This is one entertainment that must not be missed by the young and old on a visit to Beijing. China has many world class acrobatic troupes because practically every province and major city will have its own acrobatic troupe, and children are selected to be trained as performers from a young age. In Beijing (and Shanghai) one can see breath-holding acrobatics, some of which can be so demanding in the timing and balancing skill as to verge on the impossible.
The group bicycling show is also a favorite with the ten cycling girls finally all ending up on a bicycle with their fans spread out like a peacock. There are also girl performers so spineless that they can bend and fold their bodies to a position where the feet clasped the face and the head and hands are still balancing some glasses. Other exciting acts are the juggling of large porcelain urns, martial arts, balancing of bowls, umbrellas or stacked chairs, rope walking, pole climbing, roller skating and plate swirling.
Chinese acrobatics is said to have started during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) two thousand years old, though some claim it is four thousand years old on the basis of the mythical Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, having started a martial form of acrobatics at a victory celebration in Wuqiao some 300 km south of Beijing. It is interesting to know that almost every adult in Wuqiao today knows some acrobatic trick. Since 1987, Wuqiao has held the Wuqiao International Acrobatics Festival which is an event for the international acrobatic fraternity. The acrobatics became refined during the Han Dynasty (221 BC-220 AD) by which time juggling, fire eating, knife swallowing and tight rope walking were regular features. The Han Dynasty scholar and scientist, Zhang Heng (AD 78-139), has been much quoted by Chinese acrobatic enthusiasts as having mentioned in his "Ode to the Western Capital and to the Eastern Capital" the various forms of acrobatics then.
In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), acrobatics received royal patronage with shows performed for the imperial court as depicted by a Dunghuang Grotto mural. By the Song Dynasty (960-1279) acrobatics become upstaged by opera as an entertainment for the literati and the ruling class. As it descended to be an entertainment for the ordinary folks, it was continually sustained and nurture by the commoners into the fascinating Chinese acrobatics of today.
The success of acrobatics depends also on good stage arts like stage images, music, choreography and costumes backed up by props and lighting. The frequent local competitions in China for acrobatic excellence have made China a nation unique in an oriental form of acrobatics that is second to none in the world. Tickets can be obtained in Beijing at the Chaoyang Juchang and the Tiandi Juchang.