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The Ancient Art of Chinese Pole Acrobatics

Historical records, such as mural paintings and brick carvings discovered in a Han Dynasty tomb in Chengdu, Szechuan Province, show that the origins of Chinese acrobatics date back more than 2,000 years. This type of acrobatics was developed mostly in the Qin and Han dynasties (221 B.C.-A.D. 230)

 

The way European and American circuses developed in the past was by picking up novelty acts, often with the use of animals, and was partly driven by commercial needs.

Chinese took a different approach, and just worked with what they already had to perfect their moves and presentation, and would constantly increase the level of difficulty.

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Chinese pole acrobats performing. (Image: wikimedia commons)

With Chinese Pole, the poles were originally laced with rubber material and were 10-30 feet high.

Traditional pole performers would wear full body costumes.

A well-known trick is called “the flag,” where the acrobat hangs straight out at a 90 degree angle using nothing but core and arm strength.

The 'flag,' showing the remarkable core strength of pole acrobats. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The ‘flag,’ showing the remarkable core and arm strength of pole acrobats. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The burn marks performers would get on their shoulders from training ended up becoming a way for acrobats to know who also trained, and also gain respect for one another in this art form.

The Province of Hebei, located on the plains of North-China and bordering the Bohai Sea on the east, is considered to be "the cradle of acrobatic arts," where the tradition of Chinese acrobatics originated two thousand years ago.(Screenshot/YouTube)

Hebei Province, located on the plains of North China and bordering the Bohai Sea on the east, is considered to be ‘the cradle of acrobatic arts,’ where the tradition of Chinese acrobatics originated 2,000 years ago. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Cirque Du Soleil has Chinese Pole in their performances these days, so you might be able to catch some there if you are liking what you see.

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Cuban pole acrobats demonstrating their incredible strength. (Image: Wikipedia)

 

For now, enjoy this old footage of some neatly cut performers, and to learn more on the history of Chinese Acrobatic Theater, check out Circopedia.

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