrate). Zhao's stammering exemplifies the Freudian "mechanism of a slip of the tongue," (32) the suspension of a previous intention as a result of a series of socially hierarchical reversals: the family hierarchy of filial piety between Zhao and his cousin, temporarily rescued from the hierarchical political repression that separates common villagers and the xiangzhang, is repressed again by a stauncher political hierarchy between common villagers and the xianzhang.

There are other examples of intonation alone being self-sufficient and meaningful. In "Niu dashu tigan" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Uncle Niu Promoted," 1995), scripted by Cui Kai, Zhao plays Uncle Niu, who is sent by a poverty-stricken village school to a local government-sponsored company seeking some funding. He is temporarily "promoted" to fill in for the company manager who has been hospitalized because of a stomach problem stemming from endlessly attending business banquets. Preparing prior to the guests' arrival, Uncle Niu practices a toast, reading a text written by the manager's secretary. But what the audience hears is just a stream of toned utterance except for some filtered words: "zhe ge... a, wo shuo... a" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("well... a, I say... a"). If taken in isolation, the intonation itself would be empty and unintelligible. But here in the extraverbal context, the audience bursts into laughter hearing the illiterate Uncle Niu parodying the stereotyped, tedious, and overbearing tonal speech pattern of Party cadres and officials. The politically and culturally inferior addressee's rendition of the superior addresser's intonation becomes a meaningful locution because of the performer's and the audience's shared "knowledge and social evaluation of the situation." (33) What is said is determined by what is unsaid; at the same time, what is said anticipates what is unsaid. As a whole, the sketch satirizes the social ills of excessive dining-out on public funds. This turns out to be in conformity with the national anticorruption movement, an effort undertaken by the Zhu Rongji regime at the time. Therefore, one may argue that the intention of Zhao's sketches is dual: to dissolve authority through satire, and at the same time to gain proximity to authority. Nevertheless, neither the conforming nor the subversive voices are explicit; both are imbued with ambiguity and indeterminacy, as a close reading of the following sketch will demonstrate.

The sketch "Zuotian, jintian, mingtian" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," 1999), scripted by He Qingkui, is about an elderly Northeast rural couple who come to the thenhit CCTV talk show "Shihua shishuo" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("To Tell the Truth"). The sketch sets up a hierarchical opposition between the host in the center and the couple in the periphery right from the beginning. The host, with the name Cui Yongyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], speaking Putonghua, is a real television celebrity hosting the show in the state station in Beijing. The rural couple, Dashu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (played by Zhao Benshan) and Dama [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (played by Song Dandan), speaking the Northeast dialect, are nameless members of the folk mass from the Northeast region, the "guests" who are notified to come to the official realm to which they do not really belong. Yet soon the hierarchy between the central, official discourse and the peripheral, folk discourse is reversed:

Cui: The topic of today's talk show is "yesterday, today, and tomorrow." This time, we'll change our rules and have Dashu talk first.

Zhao: We prepared at home last night, came over here today, and will go back tomorrow. Thanks.

Cui: No, no. Dashu. I didn't mean for you to talk about "yesterday." I was hoping you'd talk about something even earlier [than yesterday].

Song: The day before yesterday? We got the notification from the xiang government [to come to the show] the day before yesterday. Thanks!

Cui (becoming a little anxious): Dashu and Dama, the "yesterday, today, and tomorrow" I was talking about is not "yesterday, today, and tomorrow."

Zhao: The day after tomorrow?

Cui: Not the day after tomorrow.

Song (puzzled): Then which day do you mean?

Cui: Not a specific day. What I meant is to ask you to recall the past, comment on the present, and then look into the future.

Zhao: Aha! Then that's "the past, the present, and the future."

Song (echoes Zhao): That's not the same thing as "yesterday, today, and tomorrow."

Zhao (speaks to Cui): yeah, the way you asked was a little problematic.

Song (echoes again): No one asked this way.

Zhao: Exactly.

Cui (shaking his head): Well. Seems to be my fault?

For the host, his interpretation of the phrase "yesterday, today, and tomorrow" is uniaccentual, excluding the original, basic meaning of the phrase and fixating on its extended meaning as "the past, the present, and the future." Implicit in this phrase, in its official interpretation, is another typical Party formula of class education dating from the Maoist era, Yikusitian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to recall the bitterness of the past (in the old society) and to savor the sweetness of the present (in the new society). The audience, long inculcated with Party ideology, found the couple's retrieved meaning of the phrase to be unexpected and unanticipated. This is what lies behind the carnivalesque laughter, not only does folk discourse restore the familiarity, originality, and multiaccentuality of language, but also official discourse becomes aware of its own limitations or flaws only when confronted with folk discourse.

