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Shehuo Wujia of Yangquan city

Updated: 2020-10-16

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A performer of Shehuo Wujia dressed in a traditional costume walks on a rope over water in Sanquan village, Yangquan city. [Photo/yqnews.com.cn]

Shehuo Wujia is a popular folk performance that originated in Sanquan village of Yangquan city, Shanxi province. 

Shehuo Wujia, also called Wu Shehuo or Shehuo Jiazi, can be traced back to over a century ago. It is a type of traditional martial art and is usually put on during important occasions, such as Spring Festival and the temple fair, to show Shanxi people's fondness for Chinese kung fu. 

Through years of development, Shehuo Wujia has drawn on elements of martial arts routines, theatrical acrobatic combat and athletics shows to form the current comprehensive art form, which features both actual combat and performance.  

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Performers of Shehuo Wujia pose for a photo. [Photo/yqnews.com.cn]

The exaggerated movement of martial arts performed to the beat of a gong and drums can tell traditional stories of historical figures and events, such as the story of Qin Qiong, a notable figure from the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, and the legend of Zhao Kuangyin, the founding emperor of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The villagers usually put on makeup and wear costumes, telling their stories through body movements that often utilize weapons, such as knives, swords and sticks, to give vivid performances. There are also unarmed performances given by a single person.

Shehuo Wujia was listed as a municipal intangible cultural heritage of Yangquan city in 2015.

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Shehuo Wujia performers entertain villagers with their physical storytelling routine. [Photo/yqnews.com.cn]

"Our mission is not only to better inherit Shehuo Wujia, but also to spread it widely," said Wang Haijin, who is in charge of the protection and inheritance of this traditional folk art in Sanquan village. 

The village has done a lot of work to pass down the folk performance, documenting artists who can perform Shehuo Wujia and setting up an activity center where rehearsals and performances can be staged. Money has also been set aside to buy instruments, properties, costumes and musical instruments. In addition to teaching classic stories, the village has compiled a new textbook covering Shehuo Wujia and encouraged young people to participate in the teaching team. 

Local authorities have also arranged for a performance team to put on shows in Shanghai, Taiyuan and other cities to introduce more people to the traditional art form.