Water Ballet: Guizhou Art of Bamboo Drifting

What is single bamboo drifting? A feat of strength and balance, art, dance, and entertainment. Don’t blink!

The art of bamboo drifting is breathtakingly beautiful and original. It is typical of the Guizhou region in South-Western China and it is extremely unique.

Crossing the river while standing on a piece of reed” is just a legend, but ” crossing the river standing on a piece of bamboo ” is a dream come true.

Single bamboo drifting, which is believed to have originated along the Chishui River in Guizhou, has been listed as a national intangible cultural heritage.

Bamboo drifting maybe is an oddity to the outside world, but to the people in Guizhou, it has been a unique, useful, and entertaining part of their culture for more than a thousand years.

In the old days, bamboo canoe drifting, a traditional folk sport that originated in the Chishui River Basin of northern Guizhou, was a means of transportation for the local people, but today has evolved into a competitive sport and a kind of performing art.

It originated during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) as a means of transport. In fact, the city of Zunyi in Guizhou was renowned for its production of very precious and expensive wood and it was greatly demanded by the emperors in the North of China. The problem was that in Guizhou they didn’t have big enough boats to carry the logs, so they rewarded citizens to stand and sail on one log each in order to transport them to the first destination that had adequate boats to continue the journey. As time passed, riders became more experienced and competitive, challenging each other in balancing games and acrobatic movements.

The biggest challenge with bamboo drifting is that the surface of the water is in constant movement so keeping your body balanced requires double the effort.

The “water ballet” has been listed as a Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage of Guizhou province and since 2011, it has officially become a national minority traditional sports event.

Now video footage of people practicing bamboo drifting, an artistic form of intangible cultural heritage that resembles Kung Fu, has recently become a smash hit on the Internet.

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