Burning Sedan on Stilts
Wanshan Village is located in Qingyang City of northwest China's Henan Province. As a strategically important location with roads extending in all directions, the village was developed as a military outpost in ancient China. The old village consists of five communities named by their locations, among which the Southern Community is the cradle of the so-called "burning sedan on stilts."
The practice is said to have originated during the Tang and Song dynasties when locals celebrated the Spring Festival with performances involving dancing on stilts and carrying bridal sedan-chairs.
The custom developed further during the Ming Dynasty (date) when Zhu Zaiyu, an imperial prince, abandoned his title and retired near Wanshan Village. He found that the folk artists there ranked at the bottom of the social structure, and feeling sorry for them, helped create a new art which combined stilts dancing with carrying the bridal sedan-chair.
The new art substituted night performances for daytime shows, with candles and a Chinese dragon's head spouting fire being attached to the bridal sedan-chair, to signify wishes for a happy and prosperous life among the local people during the coming year.
The performances typically were held between New Year's Day and the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, with troupes of more than 100 artists marching through the streets on stilts. The performances made Wanshan Village a regional attraction.
The practice has dipped in recent decades, with older artists passing away. However, state policies aimed at preserving non-material heritage have helped to resurrect the art and in June of last year, villagers began learning the art again from senior practitioners. Two month later, they had revived performances and took part this year in the Henan Non-Material Heritage Festival during the spring festival.