Catch a "Crosstalk" Performance for a Slice of Local Culture
If you're familiar with the old Abbot & Costello "Who's on First" routine, you're on your way to understanding crosstalk, or xiangsheng, performances in China. The art form, which features rapid-style wordplay, punning, and plays off the easily found double (or triple or quadruple) meanings in spoken Chinese, is a speciality of the Beijing and Tianjin regions of China.
If you're not a Mandarin speaker, you'll miss the content, which is typically a masterful, if silly, blend of traditional pieces and commentary on current affairs. But you won't miss the fun. High-speed, linguistically acrobatic, and playful, many crosstalk performances are entrancing just for their sound.
The Miingliu Tea House is one of the most famous venues in Tianjin for catching a performance. Many famous performers make appearances at one of the three (soon to be four) locations in the city, attracing locals, expats, and tourists alike. Tea, coffee, and snacks only.