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Forums > Social Discussion > Children of the Chinese Circus

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Spanner
BRONZE Member since Feb 2003

Spanner

remembers when it was all fields round here
Location: in the works... somewhere...

Total posts: 2790
Posted:Children of the Chinese Circus

Did anyone see this on BBC 4 (UK) last night?
It may be a repeat as I seem to remember it being filmed in about 2005 but I can't seem to find any other information about it online.

The documentary cut between teachers from the Shanghai circus school discussing a student with criticism which might have been vaguely appropriate for a someone of my age, or a teenager at the very youngest, but which actually turned out to be an 8 year old boy who was, in my opinion, being consistantly bullied by them, to an ex-performer preparing to have surgery to correct the injuries he'd sustained to his spine through similar practice and performance during his youth frown

It wasn't narrated, apart from subtitles, though it didn't need to be, as only seeing the last 40 minutes was enough to put me off watching children in the circus, but I would like to watch the whole programme so please let me know if you have a link or if you know if/when it'll be repeated.


"I thought you are man, but
you are nice woman.

yay,

:R"

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Birgit
BRONZE Member since Jan 2005

Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 4145
Posted:Don't watch tv, so can't help you...

Just keep in mind though that most adults you see in the circus (from the same countries that is) are the product of being trained like that SINCE age 8 (or more like, 4 or 5), too.

I read an article on training schools for the Chinese national gymnastics team, where 6-y-old girls had grown-up men sitting on their backs to test and increase bendiness, children who made mistakes were put up against the wall with everyone pointing at them and publicly shaming them, and the children were made to learn dozens of mantras that they had to repeat when they made mistakes or had to cry because of the pain, such as "my teacher is always right and I will do whatever he says" (but a bit more flowery).

A lot of these kids, who do NOT make it into the gymnastic teams, will end up being swept up by the circuses - I suppose for them it means some of the pain was worth it after all, even if there's more to follow. frown


"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

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newgabe
SILVER Member since Mar 2005

newgabe

what goes around comes around. unless you're into stalls.
Location: Bali

Total posts: 4030
Posted:Indeed. Have a read of Mao's Last Dancer for a personal insight into the dance training endured by Li Cunxin.

Or as my very traditional Chinese acupuncturist said as he hammered what seemed to be 8 inch nails into my anatomy..
*no pain no gain...*

(I now go to a rather gentle lady who seems to produce wonderful results with a minimum of ( my ) screaming...)


.....Can't juggle balls but I sure as hell can juggle details....

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Neon_Shaolin
GOLD Member since Jul 2005

Neon_Shaolin

hehe, 'Member' huhuh
Location: Behind you. With Jam

Total posts: 6120
Posted:I suppose it is a mixture of national ancestry and poverty that the culture is very accepting of what westerners would consider abusive and archaic.



It's very easy for me to type away on my PC with my skinny not-done-a-day-of-hard-labour-in-my-life fingers, sat in my cushy office chair earning more in one month than these kid's families will earn in a year to say 'that's cruel' but that is a way of life over there where the State Circus is the preferable alternative to joining the army.



Aside from the constant risk of physical injury, I cannot say for certainty that the harsh life they lead will lead to psychological damage the way we see it if it is the norm over there.



How many films have we seen where shaolin monks are trained at a very young age to take advantage of a child's natural suppleness and resiliance. I'm probably being callous when I say that the results speak for themselves. International superstars Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Sammo Hung have undergone similiar hardships in both poverty and ironfist-bootcamp training, and are now reverred for their almost superhuman agility.



I have been privy to this very different mentality that extends beyond the circus and into almost every day life. I'm sure most Brits agree with me when I point out that with our unions and constant tea breaks, we hardly get anything done! (Look at national rail!) In Hong Kong and China they manage to build a 10/20-mile suspension bridge in the time it's taken to fix half of our railways (and we're STILL not done). Their diligence can often be at the expense of what we would consider to be human rights and civil liberties.



