Have a Walk on Stilts!

Cai Gaoqiao, or walking on stilts, is a popular traditional performance of the Spring Festival, especially in Northern China. Cai means walking on, and Gaoqiao means stilts. It is a performance which employs two lengths of wooden sticks over three meters long to one's feet and walking on them.

This kind of performance can be traced back to very ancient origins. According to the archives, a man named Lanzi in the state of Song (circa 7th century BC) entertained the first Song emperor by walking and running with two wooden poles. Chinese acrobatics reached a high level of sophistication as early as the Warring States Period during the third century BC, with acrobats proficient at juggling seven daggers while manipulating 3-meter stilts. Today’s skillful performers can perform truly amazing feats and extremely difficult movements on stilts. The professionals even put on dramas while walking about on stilts.

Most stilts used today are made from wood. There are "double stilts" and "single stilt" performances. The double stilts are usually tied to one's shank to fully demonstrate his skill; and the single stilt is held by the performer so that he can go up and down freely. The performance can be also divided into "Wenqiao" (the civil one) and "Wuqiao" (the martial one). The former stresses appearance and amusement, while the latter emphasizes individual unique skill. Gaoqiao has now assumed strong local flavor and national color.

In Shandong Province, Gaoqiao is done at three levels, and people at the upper level stand on the shoulder of the lower ones.In Beijing and Tianjin, performers show their high skills by jumping on one foot or going through obstacles. Some performers can even jump down from four highly-piled tables on one foot.

In Northeast China, Gaoqiao in southern Liaoning Province is the most famous. It has complete procedures and a standard form. At first, performers must "Daxiang", that is, one stands on the shoulder of another and do a Yangge dance. Then they run to change queue formations. At last, they perform in groups including pair dancing, "catching butterflies", "fishing" and small local operas, etc.


Source: http://www.chinaculture.org/