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Chinese Acrobatics

The art of Chinese acrobatics is one of the most popular art forms among Chinese people. In a broad sense, acrobatics is the collective name of various kinds of skills. In primitive society, acrobatics was closely related with music and dance, and became a dominant art form at the time.

As one of the traditional art forms, acrobatics has a long and rich history of more than 2,000 years. As early as the Warring States (476B.C.-221B.C.), records show that rudiments of acrobatics first appeared in society. By the time of Han Dynasty, the acrobatics art further developed both in content and form and superb performances with musical accompaniment took to the stage, such as "pole climbing", "role walking", "fish turned into dragon" and "five tables" among others. In the Tang Dynasty, the most thriving period in ancient China, the number of acrobats greatly increased and their performing skills improved drastically. Since the Song Dynasty (960-1279), acrobatics did not limit itself to the imperial court as it also grew popular among the general public, alongside the significant development in the content of an acrobatic performance. Some larger scale events disappeared, while various smaller scale programmes and events performed by families or individuals came into being. Juggling skills saw unprecedented development, and some fine works that showcase talents of the waist, legs or head emerged. In the Ming (1638-1644) and Qing dynasties, acrobatics was still a way of life for some people. Individual performances as well as father and son and master and apprentice acts saw much development. Smaller scale acrobatic performances which featured more traditional acrobatic feats also started to appear frequently.

After years of development, Chinese acrobatics create their unique artistic characteristics by: (1) much attention to the training of waist, leg and head; (2) stability in dangerous movements coincided with quietness in actions; (3) producing something strange out of something plain; (4) attention to both heavy and light, hard and soft skills i.e. juggling objects with feet involves objects of varying weight, including heavy objects like wood blocks, ladders, gong and drum, and quick, light objects like parasols made of thin silk; (5) combination of much strength and spry and light somersault skills; and (6) good adaptability.

All these artistic characteristics help create the unique charm that goes into Chinese acrobatics. Chinese acrobats consistently win awards and accolades for their work in many international competitions, and China is internationally recognized as the best country for acrobatics.