Every now and then I ask myself is it worth it? To this day I still don't have a definite answer... Especially when focusing back the the original topic of the Circus... Though I do sometimes wish I did learn to do martial arts at an early age, had I grown up in China I probably WOULD've accepted it...


"I used to want to change the world, now I just wanna leave the room with a little dignity..." - Lotus Weinstock

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mcp
PLATINUM Member since May 2003

mcp

Flying Water Muppet
Location: Edin-borrow.

Total posts: 5276
Posted:No doubt some of the chinese folk would be outraged by what we let western kids get away with. While we obsess over how they allow physical and mental abuse of their kids to train them for a future career, western kids grow obese, insolent, drug addled and stupid, to no particular gain at all. But y'know, at least they weren't bullied, or physically punished. wink

"the now legendary" - Kaskade
"the still legendary" - Kaskade

I spunked in my friend's aquarium and the fish ate it. I love all fish. Especially the pink ones. They are my bitches. - Anon.

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Birgit
BRONZE Member since Jan 2005

Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 4145
Posted:Well said, Neon, but on that account, if you'd grown up in say Saudi-Arabia or Iran you'd probably think it's okay to throw rocks at gay folks. But it still wouldn't be right. Depends on where you draw the line of course, queue eating meat, torture for information on terrorists, beating children in general...

I'm aware of the economical situation of many of the kids' families though, the report I read made a big point of that and the lack of alternatives, but that doesn't keep me from thinking that at least army training doesn't start until you're a bit older, and I'd even suspect that the army's healthier in the long run. (Sidetrack thought: Is the Chinese army a safe place to be in? Would anyone in their right mind attack China?)

Anyway, I did see the State Circus a few years ago, and I was amazed and very much impressed by it. But I don't think it's wrong to keep in mind what the performers had to go through to be performing like that and to have the privilege to represent their country and travel the world.


"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

Owner of Dragosani's left half

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Neon_Shaolin
GOLD Member since Jul 2005

Neon_Shaolin

hehe, 'Member' huhuh
Location: Behind you. With Jam

Total posts: 6120
Posted:Actually physical punishment with the cane is still very much the norm... And with EVERY kid knowing kung fu etc, the playing field is still pretty much level and bullying doesn't go away. Ever. shrug

"I used to want to change the world, now I just wanna leave the room with a little dignity..." - Lotus Weinstock

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Wild Child
SILVER Member since Sep 2004

Wild Child

Star Trekker
Location: Cheshire

Total posts: 1733
Posted:No matter how i try, I can't get rid of the images of the Chinese 'Orphanages' I saw some years ago. When life and labour is cheap humans are worse than any animal for the cruelty they're happy to inflict on their own, no matter what their race, colour or creed.

And Meg is so right - what are we doing to our western kids?

Watched the Return of the Tribe last night and the cheif summed up our plight by saying we had no respect. That's what it all comes down to - child abuse, abuse of any type is a lack of respect for other people and ultimately for ourselves.

Who can honestly say they're not de-sensitised by living and working in the corproate west and haven't stopped listineg to that small quiet voice that sys 'This isn't right'?


'The last rays of crimson on the spindle tree as the cerise fruit splits and reveals its orange seeds in a gloriously clashing colour scheme no-one would ever dare to wear'
Euonymous Europeus

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Birgit
BRONZE Member since Jan 2005

Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 4145
Posted:Re mcp... just because B is wrong, doesn't make A right. If the children were at an age at (and in a position in) which they could make a well-informed choice as to a circus or sports career, fine. They're not. And for the parents, it's an affordable way of boarding the children somewhere with food and giving them an off-chance to have a career later. Whee! Only of course, if the children were old enough, that would be TOO old to work on the hyperflexibility etc.

It's not like there's nothing similar going on here. I've met people who've ruined their body trying to be a football pro. A large number of junior pro cyclists have been found dead in their beds because the epo thickened their blood and their hearts gave out. Trying to get somewhere in a sports career isn't limited to China, and you can rest assured, especially since the 1-child-per-couple initiative, that there's also a large number of spoiled brats sitting in front of the tv after school and getting fat. The two aren't exclusive in a society.


