It is 8 pm on a Friday in Beijing. In a small house, a pingshu－traditional Chinese storytelling－show is about to start.
Staged every Friday, the shows last for about 90 minutes and each performer tells one 20-minute tale. The performances are usually amusing and spontaneous.
But the show on Friday was not a typical performance. Using perfect timing and his deep voice, Zhao Liang, 37, opened the evening telling the story of the powerful Chinese warlord Zhang Zuolin (1875-1928). During the performance, Zhao either frowned, laughed or wore a serious expression. Afterward, three other pingshu artists took to the stage in turn.
The items they performed were some of the most classic pieces interpreted by Shan Tianfang, one of China's top pingshu masters, who died at age 84 in Beijing on Sept 11.
A crowd of more than 60 people, including the young and elderly, gave the performers a long standing ovation at the end of the evening.
Zhao, who started learning pingshu with Shan in 2010, said: "We wanted to pay tribute to Shan. He represented the highest level of the art of pingshu, and thanks to him, the old Chinese art of the one-man show has been kept alive among generations of Chinese audiences."
Zhao is also a host on online radio station Beijing Joy FM, where he focuses on programs that promote pingshu.
"It is an art form that belongs uniquely to the Chinese. It's like Chinese people eating with chopsticks. The Chinese language is such a sophisticated language and that's what makes pingshu so special," Zhao said.