Nevertheless, once the couple figures out what the official intention is, their utterance soon seems to conform to the mode of Yikusitian. As Zhao passionately reads:
      Dear leaders and comrades. ... Good evening. The year 1998 was an
   unusual year. A bumper crop harvested, a flood repelled. The people
   live and work in peace and contentment. [We] all praise the
   unexcelled Party leadership. It's especially hard to find a better
   army in the world than the PLA; other countries are such a mess,
   daily plotting against each other. Today their cabinet resigns,
   tomorrow their prime minister ousted [in Japan]. The Financial
   Crisis [in East Asia], presidential impeachment [in the U.S.], one
   after another. To have a bird's eye view of the world, the best
   scenery is here! Thanks a lot! [The original monologue rhymes in

Here, apparently, the Party achievement in the past year is exalted by Zhao's rhymed accumulation of "comparatives and superlatives." Wang Xiaokun thus argues that the essence of Zhao's sketches is the unity found in diversity. (34) His various comic images are in fact consistently a transmission of the official discourse in the center from a peasant position in the periphery, a rhetorical strategy from below to attempt to render, interpret, and illustrate the state ideology disseminated from above. However, it is important to note that Zhao reads the whole passage from a notebook. Reading from a text rather than speaking spontaneously is the standardized form of transmitting an official message. This is what Volosinov terms "direct discourse" or the "referent-analyzing modification of the indirect discourse," which is "somewhat rationalistic and dogmatic in nature." (35) As Zhao reads the utterance that "belongs to someone else," (36) and here, belongs to the Party or the state, he transmits only passively an ideology that he may not have internalized very well. Such literal or mechanical transmission in turn testifies to the official discourse being a finished, fixed, inert, and immutable one.

A new twist emerges. Immediately following Zhao's utterance of "Dear leaders and comrades," the host dismissively comments, "You want to give a report?" It seems that this form of transmitting the Party voice is not quite favored by the authorities or the state media itself. In order to adjust the couple to the shifting role of the media, the host Cui is ready to borrow the language of ordinary folk. He guides the talk this way, "Dashu and Dama. The talk show is for talking, chatting, or shooting the breeze. Just like you Northeast people chatting [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (laoker) on the kang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a northern brick kiln-like bed). How are things at home, how are things going here."

Once having converted the public official space into the private intimate space channeled by the host, the couple freely unleash a torrent of backhanded compliments, addressing Cui's popularity in their village: "The people in our village really like you... Everyone praises you, saying you do a great job in hosting, except that you could be a little handsomer." Song's utterance is immediately followed by Zhao's: "Your show is everyone's favorite in our village. Your hosting style is unique. When you're laughing, it looks like you're crying. And when you're crying, it looks like you're laughing." The simultaneous praise and abuse is characteristic of folk language, of which Bakhtin comments: "the praise is ironic and ambivalent. It is on the brink of abuse; the one leads to the other, and it is impossible to draw a line between them." (37)

Such folk language abounds when the couple begins to chat about their past love story, their present personal life of idol worship, and their future plan of writing books and traveling. The couple's heteroglot speech style showcases the Bakhtinian internal stratification within one language, Northeast Mandarin: abusive language (abusive praise or praiseful abuse), such as xiebazi lian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], zhuyaozi lian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], kechen infill (three local derogatory idioms for one's appearance) and baxia lABl (talk nonsense); puns, such as the literary idiom ansongqiubo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a beautiful woman secretly makes eyes at her lover, or ogle) degradingly taken as ansongqiubo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (to secretly deliver the autumn spinach); popular song titles, such as "Dayue zai dongji" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Probably in the Winter"), "Taosheng yijiu" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("The Wave Still as Before"), and "Xiangyue jiuba" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Meet in 1998"); popular phrases in the 1990s such as xiagang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (laid off) in "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" (two pure white teeth has been honorably laid off); idioms of the younger generation such as xinzhong ouxiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (idol in the mind) and mengzhong qingren [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (dream lover); revolutionary jargon, such as wa shehuizhuyi qiangjiao, hao shehuizhuyi yangmao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (to dig the socialist corner, to weed the socialist wool); classical Chinese, such as yushihu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (thereupon); jocose grammar, such as bijiao shuai dai le [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (relatively hunkish handsome); western political jargon, such as dongxi liangyuan yiyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (senators and congressmen) and tanhe [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (impeach) in, "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (this gal implores everyone in our big family, every senate and congressman/congresswoman to hold a meeting in order to impeach me); foreign words, such as "hello," "OK," and "mishi" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (38) in "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: Hello [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; and so on. The various social "languages" and speech styles, however alien, opposite, or supplementary to one another, are bound together through debasement, augmentation, or leveling. As the hybridized utterances dynamically transgress the limits of the established linguistic and social conventions, the laughter arises. The celebration of the ambivalent laughter continues toward the end of the sketch. The host asks each member of the couple for one concluding remark "from the bottom of your hearts" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (fazifeifu), which would be conventionally rendered in a solemn, pompous, and formulaic tone. Song's strong wish to meet her idol (shifen xiangjian Zhao Zhongxiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) seems a debasing parody of the revolutionary jargon of worshiping Chairman Mao (shifen xiangnian Mao Zhuxi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Zhao's response in his unique Errenzhuan niangen style is more about material necessity, which is "key" in his own words: "Laiqian'er de huochepiao shei gei bao le?" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]? "Who is going to reimburse us for our train tickets?"