"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

Owner of Dragosani's left half

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mcp
PLATINUM Member since May 2003

mcp

Flying Water Muppet
Location: Edin-borrow.

Total posts: 5276
Posted:yeah i know. I was providing a contrast. We have enough TV about parents living vicariously through their kids, pushing them unreasonable hard. Well americans do at least.

However I'm a new believer in trying to sort out your own house before trying to sort out the worlds problems. It's pretty much a form of escapism to get so pent up with problems in far off countries where we can have no effect other than opinions, all the while ignoring the problems close to hand.

[ Morally of course, there is no solution, since by the time any child could make an informed decision it would be too late, they won't be able to reach their full potential. I think you'd be hard pressed to find an olympic level gymnast anywhere in the world that hasn't trained since < 8 years of age. Training from an early age is like a drug (an advantage fair or otherwise, that can have unforeseen side effects in the future.), maybe that should be banned too, and we could reduce the level of olympic ability the world over. ]


"the now legendary" - Kaskade
"the still legendary" - Kaskade

I spunked in my friend's aquarium and the fish ate it. I love all fish. Especially the pink ones. They are my bitches. - Anon.

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mcp
PLATINUM Member since May 2003

mcp

Flying Water Muppet
Location: Edin-borrow.

Total posts: 5276
Posted:yeah i know. I was providing a contrast. We have enough TV about parents living vicariously through their kids, pushing them unreasonable hard. Well americans do at least.

However I'm a new believer in trying to sort out your own house before trying to sort out the worlds problems. It's pretty much a form of escapism to get so pent up with problems in far off countries where we can have no effect other than opinions, all the while ignoring the problems close to hand.

[ Morally of course, there is no solution, since by the time any child could make an informed decision it would be too late, they won't be able to reach their full potential. I think you'd be hard pressed to find an olympic level gymnast anywhere in the world that hasn't trained since < 8 years of age. Training from an early age is like a drug (an advantage fair or otherwise, that can have unforeseen side effects in the future.), maybe that should be banned too, and we could reduce the level of olympic ability the world over. there's the choice: let thechild choose and it'll never be world class, or have an external choice and make a world class athelete / artist etc. ]


"the now legendary" - Kaskade
"the still legendary" - Kaskade

I spunked in my friend's aquarium and the fish ate it. I love all fish. Especially the pink ones. They are my bitches. - Anon.

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Birgit
BRONZE Member since Jan 2005

Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 4145
Posted:Hmmm... I didn't see any immediate call for sorting China out, just spanner's observation that she found the programme quite unsettling.

Apart from that, I can't fully agree, because we still create demand by watching the circuses (or whatever the plural is) and the sports, just like many of us are buying clothes made by other children who couldn't make that choice themselves.

There's enough programmes (and certainly HoP discussions) about what's wrong with "modern Western society"'s children, too. Sorting that out, yes, but I also believe in at least making people aware of what they consume at the Olympics for example can't hurt smile

Re the waiting till the kid's old enough and ruining their chances of being world class, I know... mentioned it. Personally I wouldn't mind the overall level to go down... I've especially always wanted to see a Tour de France without drugs and with bikes like they had at the first one, wine drinking breaks in villages allowed, and see how many people would make it through. I'd happily take the slower pace for that smile

The other alternative would be to allow every kind of modification and see what happens. But the way it is right now with dozens of olympic athletes being caught using stuff every year and who knows which of the ones that doesn't get caught was smart, or who didn't actually use anything, following "world class" sports has lost a lot of its appeal for me.


"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

Owner of Dragosani's left half

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mcp
PLATINUM Member since May 2003

mcp

Flying Water Muppet
Location: Edin-borrow.

Total posts: 5276
Posted:My response was in light of it being a tv program. This is what I see being wrong with TV, the escapism aspect. Even when it's about an important issue, it's just a distraction, a confusion about the issues that we could affect that are all around us, but that are so everyday and emcompassing that's it's almost impossible to get a hold of them.

