One of the things I’m most excited about with the “On the Topic of Juggling” show is the lobby installation.
Working on this show, I’ve started building a collection of primary sources – autographs of famous jugglers, press photos, programs, and other objects to bring our artform into context. This little traveling museum will be put on display for audiences to look at before and after the show, immersing them in the tangible relics of a fleeting performance art.
This rubbing from a Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) temple popped up in an auction house in Massachusetts in the Fall, and after phoning in a bid, it’s the crown jewel of the show’s lobby installation. (I’m not saying that Cinquevalli autographs are a dime a dozen… but man – this thing is unique!)
There aren’t many resources that talk about this temple in particular (it was only discovered in the mid-1950s,) but the book Chinese Acrobatics through the Ages describes the figure depicted here:
“…a stone carving discovered in a Han Dynasty tomb… depicts vividly, and in fine detail, a lively acrobatic performance of the Eastern Han Dynasty.
“The carving pictures 54 performers coordinating with one another in perfect harmony and forming a vivacious ensemble. First is ‘Juggling Swords.’ one of the most popular items of juggling with the hands during the Han Dynasty. An old artist, with his hair and beard fluttering is juggling four short swords with apparent rapt attention. When exerting his strength he is in a slightly squatting posture and appears to act with natural grace. Beside his feet are five balls which he has apparently just juggled. Recorded materials tell us that small holes have been drilled into the balls and when thrown into the air they ring with a melodious whistle due to the vibration of the air, hence they are called ‘Ball Bell.’ “
…how cool is that??
(A tip of the hat to juggling historian David Cain for digging up Chinese Acrobatics through the Ages!)