Spring Festival's most gruesome performance

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-21 19:28:01

Xue Shehuo performers display their horrifying costumes during a show in Yanjiaan village in Baoji, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province on February 14. Photo: IC

Folk artists across China have tried to create a harmonious and joyful atmosphere during the Spring Festival holidays, except in Yanjiaan village of Baoji, Northwest Shaanxi Province, where a gruesome art form is put on to drive horror into spectators' hearts.

Performers of Shehuo dressed in opera costumes and wearing heavy makeup parade through village streets during the silent pantomime performances, popular in rural areas in northern and northwestern provinces. The art form can be traced back to ancient rituals held to worship the earth for good harvests and fortunes.

Xue Shehuo, literally Bloody Shehuo, is a unique variant of the genre which highlights horrible scenes depicting people being stabbed by knives or scissors and with axes stuck in their heads. While Shehuo in general focuses on well known tales and characters, the dark art of Xue Shehuo is aimed at demonstrating the consequences of evil actions to the audience and deterring bad deeds.

The art of Xue Shehuo is relatively young, dating back to about a century ago. While it was performed until the 1930s, it wasn't until 2012 that these gruesome performances resumed.

It takes hours to prepare for a Xue Shehuo performance, with much time spent applying makeup and affixing the knives and scissors onto the performers' bodies.

However, the techniques of gluing the weapons to bodies have been kept secret. Xue Shehuo performers also stick to the tradition of only accepting male apprentices.

First-time audiences who don't know what they are about to witness are often terrified by the performers' appearance and the mystery behind the show. Still, the ultra-realistic makeup attracts throngs of villagers who crowd around the actors when they perform during traditional festivals.

Global Times

Artist Yan Chunlin performs as Guan Yu from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms during a Shehuo performance. Photo: IC

Children wearing makeup play in the village before the show starts. Photo: IC


Performers chat to each other before the show. Photo: IC

An evil man in the play has an axe thrust into his head as punishment. Photo: IC

An actor plays a man with a bench sticking out of his head. Photo: IC


Newspaper headline: Bloody pantomime

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