during Spring Festival in the Chinese
lunar calendar, Shehuo is a spontaneous traditional festive occasion for
songs and dances prevailing mainly in the countryside of North China. With a
long history, these festive affairs are rooted from the primitive sacrificial
activities in which ancient people prayed for harvest and affluence with their
songs and dances from "She", originally meaning the God of Earth, and "Huo",
literally meaning fire which ancient people believed to have the magic power of
driving away the evil spirit.
Scattered historical records demonstrate the existences of Shehuo in the Spring
and Autumn Period (770- 476BC), the Warring
States Period (475-221BC) and Song Dynasty (960-1279). By the time of the
Dynasty (1644-1911), Shehuo in some places had been incorporated with the Temple
But the reasons why Shehuo has survived and developed throughout Chinese
history is not only limited to the sacrificial purpose. Shehuo is also a mass
entertainment activity that involves a great deal of performers, virtually
enabling almost all the men in the village to participate either in the performance or the preparation work. Besides, it is
also the natural outpouring of enthusiasm and love for life as well as a
demonstration of talents and vitality.
In every first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the neighboring villages
will all send their representatives to take part in the region's celebration,
making the slack season in farming also the year's most jubilant and joyful
There are many kinds of performances in the Shehuo activity. The main kinds
include Xinzi (standing on wick), carrying desks, stilts, bamboo horse, lion
dance and the land boat. Among them Xinzi and stilts are the most popular.
Xinzi is more like acrobatics.
Little girls and boys in the traditional costumes may stand on the edge of a
"sword", "flower", "tree branch", or even "corn leaves". Some even use "spears"
stabbing into the abdomen of the performer. In the ancient time, four, eight or
even a dozen of people would lift up the desks that carry the children. On some
desks there are two to four stories with a plate rotating in the center.