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Eight Strange Acrobats


Guo Shutong's trained mice get up to all sorts of antics, displaying intelligence that amazes audiences. 

Wuqiao Jianghu Culture City is the epitome of the old Wuqiao County of the early 20th century, displaying how local acrobats used to make their living by wandering, as well as reproducing performances from the other four major folk arts centers of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Nanjing. In the Jianghu Culture City, one can see roads and buildings constructed in the styles reminiscent of old times. Performers dressed up in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) costumes not only perform traditional acrobatics, horsemanship, magic and tricks, qigong and animal training, but also speak in the antiquated language of the Qing, and thus manage to present the atmosphere and social scene of the late-19th century and early-20th century. Of all the performers, the "Eight Strange Acrobats," as they are known, enjoy the most renown.

Wang Baohe, named "successor to the world intangible cultural heritage," began his career in acrobatics at the age of seven. Although in his 60s now, Wang is known by the moniker "King of the Quick Hands." He is a master of cup-and-ball tricks and soft kungfu known as "bone shrinking."

Wang's cup-and-ball tricks involve performing at a simple table, using his lightning-quick hands to move three balls and two small bowls around briskly, confusing audiences as to the actual number of balls under the bowls. The trick is well received by audiences both at home and overseas. On performing this trick in Hong Kong in 2002, he was praised as having "magic hands" by Tung Chee-hwa, former chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.   

Gao Fuzhou, nicknamed "Mini-Gun," channels Wuqiao's profound and ancient acrobatic culture in an amusing way. Gao has practiced hard qigong since childhood. At the age of 18, he was capable of smashing 300 bricks to pieces barehandedly in one hour. Today, he often exhibits cutting vegetables on someone's belly. It is truly breathtaking to see a knife rise and fall as the belly remains unhurt.

Li Yinhuai and his son Li Liang are another two of the "Strange Acrobats." Li Yinhuai boasts the unique stunt of inserting two bone needles into his nostrils and squeezing them out from his eyes. Li Liang debuted on stage at the age of 15. Today, he shows his mettle by climbing up a ladder of knives and performing stunts on the top. Li Yinhuai often cheers for his son along with audiences.

Did you ever see a person play a trumpet with his nose? He Shusen is one of the few people in the world who manage this feat. He began practicing at the age of 15 and is able to play the suona, a traditional Chinese woodwind instrument, with his nose while smoking a cigarette through his mouth.

Wei Chunhua is the only woman among the Eight Strange Acrobats. Though slim, she is adept at juggling a heavy jar with her feet. Lying on a bench, Wei Chunhua rotates a jar that weighs 180 kg. She can roll it not only in every direction, but also make it stand upright on her feet. Wei's performance has been listed as a "Guinness World Record."

Another impressive performer is Guo Shutong. As a disciple of the prominent animal trainer Zhang Fenglou, Guo trains white mice. Taking lead from Guo's quirky language, his white mice docilely and amusingly act out plots to various stories. Guo and his act have traveled widely and his performances are thoroughly enjoyed by audiences, who have given him the nickname "Mouse Guo."

In Jianghu Culture City, the performances of one 22-year-old polymath fully embody Chinese culture. Liao Peng is adept at performing all five genres of traditional Chinese opera and drama. What's more, he is capable of singing whilst writing Chinese calligraphy with both hands simultaneously.


Zhaozhou Bridge

The well-known Zhaozhou Bridge, also known as Anji Bridge, is a large stone arched bridge located on the Xiaohe River in Zhaoxian County, 50 km southeast of Shijiazhuang. Built in 605, it is the earliest and best preserved stone arched bridge in the world.

With a history of over 1,400 years, Zhaozhou Bridge has been subject to numerous natural disasters, including at least 10 floods, eight wars and many earthquakes. In 1966, when a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Xingtai 40 kilometers away, it remained unshaken and structurally sound.

Zhaozhou Bridge is 50.82 meters long and 9 meters wide, and the span of its central arch measures 37 meters, making it the world's largest arch at the time of construction. The bridge is ingeniously designed, with a well-proportioned layout and solid structure, and possesses a magnificent appearance. The predecessor of many modern structures made from reinforced concrete, at the time it ushered in a new style in bridge design. Its "open-spandrel" design is a great innovation in the history of bridge engineering. This structure not only requires less building materials but also makes sluicing during the flood season much easier. It was not until some 1,200 years after its construction that similar designs appeared in Europe.

Zhaozhou Bridge was designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1991 as a milestone in the history of international civil engineering, an honor also shared by the Egyptian pyramids, the Suez Canal and the Eiffel Tower.



Xibaipo, a name echoing China's revolutionary history, is a seemingly ordinary village located in Pingshan County, 90 km from Shijiazhuang. In May 1948, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the headquarters of the Chinese People's Liberation Army moved to this village and from there commanded three major military campaigns – Liaoshen, Huaihai and Pingjin. On March 23, 1949, these headquarters moved from Xibaipo to Beijing.

The command center set up in Xibaipo was the last such center in a rural area before Chairman Mao and the Party's Central Committee entered Beijing and liberated the country. Xibaipo is one of the five sacred places of the revolution, along with Jinggangshan, Yan'an, Ruijin and Zunyi.

The site of the CPC Central Committee and the PLA headquarters were rebuilt in 1970, 500 meters north of the original site. Covering a total area of 16,440 square meters, the site comprises leaders' former residences and venues of some important meetings such as the Second Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the CPC and the September Conference of the CPC Central Committee.

The Xibaipo Memorial Museum was built to commemorate this revered site. With a floor area of 3,344 square meters, the museum was opened to the public on May 26, 1978. It is built along a hillside and divided into two levels and is structurally characterized by courtyards and surrounding corridors. The exhibitions inside use advanced audio and video technologies to demonstrate the historical significance and far-reaching repercussions of the events that took place in Xibaipo during the years of revolution. 


Tips for Tourists:

Shijiazhuang is conveniently located along the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway and the Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway. Wuqiao Acrobatic World, built in 1993, covers an area of 200 hectares. It integrates sightseeing, recreational areas, folklore exhibitions and acrobatic performance spaces. It has become an international acrobatics tourist destination. Wuqiao Acrobatic World truly gives visitors the chance to enjoy the history, magic and power of Chinese acrobatics.



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VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010 Advertise on Site Contact Us