A barefoot man in a black scarf and clothes stood still before a dead 20-meter tree trunk with 20 sharpened swords sticking out of it.
Suddenly, he jumped onto the tree, grasping two swords and standing on two others. In less than three minutes he was at the top.
He was performing the "ascending the swords hill," an allegedly lost stunt of the Yao ethnic group in southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"I don't agree that the stunt has died out. The Yao people are brave and many people in my hometown can do it," said Li Chunrong, 42, the performer from Jinxiu County in Guangxi.
It takes three to five years or more to master the skill, said Li Rizhen, the chairman with JinXiu Federation of Literary and Art Circles.
"The performers must be brave," Rizhen said. "To avoid injury, they must accurately grasp the swords and step on the edges. They must climb as steadily as they can."
Chunrong spent 10 years learning the stunt. Now he is teaching three Yao youths, including a 9-year-old boy.
He expressed confidence about the stunt's future. "We will pass it down generation after generation by performing to the whole world in the booming tourism of my county."
The Yao ethnic group, with a 4,000-year history, is known for its astonishing stunts, including the "ascending the swords hill" and "diving into the flames sea."
(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2005)