Baixi (All Performing Arts)
It’s a generic term in history for performing arts, including martial arts, magic, taming animals, song and dance, farce, tightrope walking, knife swallowing, walking on fire, and other acrobatic performances. Such performing arts were diverse in both form and content and the performance could easily take place, the only criterion being to entertain the popular audience. Such performances began in Han times, and as culture and art forms from different ethnic groups were slowly integrated into local practice, performing arts and acrobatics came to be increasingly diversified. The term baixi (百戏) literally means “a hundred forms of performances,” and suggests, different kinds of performing arts. After the Southern and Northern Dynasties another term, sanyue (散乐), became synonymous with baixi. During the Tang Dynasty the performing arts became even more popular. In Song times sanyue came to refer mainly to song and dance performances or operas created by men of letters; while baixi came to mean principally acrobatic shows by folk artists. At times the authorities would impose a ban on baixi, believing that such performing arts exerted a bad influence on social customs. Still it is fair to say that baixi gave birth to high-brow song and dance as well as operas. It turned acrobatics into a form of intangible cultural heritage, enriching the cultural life of the people.
From the Qin and Han dynasties onward, there appeared different kinds of acrobatic shows and a great variety of performing arts, which were referred to as baixi, and were also called sanyue. (The History of the Tang Dynasty)