Villagers' acrobatic flips out of poverty

Xinhua
On a small stage in Dongbeizhuang Village, 30-year-old acrobat Liu Desheng climbs onto a spinning pillar, slowly balances his body and "walks" in the air.
Xinhua

On a small stage in Dongbeizhuang Village, 30-year-old acrobat Liu Desheng climbs onto a spinning pillar, slowly balances his body and “walks” in the air. “Walking in outer space” is his specialty.

Liu is a resident of Dongbeizhuang Village in central China’s Henan Province. Hundreds of acrobats live in Dongbeizhuang, one of the birthplaces of Chinese acrobatics.

Liu’s performances are widely acclaimed and he has won many medals in China and abroad. But repeated injuries had caused him to doubt his future in acrobatics. 

“After the third fracture of my arm in 2009, I thought of giving up,” he said.

It was in Dongbeizhuang that he fell in love again with acrobatics. He came to the village because of his wife, a fellow acrobat. After watching the villagers perform acrobatics, Liu decided not to give up on being an acrobat. 

“The extensive use of farm tools in the performance gives the audience a sense of familiarity,” said Liu. “For me, the village is a paradise.”

Dongbeizhuang, which has a population of 2,800, had been impoverished.

The village’s barren land forced residents to find ways of making a living. Most of them chose a profession in acrobatics.

Villagers practiced acrobatics with their possessions, such as straw hats and hoes.

Today, more than 400 acrobats from Dongbeizhuang perform in the country and overseas. Thirty-seven of them are leaders of troupes.

In 2008, acrobatics in Dongbeizhuang was listed as an intangible cultural heritage of China. With the support of local authorities, more acrobats are returning to the village to teach students.

Qiao Jinsheng is one of the returnees. The 76-year-old is from the sixth generation of the renowned acrobatics troupe of the Qiao family. 

“I will teach children my acrobatic techniques and tell them the different expectations of people worldwide, so that the ancient art from this small village can go global,” he said.

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