On the day he turned 20, Uighur tightrope-walker Adili Wuxor nearly lost his life when the hemp rope he was on snapped in the middle of a performance.
He fell 20m, about six storeys, and broke 17 bones. Doctors doubted he would survive, but he did and was back on a tightrope two years later, still determined not to wear a safety harness.
Now 43, Mr Wuxor, who holds eight Guinness world records, will perform in Singapore for the first time at this year's River Hongbao.
Visitors at the annual Chinese New Year carnival will be able to watch him dance, lie down and walk blindfolded while balancing on an 80m-long steel wire, no thicker than a bunch of four pencils (2.8cm). The ends of the wire will be 22m and 18m high.
Against his wishes, organisers will be setting up an inflatable airbag below a segment of the tightrope as a safety precaution.
"In my family's 450 years of history as tightrope-walkers, we have never once used a safety rope," Mr Wuxor told The Straits Times over the phone from Xinjiang, China.
Instead of hemp ropes, he now performs on steel wires, which, he says, will not break.
The sixth-generation tightrope-walker, whose ancestors performed for the Qing emperor Qian Long, picked up the skill when he was eight. His father, a tightrope- walker who died when Mr Wuxor was five, had not wanted him or his four older siblings to follow in his footsteps as he thought it would be too dangerous.
Now a father of three girls, he understands his father's worry. His second daughter, 14, is learning the ropes from him.
Mr Wuxor, who once crossed a mountain valley on a 1,530m-long tightrope at a height of 662m, said his upcoming performance may not be as dangerous, but will be thrilling nonetheless.
"I'll be able to do more stunts as people will be able to see me, unlike when I'm in the mountains," he said. "I hope the Singapore audience will enjoy it."
Visitors can watch him perform with another member of the Acrobatic Troupe of Xinjiang China on the first six nights of the River Hongbao at The Float @ Marina Bay. The acts are at 8.45pm on Feb 17; 7.15pm, 9.15pm and 11.15pm on Feb 18; and 7.15pm and 9.15pm from Feb 19 to 22.
Mr Wuxor advised those with high blood pressure and heart problems not to watch. "It'll be heart-stopping," he said.
This article was first published on February 7, 2015.
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