The art of Errenzhuan as a local folk form has come a long way from the marginalized, unofficial "marketplace" of rural fields, courtyards, and dachedian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (village inns) to its legitimatization in the official mainstream broadcast media. Even though Zhao still lamented the dimming future of local folk art in his 1993 sketch ("Laobainian"), this "low" art form has gradually ascended to the high official realm and has also become a household name, with Zhao's comic sketches in the CCTV Galas of the 1990s and a series of telenovelas "Liu Laogen" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (I, II, III), "Ma Dashuai" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (I, II, III), and "Zhengyue lilai shi xinchun" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Story of an Errenzhuan Troupe") that aired on CCTV-1 since 2003. Thus in the 2005 CCTV Gala, the sketch "Xiaocui shuoshi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Xiaocui talks"), a sequel to the 1999 sketch "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," is followed by a show of Errenzhuan dance performance. Cui's clumsy dance among Zhao and other professional Errenzhuan performers makes the CCTV host himself a comic figure, out of place in the realm of presumably high official culture.

Although the peripheral, premodern folk reality is represented by the central, official discourse in such a manner as to convey the ideological initiatives of the state media and official culture alike, it also seems to find legitimacy and agency in the modern television medium, which has enabled its survival and development. And although the central, official discourse attempts to manipulate the peripheral, peasant folkloric discourse to confirm its own elevated position, this confirmation is not achieved without compromise, ambiguity, nuance, and indeterminacy. The "high" official discourse has become porous enough to allow the "low" folkloric humor, with its concern with "grotesque realism," to mix with it, to form a dialogic relationship. Since the undermining of authority and the dissolving of ideology appear contained within some bounds, the folk humor manifested in the CCTV Gala's comic sketches evokes an ambivalent laughter, in the spirit of a utopian, Bakhtinian carnival, which simultaneously conforms and subverts, praises and abuses, asserts and denies. Such is the dynamic relationship of interpenetration, interaction, and inter-illumination between the discourse at the center and the discourse at the periphery.^


School of Modern Languages, Georgia Institute of Technology

(1) According to data culled from a CCTV audience group, the Gala has enjoyed the largest national audience for almost two decades, as the average rating per family between 1996 and 2003 was 89.5 percent. See Wang Liejun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Guanxi shijiao xia de quanli shijian: 21 nian chunjie lianhuan wanhui de shehuixue jiexi" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: 21[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ["Power Practice with a Relational Perspective: a Sociological Analysis of Spring Festival Gala in the Past 21 Years"], Master's thesis, Beijing University, 2003.

(2) Although the terms folk in English and minjian in Chinese are not exactly equivalent, my approach blends their connotations in each language under the umbrella word folk. Therefore, on the one hand, "folk" means "traditional, premodern, preindustrial, and pretechnological." In this sense, folk culture could, according to Michael Kammen, signify "traditional" popular culture as contrasted with the technologically transformed, modern popular culture. See Michael Kammen, American Culture, American Tastes: Social Change and the 20th Century (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 6. On the other hand, the term connotes "among the ordinary people" (what minjian means literally in Chinese), "vernacular" (not elite or highbrow), "not associated with academic institutions," or "not associated with official government."

(3) M.M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1968), 11-12; emphasis added.

(4) Ibid., 25.

(5) Ibid., 5-17.

(6) Ibid., 465-66.

(7) Liao Xianhao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Fangyan de wenxue juese: sanzhong houjiegou shijao" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] : [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ["The Literary Role of Local Dialect: Three Post- structuralist Viewpoints"], Zhongwai wenxue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Taibei) 19.2 (1990): 96-99.

(8) Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel," The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 272.

(9) Liu Kang SE, Duihua de xuansheng: Bahejin de wenhua zhuanxing lilun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Dialogic Heteroglossia: Bakhtin's Theory of Cultural Transition] (Beijing: Zhongguo renmin daxue chubanshe, 1995).

