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Chinese Acrobatics



Acrobatics is a pearl in the treasure house of the traditional Chinese performing arts. Chinese acrobatics has a long and rich heritage. The acrobatic art has been existent in China for more than two thousand years. As early as the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), the rudiments of acrobatics existed. By the time of the Han Dynasty (221 BC-220 AD), the acrobatic art or "Hundred Plays" further developed both in content and variety. In the Tang Dynasty, the number of acrobats greatly increased and their performing skills improved a great deal.

 

In the long course of development, the Chinese acrobatic art has formed its own style. The ancient acrobatics stemmed from the people's life and had a close link with their life and productive labor. Instruments of labor like tridents, wicker rings, tables, chairs, jars, plates, and bowls were used in their performances of "Flying Trident", "Balance on Chairs", "Jar Tricks", and "Hoop Diving". Wushu and Lion Dance originated from folk sports and games. All of these acts became commonplace in acrobatic performances throughout China. Though having a long history of development and enjoying great popularity among the people, acrobatics in old China was never performed in theaters because it was looked down upon by the upper class.

Modern Times
Since the middle of this century, great efforts to foster and develop national arts and acrobatics have gained a new life. All provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions have set up their own acrobatic troupes. The veteran performers have better opportunities to display their skill. The acrobats in modern China have set up a designing and directing system aimed at creating graceful stage images, harmonious musical accompaniment, and good supporting effects of costumes, props, and lighting in order to bring about a fully developed stage art.

The present status of Chinese acrobatics reflects the industry, resourcefulness, and un daunting courage of the Chinese people. In the past forty years and more, many Chinese acrobatic troupes have toured more than one hundred countries and regions of the world and promoted friendship and cultural exchanges. At present, there are over 120 acrobatic troupes above the county level, and more than 12,000 people are involved in performing.


Traditional Acrobatic Acts

Lion Dance
This evolved from an old folk dance in China. In the dance, there are two types of lions: big lion (played by two acrobats) and small lion (played by one man). They not only perform the various movements of the lion such as rolling and jumping but also vividly portray the lion's strength and agility as well as the quiet and playful side of the lion's character.

Cycling Feats
In this act, two types of cycles are used: monocycles on which the acrobats adroitly perform various beautiful postures; and bicycles on which they also display a variety of postures on the bicycle, of which the beautiful tableau of a peacock fanning its feathers is the best.

Tight-Wire Feats
Known as "Rope-Walking" or "Walking on a rope" in ancient China, it is a traditional performance dating back 2000 years to the Han Dynasty. Walking on a wire instead of a rope is a renovation illustrating new vigor and skills. The acrobat uses somersault dexterity, which is a basic acrobatic skill, to perform such difficult feats as cart-wheels and somersaults on a trembling wire.

Traditional-Style Conjuring
This is an ancient Chinese traditional performance unique in form and style. With the help of a big robe and some pieces of cotton cloth, the conjurer brings forth many large and small glass bowls filled with water and live fish as well as a brazier with burning fire. While taking off the robe, the conjurer again produces a big glass water bowl with fish in it at the end of a somersault. The unique aspect is that the conjurer produces water and fire without wetting or burning his robe.

Hoop Diving
This is an item developed from "Leaping through Rings on the Ground". It was known as "Swallow Play" more than two thousand years ago because the performers imitated the flying movements of swallows as they leapt nimbly through the narrow mat rings. It was also called "Dashing Through Narrows". The performers are graceful and agile in their movements and demonstrate incredible dexterity.

Wushu (Chinese Traditional Group Gymnastics)
With movements of somersault, pulling, jumping, kicking and various postures, it has become an acrobatic symbol. The agility, precision and rhythm of acrobat movements convey a sense of vigor, strength and beauty.

Spring-Board Stunts
Through leaps and somersaults in the air, the acrobats perform graceful movements which give the audience an excellent demonstration of acrobatic art.

Meteor Juggling
The performer swings glass bowls that move like meteors in the sky. The performer revolves soft rope with two glass bowls filled with water fastened to its ends, tossing it up and performing difficult feats such as forward roll and backward somersault and then catching it again and continuing to dance and turn about without spilling the water.

Gymnastics On Double-Fixed Poles
"Pole Climbing" is one of the main traditional acrobatic numbers in China; vivid descriptions date back 1,000 years. On the basis of "Pole-Climbing", new acrobatic movements such as jumping from one pole to the other, swift descent, and many others have been added.


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