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Diabolo Spinning

Diabolo Spinning

The Diabolo has become extremely popular throughout the world.  Spinning the cups, or discs, is now a major sport, a popular exercise, a wonderful child’s toy and great performance art (from major Chinese acrobatic troupes with stunning diabolo routines to the Cirque du Soleil, for example).  It has also been called ‘the Chinese yoyo’, and in its current form the diabolo did evolve from the Chinese yoyo.  It consists of two rods joined with string, and the diabolo itself, disc-shaped wheels joined by a wooden spool at the center.

The Chinese diabolo is made from bamboo, and the name comes from the hollow center (Its Chinese name is Kongzhu, “Kong” means hollow and “zhu” refers to bamboo). During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the diabolo was often confused with the Kongzhong, (commonly known as a maraca).  It is also known as Cheling (devil on two sticks). Diabolos that have been made in Beijing and Tianjin are the most popular.

Diabolos have a long history. The Outline History of Beijing Scenery in the Ming Dynasty describes includes descriptions of how diabolos were made, and how people played with them. Cultural relics excavated from the Dingling Mausoleum also underline this long history, and diabolo spinning has certainly been around for over 600 years.

Diabolo Spinning

The diabolo is whirled and tossed on a string held between two sticks, one in each hand. They are generally either single or dual axis. The former contains a disc on its single side, while the latter contains two discs on both its sides. There are holes around the edge of the disc, including a larger bass hole and several smaller treble holes. There can be two, four, six rings to a maximum of 36 rings. As the diabolo spins, the holes producing strong, resonant sounds.  The holes and sounds produced are particular to the Chinese diabolo.

Beijing is one of the representative regions that is maintaining and developing the folk sport of diabolo spinning. A professional non-government organization has been established in Beijing, called the Beijing Toy Institute Diabolo Special Committee, with over one hundred members, including expert diabolo spinners and diabolo makers. There is also constant innovation and invention of new and spectacular tricks for the diabolo with fascinating names like ‘the golden rooster flies up to its perch’, ‘tramp over hill and dale’ and others that dazzle the eyes.  For example, in a routine such as ‘ants climbing up the tree’ a performer ties one end of a long string to a tree with the other end in his hand while another performer spins the diabolo and throws it onto the long string; then the string holder pulls hard on the string to throw the diabolo as high as 50-60 meters. As it falls back down, the original spinner will catch it, steady as a rock.

Diabolo Spinning

Diabolo spinning is beneficial, involving all parts of the body in the movements that are required to keep the diabolo spinning, improving hand/eye co-ordination, and it’s a lot of fun. 

With the rapid development of cities and the change of people’s life styles, as well as modern versions, the traditional diabolo is facing a reduction in its existing cultural space, unless the sport receives active encouragement and support.