Masters and Disciples (1)
The storytellers of former times were paid for their performances and made their living from it. To which degree they were educated formally in their profession is often left to the imagination. The first renowned storyteller of China, whose life is well documented, is Liu Jingting (1587-c.1670), born in Taizhou in the prefecture of Yangzhou.
He appears to have been more or less self-taught and picked up storytelling from listening to other storytellers in his childhood and youth. He also had an informal teacher, a scholar friend who was an amateur storyteller. His eminence in the art was obviously obtained on the background of a pre-existing rich milieu of storytelling. Even though he is in modern times honoured as ’the father of storytelling’, he was by no means ’inventing’ the art. But he was among the famous artists whose brilliant performance brought glory to the profession as such. He was even received by the emperor and performed for him. Usually he seems to have performed mainly on invitation in private homes, so-called ‘salons’ tanghui, a habit that became widespread not only among the rich, but also among the ordinary citizens on festive occasions. His life and activities were closely attached to the Lower Yangzi area, especially Yangzhou, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing, although he also spent part of his life in Beijing and other places. He is honoured in China at large because of his influence, not only on Yangzhou storytelling, but also on Hangzhou and Suzhou storytelling and storysinging.
Next: Early masters