(10) Geremie Barme, In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 100.

(11) Max Gluckman, Custom and Conflict in Africa (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965), 109.

(12) Lu Xinyu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Jiedu 2002 nian chunjie lianhuan wanhui" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ["An Interpretation of 2002 CCTV Spring Festival Gala"], Du shu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Reading] 1 (2003): 93-94.

(13) The ancient story of "Sima Guang za gang" tells how the young Sima Guang of the Song dynasty saved a fellow child who had fallen into a big jar, filled with water, by bravely breaking the jar with a stone.

(14) Peter Stallybrass, and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), 10-11.

(15) Ibid., 11.

(16) Wang, "Guanxi shijiao xia de quanli shijian."

(17) John Storey, Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture, second edition (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003).

(18) Du Wenwei, "Xiaopin: Theatrical Skits as Both Creatures and Critics of Commercialism," The China Quarterly 154 (Jun. 1998): 382-99.

(19) Zhao Bin "Popular Family Television and Party Ideology: the Spring Festival Eve Happy Gathering," Media, Culture & Society 20.1 (1998): 43-58.

(20) Li Shanyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Zhang Feifei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Gei yiwan guanzhong dailai xiaosheng de yishujia: ping Zhao Benshan de xiju xiaopin" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ["The Performer Who Has Brought Laughter to Millions of Audience: Comments on Zhao Benshan's Comic Sketches"], Renmin fayuan bao AISIEISfB [People's Court Newspaper] (Oct. 12, 2002).

(21) Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, 163.

(22) Wang Qiuying, et al. ifAIPIf, "Luetan dongbei errenzhuan biaoyan yishu" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ["A Discussion of the Performing Arts in Northeast Errenzhuan'7], Errenzhuan yanjiu ziliao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Research Materials on Errenzhuan], ed. Zhongguo quyi gongzuozhe xiehui jilin fenhui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Jilin Branch of China's Folk Artists Association] 1 (1979): 73.

(23) Ma Qiufen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Dao dongbei kan Errenzhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Errenzhuan in Northeast China] (Wuhan: Hubei meishu chubanshe, 2003), 107.

(24) Li Wan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Nan huo nu, errenzhuan he yaogun" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ["Man or Woman, Errenzhuan, and Rock Music"], Beifang yinyue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Northern Music] 1 (2005): 39.

(25) Liu Kang in his Duihua de xuansheng mentions the dispute over the authorship of this article and of Volosinov, see V.N. Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986). No matter who the real author is, Volosinov or Bakhtin, we should note the fact that both worked closely in the Leningrad Group and that therefore their ideas would have possessed important affinities.

(26) V.N. Volosinov, "Discourse in Life and Discourse in Art (Concerning Sociological Poetics)," Freudianism: a Marxist Critique, trans. I. R. Titunik (New York: Academic Press, 1976), 102.

(27) Ibid., 102.

(28) Ibid., 105.

(29) As the term "intonation" is interpreted here as "emotion-charged" or "emotive-affective," it should be clear that this study uses a broad definition of intonation, which not only includes the melodic tone contour, as defined in M.A. Halliday, An Introduction to Functional Grammar (London: E. Arnold, 1994), 9, but also other vocal factors such as rhythm and variation in tempo and loudness.

(30) Double-gender acting is characteristic of Errenzhuan performance. In contrast to cross-gender acting, for instance, the female role played by Mei Lanfang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the Beijing Opera, the person playing a double-gender role in Errenzhuan art can be easily identified as a man who acts like a woman.

(31) A favorite definition of joking has long been that it involves a statement that reveals the similarity between dissimilar things, that is, hidden similarities. Jean Paul expresses this definition in a joking form: "joking is the disguised priest who weds every couple." Sigmund Freud, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (New York, Norton, 1960), 11.

(32) Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (Garden City: Garden City Pub. Co., 1935), 30-47.

(33) Volosinov, "Discourse in Life and Discourse in Art," 99.

(34) Wang Xiaokun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Zhongguo xianshi wenhua xuanze yu fazhan zhuangkuang de yinyu: Zhao Benshan yingshi wenhua xianxiang de wenhua shixue jiedu yu sikao" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ["Metaphor of the Realistic Cultural Choice and Development:Thoughts on Zhao Benshan Phenomenon"], Juzuojia [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 2 (2005): 71-75.

(35) Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, 130.

(36) Ibid., 116.

(37) Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, 165.

(38) The Japanese noun meshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (meal) is often misconceptualized by Chinese as a verb and mispronounced as mishi or mixi in pinyin.
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Title Annotation:I. Special Issue
Author:Liu, Jin
Publication:Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jun 22, 2010
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