Yeah, I'd rather do something nobody else can do / has done and die young / be a crippled old person. Maybe it's cos I'm young but I think being old is for sitting down and thinking, and youth is for jumping about and doing stuff with your body. Even if you pass your mental peak at about the same time as your physical peak.

If you wanna see sport and booze watch amateur rugby. It's not that much fun.

The drug controls are a different issue... a bit of a massive tangent for this thread. I'll leave it there.


"the now legendary" - Kaskade
"the still legendary" - Kaskade

I spunked in my friend's aquarium and the fish ate it. I love all fish. Especially the pink ones. They are my bitches. - Anon.

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Birgit
BRONZE Member since Jan 2005

Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 4145
Posted:I don't watch tv (and even when I did I generally missed out on reality tv and Oh-My-God-look-at-this programmes), so wouldn't be able to comment coherently. Let's leave it at this then, agreed smile

"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

Owner of Dragosani's left half

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Spanner
BRONZE Member since Feb 2003

Spanner

remembers when it was all fields round here
Location: in the works... somewhere...

Total posts: 2790
Posted: Written by: Birgit


Hmmm... I didn't see any immediate call for sorting China out, just spanner's observation that she found the programme quite unsettling.




Indeed: I must admit I had no idea there'd even be this many and varied responses and thought it might be quite likely I'd be returning to a thread with a couple of people saying they hadn't seen it but with ideas on where to find it.

But this is also good, so thanks, especially to Neon for the insight smile

 Written by: newgabe


Indeed. Have a read of Mao's Last Dancer for a personal insight into the dance training endured by Li Cunxin.




Cheers smile

 Written by: Birgit


I read an article on training schools for the Chinese national gymnastics team, where 6-y-old girls had grown-up men sitting on their backs to test and increase bendiness, children who made mistakes were put up against the wall with everyone pointing at them and publicly shaming them, and the children were made to learn dozens of mantras that they had to repeat when they made mistakes or had to cry because of the pain, such as "my teacher is always right and I will do whatever he says" (but a bit more flowery).




Do you know whether it's available online?

 Written by: mcp


My response was in light of it being a tv program. This is what I see being wrong with TV, the escapism aspect. Even when it's about an important issue, it's just a distraction, a confusion about the issues that we could affect that are all around us, but that are so everyday and emcompassing that's it's almost impossible to get a hold of them.




It's true that a lot of TV programming is successfully devised for the purposes of escapism, but whether it results in it depends on the individual and it's not as if escapism is exclusive to television, nor even the wider media.
This programme only served as an introduction to the subject for me, which is why, for a start, I asked whether the rest of it was available as I didn't feel it was fair to base a conclusion on only part of it and am now trying to find other resources.

If anything, I did wonder whether the format affected the behaviour of the teachers: were they unaffected, being harsher to demonstrate the discipline of the school, or toning it down for the camera?
That question might arise if we were watching in person, but since most of us don't have that opportunity, I'd prefer to watch this kind of style of unnarrated documentary on television rather than read an article or even listen to a radio programme about the same subject in which we'd only have the middle-man's word on what was really happening.

I'm very interested in circus as part of all visual arts, also in sociology and child development, so anyone talking to an 8 year old like that concerns me whether it's in China or down my road, but I also think it's important to look at the reasons behind it rather than to say "oh, isn't it terrible?" and switch the telly off/walk on by.


"I thought you are man, but
you are nice woman.

yay,

:R"

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Birgit
BRONZE Member since Jan 2005

Birgit

had her carpal tunnel surgery already thanks v much
Location: Edinburgh

Total posts: 4145
Posted:Unfortunately it was on the German newspage I read. At the time I was looking for it in their English speakers section, because I thought about posting it here, but they usually only put the big politics and things that might be of special interest to Brits/Americans living in Germany in there, so I couldn't find it frown

"vices are like genitals - most are ugly to behold, and yet we find that our own are dear to us."
(G.W. Dahlquist)

Owner of Dragosani's left half

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faith enfire
BRONZE Member since Mar 2017

faith enfire

wandering thru the woods of WI
Location: Wisconsin

Total posts: 3556
Posted:I think spanner brought up a good point. I would imagine the teachers would be harsher. Think about when you were in class and some important person was there. The teachers were always stressed. Now this is a country where they get a lot of criticism.
It might be more telling if there were cameras just hanging out for a long period of time so the teachers got used to them and forgot about them


