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A post-80s female artist plays pig teeth in the mouth

By Li Hongrui | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-11-02 15:02

A post-80s female artist plays pig teeth in the mouth

Artist Xue Qiaoping shows "teeth playing". [Photo/Chinanews.com]

Paint a face red, add several long teeth in the mouth, and stare at people with blinking eyes.

This is not a performance for this past Halloween.

It is "teeth playing",  a stunt in the old opera Ninghai Pingdiao that originated in Zhejiang province toward the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The teeth used in the opera, long and sharp, were tusks of male pigs that weigh over 200 kilograms. The average length of each tooth is about 8 centimeters.

During the performance, an artist needs to put several such teeth in the mouth and shows them to express the role's emotions while singing and speaking lines.

This doesn't sound like the kind of skill a young woman could master.

However, post-80s female artist Xue Qiaoping excels at this feat, and can have at least 10 tusks in her mouth. As one of the young inheritors of the performance, she overcame many obstacles to learn "teeth playing".

"The tusks were very sharp and they broke my mouth and gums during the practice. During that time, I couldn't eat and drink as usual. But I chose to go on with it," Xue said, recalling her experience when she first started learning.

To improve her skills, Xue had tusks in her mouth all the time except when eating and sleeping.

Despite the difficulties, she didn't give up, while the other seven learners couldn't bear and quit.

In the past 10 years, she came to master the skill to perform with 10 teeth. This is the highest level an artist can have in teeth playing.

In 2006, Ninghai Pingdiao was listed in the first group of National Intangible Cultural Heritage elements.

Xue said she was part of the young generation inheriting the skills, and it was an obligation that made her proud of herself.

Now, another six young inheritors from a special inheritance training class can also play teeth after four years of learning. Some can perform with as many as eight tusks.

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