The Dance of a Thousand Hands

Robert Traynor
April 4, 2016

Zhang Jigang, an internationally acclaimed Chinese choreographer, has made a remarkable impact on the world of dance. Known for his diverse productions and innovative creations, Zhang’s work has garnered global recognition.

This article explores the life and achievements of Zhang Jigang, highlighting his influential career and his notable contribution to the performing arts.

From Childhood to Acclaimed Choreographer

Born on December 25, 1958, in Yuci, Shanxi Province, China, Zhang Jigang was exposed to the world of dance from a young age. Inspired by the Zhong Ziwu dance movement of the 1970s and 1980s, which promoted innovation and creativity, Zhang began his formal dance training at the age of 12.

By the time he turned 17, he had already established himself as a talented choreographer working for the Chinese government. In recognition of his exceptional talent, Zhang received the prestigious Quan Guo Wu Dao Da Sai award, the highest national dance accolade, in the 1980s.

Continued Education and International Acclaim

Seeking to further refine his skills, Zhang enrolled at the Beijing Dance Academy in 1988. There, he pursued a degree in choreography and later obtained a Master’s Degree in Political Science.

The new millennium marked a period of international acclaim for Zhang Jigang. He received accolades and awards in various countries, including Hollywood, California, North Korea, Japan, and Monaco.

His most notable achievement came in the form of the “Dance of a Thousand Hands,” a production performed by 63 deaf dancers from the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe.

The Dance of a Thousand Hands: A Symbolic Masterpiece

The China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, established in 1987, showcases the extraordinary talents of its disabled members, including those who are deaf, blind, or intellectually challenged. Under Zhang’s direction, the troupe presented the awe-inspiring “Dance of a Thousand Hands.”

This performance depicts the legend of Bodhisattva Guan Yin, a compassionate figure with a thousand hands. The dance embodies Guan Yin’s vow to remain in the world until every tear is wiped away. What makes this production truly remarkable is that all 63 performers are deaf, presenting a profound challenge in coordinating their movements.

The efforts of the six conductors, clad in white, who help synchronize the dancers with the music, are truly inspiring.

Zhang Jigang’s Legacy

Zhang Jigang’s influence extends beyond his notable productions. As an acclaimed choreographer, he has created over 300 large-scale productions, captivating audiences in more than 60 countries. His dedication to the arts and his ability to showcase the talents of disabled performers have left an indelible mark on the world of dance. Today, Zhang resides in Beijing with his wife, Zhang Lamei, continuing to inspire and create.

Through his innovative productions and collaborations with the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, he has shattered boundaries and touched the hearts of audiences worldwide. Zhang’s contributions to the performing arts industry, along with his emphasis on inclusivity and compassion, leave a lasting legacy that continues to inspire dancers and audiences alike.

As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others

–Zhang Jigang


Lin, D. (2016).  The thousand-hand Guan Yin.  Retrieved April 4, 2016.

Ministry of Culture (2003).  China Disabled People’s Arts Troupe.  Retrieved April 4, 2016.

Wikipedia (2016).  Zhang Jigang. Retrieved April 4, 2016.


Green Media Studios (2011).  Guanyin or Kwanyin, the Goddess of Mercy.  Retrieved April4, 2016.

*title image adapted from: Wikimedia commons

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