< Previous | Next >


Senior Member
From JY Yang's "The black tides of heaven".
This passage describes a circus performance that the main characters are watching.

"The first act was a comedy duo, the usual bamboo-pole-soup-dumpling combination given a twist by being comprised of two middle-aged women in saris making jokes about sex and money [instead of two middle-aged men].

Is this act with bamboo poles and soup dumplings traditional or renowned? How does it work?
  • manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    I'd guess the author is talking about the visual mismatch of the duo. One being thin and tall (bamboo pole) and the other short and horizontally oversized (soup dumpling). I suppose this mismatch can be perceived as a visually comic combination.
    Laurel and Hardy used that as a trademark, for instance.

    But that's just the first thing that came to mind. Wait for other opinions!


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    My researches found there is a kind of soup dumpling made by kneading it with a big bamboo pole - so I guess this is meant - but how it is used as a comic act, I have no idea. We need someone who knows Hong Kong, perhaps.


    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    This is not a traditional act in any English language performance tradition. From the name of the author and the name of the act, I would assume he is referring to a traditional comedy circus performance from China or a Chinese speaking country. But the performers are wearing saris (tradition Indian subcontinent costume) so there is clearly some interesting cross cultural mixing going on. Maybe one of our Chinese speakers can give us a hint!

    Meanwhile I would say that this expression might be something that the author of the novel explains in context. Or not. There are a lot of English language authors who grew up in other cultures that will make slight mystifying statements about things that aren't key to the plot, and as a reader I either go look then up and learn something new, or just enjoy being slightly puzzled


    Senior Member
    English - US
    there is clearly some interesting cross cultural mixing going on. Maybe one of our Chinese speakers can give us a hint
    From previous threads on this board, I've learned about a Chinese entertainment called "cross-talk" which generally consists of two men talking together and is sometimes compared to the American comedians Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy (both teams consisting of a fat man and a skinny man) though I gather that it's actually more involved than a simple comedy sketch.
    Xiangsheng - Wikipedia
    Xiangsheng (simplified Chinese: 相声; traditional Chinese: 相聲; pinyin: xiàngsheng; literally: 'face and voice'), also known as crosstalk, is a traditional performing art in Chinese comedy, and one of the most popular elements in Chinese culture. It is typically performed as a dialogue between two performers, or rarely as a monologue by a solo performer (similar to most forms of stand-up comedy in Western culture), or even less frequently, as a group act by multiple performers. The Xiangsheng language, rich in puns and allusions, is delivered in a rapid, bantering style, typically in the Beijing dialect (or in Mandarin Chinese with a strong northern accent). The acts would sometimes include singing, Chinese rapping, and musical instruments.


    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I've seen 2 or 3 performances of Chinese "cross-talk". It consists of 2 men (dressed in traditional Chinese clothing) talking together, but doesn't need a tall skinny one and a short fat one. They last one I saw was 2 middle-aged heavy men the same height. So I don't think it matches the "pole and dumpling" comment.
    < Previous | Next >