He had grown up in Liaoning province before the Communist revolution of 1949, his mother ("The Pale Girl") an actress and his father a player of the three-stringed lute.
But he knew from childhood, as he shook the money-basket round after their shows, that this was not much of a living.
Folk arts might be centuries old, but they had low social status.
He hoped to be a doctor or an engineer, until the collapse of his parents' marriage threw him back on pingshu to maintain his seven sisters.
Fate ordained it so.
He had always been good at memorising, diligent at practice, and after more instruction he was happy to spend the decade from 1956 to 1966 playing the tea-house circuit.
His favourite stories were always the classics, not least China’s four great novels:
the medieval "Romance of the Three Kingdoms",
"The Journey to the West", where an intrepid monk went searching for Buddhist texts,
"The Dream of the Red Chamber", in which 40 main characters portrayed a noble family's 18th-century decline,
and "Water Margin", with its wild band of 108 scheming outlaws.
Some stories had hundreds of chapters, each ending with a coy "To be continued".
As a keen student of history he altered some tales a bit, playing down the demons and spirits and giving his listeners, instead, characters that made sense.
单田芳酷爱历史，在说评书时他也会对故事稍加润色 。他淡化了恶魔和精灵，为听众塑造合理的人物形象 。
He also turned recent events into stories, poring over newspapers, as soon as the sun came up, to find reports of policemen foiling notorious robbers.
Fighters against injustice touched a soft spot with him:
the wrongly court-martialled General Sheng of "I Know Your Name Well",
or the "White-Eyebrow Hero" Lord Bao, China's most righteous judge,
whose story he had been telling all and sundry since he was five years old.
1.play down 贬低
Western diplomats have played down the significance of the reports.
2.pore over 仔细研究
We spent hours poring over travel brochures.
3.come up (太阳、月亮)升起
It will be so great watching the sun come up.