‘The Chinese Warriors of Peking’ bring martial arts drama to Rialto

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The Chinese Warriors of Peking are bringing their acrobatic and visually spectacular show to the stage of Tacoma’s Rialto Theater on Thursday, Sept. 20, 7:30 p.m. Hailing from China, the ensemble will perform thrilling physical feats fused with traditional Chinese customs to deliver high-intensity martial arts and breathtaking acrobatics. Set during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), this is the tale of two rival martial arts disciplines competing in the ancient Chinese capital of Peking. Under the direction of Qui Jian, this performance provides a culturally enriching experience filled with juggling, acrobatics, and live stage combat.

The troupe will act out a narrative from the history of China: Peking was the capital of the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644. Once year, the emperor held a royal martial arts tournament in Peking, inviting warriors from all over the country to attend. In Tianqiao Square, large crowds were drawn to witness the warriors demonstrating their impressive skill. Every school and discipline of Martial Arts arrived in Peking from all over China. Before the tournament began, the crowd in Tianqiao Square was kept entertained by the Peking Opera girls performing with yo-yos and acrobats giving performances in juggling and contortion. Then, the drums and trumpets sounded as the emperor arrived. “Long live his Majesty!” the crowd chanted as the emperor announced the beginning of the tournament.

All of the different martial arts schools competed in the ring utilizing their various disciplines, techniques, and weapons to thwart their opponents. After several rounds of combat, the two schools left standing were the Shoalin and Wudang warriors. The final round was grueling and tense. The warriors were evenly matched but ultimately the Wudang warriors were struck down and defeated. The emperor rose, stopping the tournament and announced the Shaolin warriors as the winners. The Wudang warriors confronted the Shoalin warriors uproariously in the middle of the ring, dissatisfied with the outcome of the tournament. To settle the tension, the emperor promised that in next year’s tournament, he will offer the Shaolin and Wudang warriors an opportunity to compete exclusively with each other. The Shaolin warriors left Peking hailing their victory while the Wudang warriors vowed to seek revenge and defeat the Shaolin warriors next year.

A year passes as the next royal martial arts tournament finally arrives. It is held at the front square of the royal palace. The emperor arrived very early escorted by a group of female guards. They rode on horses, decorated in magnificent armor with spears in hand. They are followed by an acrobatic families’ presentation of Pagoda of Bowls and Icarian acts keeping the crowd, and the emperor, entertained before the tournament begins.

The emperor announced the beginning of the tournament and the special campaign between the Shaolin and Wudang warriors. Wudang warriors fought hard to seek their revenge as the two schools battled with breathtaking intensity. Ultimately, the contest ended in a draw. Frustrated by the outcome, the Wudang suggested a challenge of their own to determine the winner: one of their warriors must balance atop of four spears to be crowned the victor. The Shaolin warrior passed – the Wudang warriors can’t believe in their eyes. With the sound of drums, the frustrated Wudang prepared to attack the Shoalin once more. Unexpectedly, the emperor jumped into the ring, restraining the Wudang warriors by hitting their acupoints and rendering them motionless. To diffuse the tension once more, the emperor announced that he required both schools to be his royal warriors of Peking and defenders of the peace to the dynasty. The Martial Arts tournament ended as the two schools are appointment to defend the city of Peking together.

Tickets are $29, $39 and $49. For information, visit www.broadwaycenter.org/events/calendar/eventdetail/777/-/chinese-warriors-of-peking or www.facebook.com/events/1856608841025984.

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