Beijing’s Monobob Shows Are a new, Chinese tradition in the midst of an international sports event


In Beijing 2022, mega attractions that will feed the imagination of spectators are certainly of interest: the Beijing National Stadium will host the men’s and women’s track and field finals, as well as a basketball tournament involving players from 30 countries.

But in one area where the sheer scale of the games promises a return to tradition, the sun will fall in the early morning: venues will be closed on select days in July and August for monobob shows, which will offer audiences a rare opportunity to attend colorful, down-to-earth performances that will show the traditional Chinese arts in all their vernacular forms.

The monobob performances, which are a long tradition in China, are known as qingghou zi maodao, or sort of “one-journey, sun brings everything together.” Their practice dates back 2,000 years, but became more widespread in the 20th century, when ancient Chinese poets set them to famous works and they became a gathering point in Chinese-speaking countries.

This new Chinese tradition is part of the organizers’ understanding of the ways in which the 2022 Beijing games can be conducted for an international audience: By talking about the local arts, they aim to give athletes and fans a chance to watch Chinese culture in the context of Chinese history, as well as to promote classical Chinese culture to young Chinese and offer Chinese musicians the opportunity to share their craft with the world.

China is notoriously nervous about spreading its culture overseas, because there is always fear that the traditions of its people and its officials could be tainted by excessive traffic and consumption. The monobob shows are a bid to prove to the world that China’s culture remains strong and widespread, as well as to show that its artists and musicians can not only survive but thrive in the modern age.

Is it as good as the classics? The days of late-night mah jongke – performed by silk boatmen or the Wei tribe, who have played in the caldron city of Wuhan – are long gone, though it is hoped that their successors will keep their tradition alive. But in some ways, the monobob performances appear to be more literal: the acrobats and acrobats walk across the ground in long circles, and the graceful women in flowing evening gowns dance in graceful little circles.

Although monobob shows in Beijing have certainly survived in other cities, the organizers are hoping for an increase in both its popularity and the number of international attendees.

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