China / Beijing


Introducing the Acrobatics (Za Ji )

Chinese Acrobatics, also called Chinese Variety Arts (Zaji), is a pearl in the treasure house of the traditional Chinese performing arts. It refers to a wide range of acrobatic acts, balancing acts and other demonstrations of physical skill traditionally performed by a troupe in China. Many of these acts have a long history and are still performed in China today.


Chinese acrobatics has a long and rich heritage. The acrobatic art has been existent in China for more than 2,000 years. It was during the Han Dynasty (221BC-220AD), that the Chinese saw the first acrobats, magicians, and jugglers. 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. Chinese farmers and village craftsmen, with relatively little to do during the long winter spent their time improving their societal positions by becoming acrobats. They practiced with just about anything they could find around the house, workshop and farm, i.e. cups, saucers, tables, chairs plates, farming tools, etc. They even used their own bodies to form human walls and pyramids. Every year when the peasants celebrated the bringing in of the harvest, the common people would show off their skills by performing new and exciting feats of daring and strength.

The performances became more elaborate and during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), acrobatics became popular in the Emperor’s court, with the acts became more refined. Eventually, the performing arts lost favor in the Imperial Court; they moved back to the common people and most performers performed on the streets. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), acrobatics started to be performed in the entertainment centers called Wazi. At the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the performers came off the street and began performing on stage. At the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it regained popularity with the Imperial Court and has remained a popular art form till now.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, acrobaticshas gained new respectability. Troupes have been established in the provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipals with theaters specifically dedicated to the variety arts. At present, there are over 120 acrobatic troupes above the county level, and more than 12,000 people are involved in performing.Some troupes have become world famous, playing to packed houses at home and on foreign tours.

Acrobatic Acts

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.

Tightrope walking

It is a traditional performance dating back 2,000 years ago to the Han Dynasty(221BC-220AD). 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 rope.


It 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

It was also called “Dashing Through Narrows”. The performers are graceful and agile in their movements and demonstrate incredible dexterity. Hoop Divingoriginated at harvest time when the field workers used a tool shaped like a large tambourine. These large hoops with woven mesh bottoms were used to shake and separate the grain from the leaves and stems. Workers challenged each other to see how many or how tall a stack they could jump through.

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 forms 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.

Fire breathing

It is the act of creating a fireball by breathing a fine mist of fuel over an open flame. The proper technique and the correct fuel create the illusion of danger to enhance the novelty of fire breathing, while reducing the risk to health and safety. When using the correct fuel, it will only light when sprayed into a fine mist increasing the surface area of the fuel so that the fuel/oxygen/heat ratio is balanced enough to cause combustion.

Contortion acrobatics

It is an unusual form of physical display which involves the dramatic bending and flexing of the human body. In general, “contortionists” have unusual natural flexibility, which is then enhanced through acrobatic training, or they put themselves through intense, vigorous and painful training to gain this flexibility.

Famous Acrobatics Theater in Beijing

Chaoyang Theatre

Built in 1984, the ChaoyangTheartre is an arena specializing in acrobatic performance. It is one of the fixed places certified by the Beijing Municipal Government for presenting shows to travelers of Beijing. Originally, the shows presented in the theatre were dancing and opera for visitors home and abroad in the middle and late 1980s. Later on, the Chaoyang Theatre stood out by performing acrobatics only. After over 20 years professional operation, it established a famous cultural brand which is “For watching Acrobatics, go to Chaoyang Theatre”. The Chaoyang Theatre is located in the middle of Eastern 3rd Ring Road which is the center of CBD in Beijing. Convenient transportation and culture-friendly atmosphere made it an important place for the nightlife in Beijing. It has received more than 5 million audiences home and abroad, including the dignitaries from foreign countries who spoke highly of the exquisite performance.

© 2015 WikiBeijing. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without our written permission.