Troupes of acrobats are a thousand years old Chinese tradition. Archaeological artefacts dating back from over 2000 years ago depict acrobats performing stunts similar to the ones seen nowadays at Temple and village fairs across the country. In spite of its long history, this folk tradition is slowly fading. Modern sources of entertainment such as movie, tv, video games and the internet are serious competition, but the lack of acrobats is the biggest threat. Traditionally, acrobats were recruited at a very young age in farmers families who thought of this profession as a viable alternative to field work. The apprentices would then go through years of extremely painful training in the hope of eventually being recruited by a big national troupe. Nowadays, for rural kids, heading to the city to work as a migrant-worker is much more promising than farming and of course joining an acrobats troupe, and very few are ready to go through years of gruelling training. The few who still do usually lack the intellectual capabilities to study in middle schools.
A few days before Chinese New Year, I went to spend a couple of days with a troupe of acrobats as they were preparing for temple fair shows held during this annual holidays around the country.