Cuobaxi (Side Show)


Street artists travel from town to town to perform and sell medicine and other commodities. Their way of making a living has a long history. Even today, at night markets they can still be seen doing sideshows, performing magic or martial arts, or singing and dancing to attract crowds. After a session of performance, they try to sell some commodities.

This type of performance generally called “cuobaxi” is carried out outdoors without the need of setting up a stage or costumes. Mostly short and simple, the acting is not limited to the three-role tea-picking stories. It is started with some advertising, followed by a session of performance, then some explanation of the medicine, more performance, and then more explanation. The host decides how the show should continue depending on the atmosphere. The procedure is normally as follows:

Making announcements or doing brief performance to attract audience → Starting the show → Performing a session or acting a short episode → Explaining or selling medicine → Performing a session or acting a short episode → Explaining or selling medicine

The number of rounds of performing, explaining and selling to be conducted depends on the atmosphere. The income often reflects the ability of the performers to sell. Whether it’s demonstrating martial arts to sell medicine, performing the three-role tea-picking opera, doing acrobatics, or even the singing and dancing in later days, the combination of performing and doing business more or less follows the same procedure.