Faith
Nay, whatever comes one hour was sunlit and the most high gods may not make boast of any better thing than to have watched that hour as it passed

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LazyAngel
GOLD Member since Jul 2004

LazyAngel

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Cambridge UK

Total posts: 2895
Posted:it's a sad fact that kids in normal middle school in china (ages 14-18) have to work incredibly hard. Their day starts about 5:45 and finishes about 10pm. They also have a responsibility to keep their school clean (they wash the floors/ clean the blackboards of their school) and have between 40-60 students in a class.

On the other hand, they are generally better behaved than western students, and have a higher overall level of fitness, as they spend most of their spare time playing ping-pong, basketball, running or weight training.

This I can verify from personal experience.

Now as for the teachers, this is a different matter. Some teachers have no compunctions about tearing the kids off a strip if they go to sleep in class, but most teachers (from what I've seen) are actually pretty understanding and kind to their classes. But the more authority they have, the stricter they are (something I've observed in the english schooling system as well)

Now on to rumours, I have heard one or two stories about teachers maltreating students, but not at my school, and they were certainly isolated incidents.

There is certainly a culture in china of 'if its not perfect, then I don't want to do it' associated with the whole concept of 'face'. This may be one of the reasons that the teachers were coming down so hard on the kid (although I didn't see this program so am unsure exactly what was said). Embarassment is a BIG thing in China, and remember that if this is being performed in a circus, it will be in front of a LOT of people (especially in china)

So my final point is, when I observe other teachers and make comments on their lesson, I usually look for every minute problem and try to bring it to their attention: not to be mean, but simply to help them improve. Is it possible that this is was the attitude adopted by the 'bullying' teachers?


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dahnreet


newbie


Total posts: 1
Posted:I saw this spanner and it sickened me to the stomach

I think the non emotional responses you have been getting have been on account of peeps not having seen the unbelievable show

I too wonder if it will get a repeat because not many people caught this - and surprisingloy not on You Tube or anywhere for anyone to point and say missed it watch this

in fact it seems to have been hidden away - i don't konw what this says about the media today

I wondered about the 2005 thing - it was shot over this period because the competition surrounding the training was in 2005, but from the angle of the camera i am wondering if the big shot actually filmed the thing - was he not the one who had also been a child athlete and needed the surgery?
do you notice we never really found out if the surgery was a success only a reported success and i wonder if the gentleman was secretly filming and eventually passed on the film which may have been why it took a while to appear - or maybe as you said it came out before ?

would like to see an interview with more information about this documentary film but wonder if / when we will - maybe they will trot it out for xmas - it was shown under the childrens tv thing - not quite sure how it fitted in

And really this isn't about watching the chinese circus peeps - there is no doubt that the chinese athletes will have undergone much of the same - Guys the boy was seven years old and scolded for not holding a horizontal handstand He was told he was bad for having asked his mum for a second helping of pud on his holiday and because he had eaten too much food - at the age of 7 - according to the trainer he was sweating too much and this was ruining the act and all the while the camera is trained on the poor wee thing's face which looks as if he is about to burst into tears with the stress of it all as he holds this impossible handstand - another time as a punishment for something else he is left standing on his head on a kind of head thingie on a vaulting horse - looked like it was for hours - in fact it looks like they just turned off the ligths in the gym and left him


The show was just a very clear evidence of the fair means or foul the chinese government will use to win. apparently have not advanced in moral thinking one bit since they overthrew Tibet. it just makes me mad to think of all the trouble and possibly unneccessary war they have caused over the past 50 years or so - including vietnam - how many wars have the chinese encouraged and for what? in the end the vietnamese invite the americans back in for a big mac franchise - how sick is all this ?

well i suppose this show just might open some people's eyes in a world when even Mandela thinks chinese culture is worth a bean - wonder if they will ever see it though
juggle


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