Back to Stage

Ming the majestic

Chinese Warriors of Peking brings Chinese acrobats to Tacoma’s Rialto Theater

Photo courtesy Columbia Artists Management

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

China's Ming dynasty endured from 1368 to 1644 A.D. Its emperors ruled an area almost as large as that of the contiguous United States, and for longer than the U.S. has been a country. By 1600, the Great Ming Empire had over 160 million citizens. Among its contributions to world culture and technology were bristle toothbrushes, land mines, snorkeling equipment and the popular novels Journey to the West and Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

In that storied era, it was an annual tradition for the emperor to host a martial arts tournament in Peking, the capital city now transliterated as Beijing. (The English spelling shifted with the development of pinyin phonetics in the late 1950s.) Warriors from across the land met in Tianqiao Square adjoining the Temple of Heaven. They were serenaded by girls of the Peking Opera, then dazzled by the nimble feats of tumbling troupes, contortionists and jugglers. The emperor himself arrived to the thunder of drums, the fanfare of trumpets and the chanting of his adoring subjects. A theater of acrobats graces that site to this day.

That's all the history you need to appreciate the traveling show Chinese Warriors of Peking, directed by Qui Jian. It pits the legendary warriors of Shaolin Monastery against their counterparts from the eastern Wudang Mountains. After a narrow defeat -- which, in this show, occurs just before the intermission -- the rivalry deepens into a full-on grudge match the following year. Only the emperor and his wu xia superpowers will bring this conflict to a satisfying resolution. Along the way, audiences get treated to such riveting acts as Diving Through Rings, Group Sabre, girls juggling with Diabolos (hourglass-shaped yo-yos), Breaking Steel Bar on Head, Spear to Throat, Pagoda of Bowls and a qigong (i.e., holistic meditation) application dubbed A Needle's Breaking Through Glass, all costumed beautifully by Zhang Jing.

The spectacle benefits from a company of 60 years standing, which contributed artists to the American UniverSoul Circus and Cirque du Soleil. Its acrobats won numerous awards in Shandong province, home to similar competitions for over 2,000 years. Chinese performers have a saying about rehearsal: "One minute onstage, 10 years offstage." Watching the Chinese Warriors of Peking fly through their paces, the truth of that aphorism becomes awe-inspiringly clear.

CHINESE WARRIORS OF PEKING, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St., Tacoma, $29-$49, 253.591.5890,

Read next close


Hall of Valor

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search