Inscribed list: National List, Fourth Batch
Inventory no.: III-112
Nominating unit(s): Beijing, Daqing District
Wuchaozi (武吵子), a type of martial arts folk dance from Beijing. Originating from the village of Taiziwu (太子務), Wuchaozi is a mix of wenchaozi music (文吵子, a kind of folk percussion orchestra), yangge, (秧歌, a form of Chinese folk dance) and martial arts.
It is said that Zhang Hong-ru (張鴻儒), a villager from Taiziwu who lived in the reign of Qianlong (乾隆), learned martial arts from the emperor’s teacher. He started an armed escort business after returning. Later in 1728 he founded “Shaolin Club” (少林會) to teach villagers his martial arts. There was another villager who was a eunuch who transcribed the music he heard at the imperial court, bringing the music back home. Zhang found that this music could be used in the battle performances of Shaolin Club. With development and innovation, the martial arts performances mixed with wenchaozi music and yangge dance, thus becoming its own style of group folk dance. The Chaozi Club (吵子會) of Taiziwu Village was established around the year 1730. From its humble beginnings of less than 20 members, it grew to more than a thousand members in the peak period of the 1930s.
The major musical instruments of Taiziwu wuchaozi are: haidi (海笛; also known as a suona, or double-reeded horn), xing (星; bells), tang (鏜; brass gong), dagu (大鼓; big drum), nao (鐃; big symbals), cha (鑔; small symbals), and dabo (大鈸; also large symbals). Cymbals give impassioned resonance and energy, and are the soul of wuchaozi. The drum commands the tempo, and the haidi produces the main melody. Small cymbals are used by the dancers, and cymbals and bells can be used to complement and augment the music. The current number of existing tracks for Taiziwu Wuchaozi are less than thirty, including “Wen Chao Feng” (文朝鳳), “Tiger Cutting into A Mountain” (開山虎), “A Golden Hill” (小金山), etc. As for the choreography, the series of movements are decided after the music and the beats of the cymbals have been arranged. The performers will kick, jump, and spar with each other. Since the performers need to dance with heavy cymbals, strength and endurance are essential.
The government is attentive to the preservation of Taiziwu wuchaozi. In addition to appointing a commissioner in charge of protecting and sorting out more than 20 old pieces of music, in 2007 the dance was included in the Beijing municipal list of intangible cultural heritage. In 2014 the first Wuchaozi Competition was held for 11 teams, showing the public the vigor of the local residents who participate, and also the value of passing on this tradition. The Chaozi Club of Taiziwu Village was awarded. However, wuchaozi is facing the major challenge of attracting young people to join the club or learn it. With insufficient money, obsolete props and performance venues, the work of inheriting and promoting wuchaozi is hard.
Since 2014, Taiziwu Wuchaozi has been included in the fourth batch of the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of China, applied by Daqing district in Beijing.
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A video recording the performance of wuchaozi played by the Chaozi Club (吵子會) of Taiziwu Village in Yufa Town (榆垡鎮太子務村), produced by the Education Department of the CPC Committee of Yufa Town (榆垡鎮黨委宣傳部), Daxing District Cultural Centre (大興區文化館) and the CPC Branch of Taiziwu Village (太子務村黨支部) in June 2017.