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Gaoqiao (Stilt Dancing) in Shanxi

Gaoqiao (Stilt Dancing) in Shanxi

Gaoqiao, also known as gaoqiao yangge, is a folk dance widely distributed throughout China which is so named because performers walk on stilts while dancing (note: qiao in Chinese means stilts). Time-honored gaoqiao originated from an acrobatic show in ancient times. Images of men walking on stilts have been found in the stone inscriptions of the Northern Wei Dynasty (368-534). Moreover, gaoqiao is performed in dancing groups, which have many members, most of the dancers, dressed up in costumes, play certain characters from ancient myths or historical stories; the common properties may include a fan, a handkerchief, a stick, a sword or a spear; there are two performing patterns, particularly, caijie (walking the street) and liaochang (centering on the scene) which can be further divided into dachang (a large scene) in which the dancing squad performs in different formations and patterns while walking; and xiaochang (a small scene) in which there are only two to three performers, usually a couple of male and female performers who sing while dancing. The stilts used range from 30 to up to 300 centimeters high. Performing style, gaoqiao can be divided into wenqiao (civilized stilt dancing) and wuqiao (martial arts styled stilt dancing), the former featuring twisted walking and plot shows and the latter focusing on tricks display or martial arts.

Gaoqiao • gaoqiao zoushou

  • Nominating unit(s): Jishan County, Shanxi Province

Gaoqiao zoushou is a cultural activity performance presented at temple fairs at Yangcheng Village, Qinghe Town, Jishan County, Shanxi Province. The early days of the Yongzheng reign (1722-1735), the Qing Dynasty, the show was staged at grand temple fairs, and  it has of a history of over 300 years.

Gaoqiao zoushou consists of an animal head, an animal body and performers. During the performance, two performers walk on stilts, riding animals, and with a heavy load, they move along to the rhythm provided. Percussion instruments, such as gongs and flower-drums, are played in the background.  The images of walking animals have passed since ancient times with their original appearance preserved with only slight alterations. The animal heads and bodies have been molded by highly accomplished artists  are sewn and bound with such substances such as spun yarn, hem paper, thin threads, thin bamboo, iron wires and cloth, and look mighty and exquisite after being painted with colors. Yangcheng Village in Qinghe Town is divided into South and North Yangcheng. The walking animals in the southern village include unicorns, wolves, kylins, hobbyhorses, and cats, while those in the north have black leopards, spotted deer, and tapirs.

Gaoqiao zoushou, as a folk dance, enrich the citizens’ spiritual and cultural lives, enhance harmony between humanity and nature, and provides the local people with good weather and plentiful harvest. Today, performers of gaoqiao zoushou are scarce. There are measures needed to ensure that this dance does not extinct.