The weather is scorching hot. Dripping with sweat, students train vigorously from morning until night every day of the week. The youngest student is only 4 years old and the eldest is just over 40.
This acrobatic school is located in YingShang county close to the city of Fuyang in the province of Anhui and averages more than 100 active students. Students come mostly from Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong province. They typically enroll to learn acrobatics in order to make a living out of their skill, while at the same time continuing an old tradition of Chinese folk acrobatics.
Training starts very early. In the wee hours of the morning before dawn, students are already stretching their legs while playing with their mobile phones. Everyone wakes up at 4:00 am and practices for more than 10 hours a day.
Song Yujiao started to learn acrobatics when she was 12 years old, and this year she will turn 50. Seven years ago, feeling her body gradually becoming too old to perform, she decided to set up an acrobatic school with her husband, Mou Honghu.
At the school she specializes in helping children with their waist flexibility. “This type of exercise is achieved step by step”, she explains, “It is also an exercise where you should not apply too much force at once. Children often contort in pain and sometimes they cry.”
Song Yujiao’s grandson, Cheng Zexun, is only 5 years old and is already practicing everyday with the other students. His future might already be decided as part of the next generation of acrobats in the family. Or maybe not… He is often punished by his teachers for being unruly and has to kneel in front of everyone. 8 year old Xu Xinxin often cries while practicing with the other students. She told us that it was her mom’s idea for her study acrobatics during school summer holiday. Her mom promised her that it will only last for one month; however, after one month finished, Xu Xinxin realized she still has another month to endure. She felt cheated by her mom so she often cries.Only a minority of parents expect their children to be here for toughening up. Most of them hope that their children can learn some skills to make money in the future. Within 2 months practice, everyone will learn at least 2 skills; as matter of fact, there is no time to slack off.There are many folk acrobatic groups performing in north Anhui province and the city of Yongcheng (Henan Province). Most of them are family run. They bring the action to small villages and cities.
Jack is 5 years old. We find him alone by the window, he is practicing back bent, a rope tied around his waist so he can get up by himself. He came to the school with his parents to learn acrobatics. He is very hard working and does not dare to be lazy because his parents are always watching him.
Jack’s mom and dad are also training at the school. When the sun goes down Jack’s mom practices outside in the field juggling with her feet, while her husband and the teacher lie on top of her feet. This type of exercise requires a lot of strength and balance – more than most people can handle. At 7 pm, training is over and all the children eat together at the canteen – only adults are allowed to go outside to have diner. For younger students during their study time, they will live/ eat / sleep together at the school 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Average study time for acrobatics is not very long. Study length varies between 1 to 3 / 4 months. Students come and go and there are constantly new waves of students.
杂技 （zájì）- acrobatics
训练 (xùnliàn) – training
练习 (liànxí) – exercise
腰部 (yāobù) – waist
身体 (shēntǐ) – body
演出 (yǎnchū ) – to perform
表演 (biǎoyǎn) – performance
宿舍 (sùshè) – dorm
考验 (kǎoyàn ) – test / trial
吃苦 (chīkǔ ) – bear hardship
偷懒 (tōulǎn) – be lazy
谋生 (móushēng) – make a living
We feature a news article from Chinese news that may not caught the eye of the western media. Find out what happens in China outside of what is published on China Daily. Johann, from Easy Mandarin Chinese School (www.easymandarin.cn), will be finding, translating and helping us learn some related words to teach us a little more about China