Making a song and dance about the sage
Beating out a rapid rhythm with a pair of bamboo clappers, Kong Fanxi spoke quickly as he related a Confucian story in the dialect used by residents of Qufu, a city in Shandong province that is famous as the birthplace of Confucius.
The loud sound of the clappers and Kong's exaggerated body language quickly attracted dozens of people, who gathered around him in Lianjie square in Qianjia, a village in Qufu, on Jan 14.
The audience listened intently to every word as the 73-year-old related a story about filial piety via the medium of kuaishu, a storytelling and rhythmic art form that originated in the area.
"I could tell that the people were really listening to what I was saying because when I told a sad story, they looked serious, and when I told a humorous story, they smiled," said Kong, who is always delighted when the audience asks for an encore.
"I like his (Kong's) performance. He paraphrases Confucian teaching in simple language and tells stories that usually leave a deep impression on me," said audience member Xue Dianjin.
A 74th-generation descendant of Confucius (who is known as Kongzi in Chinese), Kong is steeped in his ancestor's teachings, and has adapted 45 stories so they can be performed in the kuaishu style.
Kong learned to use bamboo clappers as a child, so after retiring from his job as a carpenter, he focused on practicing kuaishu. He has now given hundreds of free performances.
"When I performed at the Hucheng River near the Confucius Temple, many people, including foreign visitors, tried to reward me with money, but I declined. As a descendant of Confucius, it's my duty to spread his teachings and help more people learn about our traditional culture," he said.
Kong said his family has a history of studying the teachings of their famous forefather. His son works at the Confucian Research Institute in Qufu, while his 5-year-old granddaughter can recite many sections of The Analects, a collection of the sage's teachings.
Kong hopes that he will have more opportunities to perform outside Shandong.
"I once performed in Nanjing (capital of Jiangsu province), and discovered that the people there were really interested in Confucius. Confucian teachings need to move outside of Shandong to reach more people," he said.
Kong Fanxi, a 74th-generation descendant of Confucius performs kuaishu, a form of storytelling that originated in Shandong province, the birthplace of Confucius.Zhao Ruixue / China Daily
(China Daily 02/08/2017 page6)