Everybody likes watching acrobats. The acts sometimes seem scary and dangerous, and there is thrill and wonder. Though Chinese acrobatics troupes travel internationally, they are not commonly seen by audiences outside the country. While in China you might want to see the amazing feats of balance and skill.
Two Chinese Acrobatics Styles
The acrobats developed their styles based on traditional ancient arts such as dance, theater, martial arts, and magic shows. Their acrobatics is distinctive and incorporates traditional skills and physical exercises. In general, there are two styles of Chinese acrobatics: martial arts style and circus style.
Martial arts style: The troupes that emphasize martial arts feature martial artists who often act out a fighting scene and perform with various weapons.
Circus style shows: They are more like Western acrobatics shows. The individual performers and groups of acrobats do amazing acts of balancing, juggling, and gymnastics, and they are often amusing.
Distinctives of Chinese Acrobatics
Flexibility and balance: Chinese acrobats tend to emphasize balance and extreme flexibility more than the troupes do in Russia or the West. This might be due to the influence of martial arts styles that emphasize developing fine flexibility and balance.
Group coordination: Chinese acrobats intensively practice timing and coordination. The individual performers practice to cooperate precisely.
Martial arts for amusement: They use martial arts skills in a thrilling and sometimes comedic fashion. The Beijing Red Theater's "Legend of Kungfu" show is an example.
Chinese music and theater: Many of the shows will have traditional Chinese music that is recorded or performed live by musicians playing traditional instruments. The costumes or the themes may be drawn from a familiar opera.
Chinese stories: The acrobats may perform scenes from popular legends, stories, or novels of the ancient past such as The Monkey King. You might not recognize the story or the music, but you'll still enjoy the sound, color, and unusual costumes.
The Two Pillars of Chinese Acrobatics
It is said that there are "two pillars" in the Chinese style of acrobatics.
- Chinese acrobats focus especially on developing strength in the waist and legs. Strong abdominal muscles are the key to all precisely controlled movement involving the torso. Strong legs are essential for maintaining perfect balance while standing on a tightrope or other objects or on other acrobats.
- Chinese acrobats emphasize controlled strength and harmonious coordination with other acrobats to achieve fluid and agile movement that exudes power under control. They may achieve this through practicing martial arts exercises such as tai chi or kung fu where there is graceful movement.
Modern Chinese Acrobatic Troupes Get Much Recognition
International recognition: Chinese troupes have won many prizes in international competitions. China has recently been honored as the country with the 'World's Best Acrobatic Performances.'
Where To Go To See the Acrobats
Beijing Chaoyang Theater has "the best acrobatics in Beijing". The feature of the show is a group of motorcycle stunt riders who do amazing feats while riding around in a large sphere.
- Address: 36 Dongsanhuan North Road, Chaoyang District (朝阳区东三环北路36号). Subway line 10.
- Show times: Daily at 3:50 pm, 5:30 pm, and 7:15 pm. The times and number of shows change. See our evening show tour below.
Shanghai Circus World, ERA show: Foreigners like this show more than the Beijing Chaoyang Theater. So it might be China's best acrobatics circus performance troupe. This show uses high tech lighting and color effects more than the Chaoyang Theater, and it is said that it costs millions of dollars to stage it.
- Address: Shanghai Circus World, 2266 Gonghexin Road, Zhabei District
- Show times: Daily at 7:30 pm
"The Legend of Kung Fu" tells the story of a young boy who dreamed of becoming a kung fu master. This is probably the best martial arts acrobatics theater you can see.
The actors are excellent kung fu artists from all over China. The show combines kung fu, acrobatics, and dancing. It is produced to international standards by one of China's leading performing arts production companies. There is an English language show for foreigners.
- Location: The Red Theater, 44 Xingfu Dajie, Chongwen District, Beijing
- Show time: 7:30–8:50 p.m. daily
Shaolin Temple was made popular by the "Kung Fu" TV series. It is more of a martial arts demonstration than a spectacular show like the others. However, you'll see a lot of acrobatics stunts performed. The troupe has demonstrated their skills for millions of people from China and abroad including many state leaders.
- Location: Shaolin Temple, Dengfeng City, Henan Province
- Show times: There are half-hour daily shows at 9:30am, 10:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, and 4:30pm.
Seeing an Acrobatics Show while Touring China
We could save you the time and hassle of arranging the tickets and transportation. Our tours are hassle-free and individualized for our customers.
- Beijing Chaoyang Acrobatics Night Show Tour: You'll visit the famous theater, with private transport and a knowledgeable guide.
- The 11-Day Highlights of Kung Fu Tour: If you are interested primarily in martial arts, then this tour is for you.