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English>>China Society

Monkey business

(Global Times)    10:30, March 11, 2015
A decade ago, a busker and his monkeys sneak onto trains to avoid paying for tickets. (Photo: Ma Hongjie)

No lights for these performers, no stage and not even a roof. As drums pound in the background, a group of monkeys are pulled along by the ropes around their necks. Buskers shout to grab the attention of the crowd before the monkeys do their tricks and beg for money.

These types of shows were once popular among people of all ages in China, from the metropolises to small villages. Decades ago, when sources of entertainment were more scarce than they are today, performing monkeys brought joy to children and adults alike. But it is becoming harder and harder to find these kinds of shows as attitudes change.

Making a living through putting on such shows is becoming more difficult with every passing year. Buskers have to travel from town to town to find audiences. In order to save money, the men and their monkeys have to dive onto moving trains to avoid paying for tickets. Some buskers have to rely on their own two feet and simply walk in search of crowds.

Many of these travelling performers come from Henan Province's Xinye County, birthplace of China's monkey busking tradition. People have been training monkeys in Xinhe county for over 1000 years and these shows were listed as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008 by the State Council.

However, many people have criticized these shows, citing examples of buskers abusing their monkeys to force them to perform.

Baowan and Yiwan villages are the main villages that produce Xinye's monkey buskers. The people of these villages and their monkeys have lived, worked, played together for more than 600 years. Monkeys live in close proximity with their owners, play with their children and share the families food. The barren land of Xinye County has never been able to support many people through agriculture and the people learned long ago that they would have to make a living another way. Apart from during the planting and harvesting seasons, villagers and their monkeys hit the open road to perform. Xinye County's monkey buskers have performed in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Ma Hongjie, a photographer travelled with monkey buskers for twelve years, lived with busters on the streets, snuck onto trains with them, and recorded their unpredictable, tough lives. 


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Kong Defang,Yao Chun)

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