Inheritor of intangible cultural heritage of acrobats from E.China’s Jiangsu punished with jail sentence for organizing illegal border-crossing
Published: May 25, 2023 03:52 PM Updated: May 25, 2023 03:48 PM
Qiuqiao acrobatics Photo: Huaian Daily

Qiuqiao acrobatics Photo: Huaian Daily

An inheritor of intangible cultural heritage from Qiuqiao town in Huaian, East China’s Jiangsu Province, who organized foreign apprentice acrobats to illegally cross the border into China, received a three-year jail sentence with probation of five years and was fined 110,000 yuan ($15,582) in April, the China Youth Daily reported on Thursday.
The offender named Yan Qiang (pseudonym) born in the 1980s who organized multiple illegal border-crossings of 18 young foreign apprentice between China and Myanmar between 2016 and 2021 and obtained illegal gains of over 800,000 yuan, was handed the prison sentence on April 3 this year.
Born in a local most famous family of acrobats in Qiuqiao town, Huaian, Yan became the fourth generation of acrobat inheritor of his family in June 2007, and was named the acrobatic inheritor of intangible cultural heritage project of Huaian district in December 2018.
The intangible cultural heritage of Qiuqiao acrobatics appeared in the late 1800s and was enhanced and promoted by Yan Qiang’s grandfather in the 1970s. The acrobatics troupe had been performing in Huaian and surrounding areas for many years.
In its heyday, the Qiuqiao acrobatics developed into over 50 troupes with over 1,500 practitioners and a supporting cast of over 200 animals including horses, tigers and lions, delivering over 600 kinds of performances, according to the China Youth Daily. 
Qiuqiao town was named as “the hometown of Chinese folk culture and art” by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2008, and Huaian district was named as “the hometown of Chinese acrobatics” by the China Acrobats Association in September 2014.
However, Qiuqiao acrobatics gradually goes downward as the acrobatics industry has been slowly fading during Yan Qiang’s generation.
The acrobatic troupe has failed to recruit young apprentices for many years.
In August 2014, Yan’s performance received warm welcome from the local audience in Myanmar and attracted the interest of the local government.
In October 2014, Yan signed a contract with the local government in Myanmar to train young performers between the ages of 12 and 16.
Later, considering limited training conditions in Myanmar, Yang decided to bring these apprentices back to Qiuqiao for training.
Yan, disregarding the law, illegally took a total of 18 apprentice acrobats from Myanmar into China without any procedure through Yunnan by multiple measures including taking leather raft.
Yan also cooperated with other acrobat peers and arranged some apprentices to acrobatics troupes in North China’s Shanxi Province, Central China’s Henan Province and Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, gaining a total of over 800,000 yuan in profit.
Yan’s criminal behavior was exposed in June 2021 when police in Huaian, Jiangsu, discovered unidentified foreigners in Yan’s acrobatics troupe. Soon after that, Yan took the initiative to hand himself in.
In October 2022, the people’s procuratorate of Huaian district filed a prosecution against Yan. Under the efforts of the procuratorial department, Yan returned illegal gains of 500,000 yuan.
Given Yan’s voluntary surrender and confession of his crime, the prosecutor proposed a lighter sentence, the China Youth Daily reported. 
Moreover, the Huaian district people’s procuratorate reported the situation of the local acrobatics industry to the local government and the local culture, radio, film and tourism bureau, suggesting to protect the intangible cultural heritage as soon as possible with sufficient financial support and talent.
Under the joint efforts of all departments, some basic acrobatic items that are easy to learn have entered the local schools’ hobby classes on campus to let the local primary and middle school students to experience the charms of the traditional Chinese culture, expecting the Qiuqiao acrobatics to regain its former glory.
Global Times