Xiangsheng originated in Beijing in the second half of the 19th century, when the performers began to appear and attract audiences at the Tianqiao area of Beijing.
It is most commonly performed by two persons, though there are also solos or trios.
Beijing and Tianjin have been the two most important bases for the show. Beijing has given birth to such great performers as Hou Baolin (1917-1993), while Tianjin has contributed masters like Ma Sanli (1914-2003).
In the first half of the 20th century, xiangsheng was mainly performed in teahouses. After the founding of New China in 1949, most of the comedians were recruited into State-run performing arts troupes, and comic talk shows in teahouses gradually disappeared.
However, with teahouses mushrooming in recent years, there has been a revival.