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In China, an actual river is the stage, and actual mountains are the backdrop

(Click to view larger.)

This is the Impression · Sanjie Liu 《印象·刘三姐》 show in the Yangshuo part of Guilin. They perform pretty much every night to a capacity of about 2600, sometimes doing two shows a night. And there are 600 performers per show! Supposedly, about half of them are area minorities, and the other half are professionals.

They actually light up real mountains in the background during parts of the show. You just can't get this kind of scale elsewhere!

Torches across the water

Not only did people use the main stage, they also used the water and the far shoreline. Above, you see people carrying torches there.

Girl on a boat

The show was based on an old story about a maiden and a suitor who "dui ge" 对歌, which is like the traditional Chinese version of a rap battle. The girl sings a line, and the guy has to sing an appropriate response. Only if he's good can he win her hand in marriage. Typically, the girl will be on a boat, as you see above, while the guy is on the shore.

Red ribbons across the water

I have to admit that, although the performance was clearly inspired by things like the Olympic opening ceremonies, most of the choreography wasn't quite up to that level. The only part that came close was this bit with red ribbons across the water, being pulled up and down like waves.

Boats and manually-operated spotlights

I was pretty surprised to look closely and see that all the spotlights were manually operated and not computer-controlled.

Riverside daily life scene

(Click to view large.) I also liked this bit, where they took a break from singing and dancing to just act out a typical daily riverside scene from back in the day. You could see people doing laundry, selling goods, eating, and playing games.

Raft by a crescent moon

This floating moon was quite pretty.

Lady running on the moon

Supposedly, the lady running on the moon used to actually be naked, but you couldn't see very well anyway from far away. After some complaints, they gave her a flesh-toned body suit instead.


Finally, these folks came out wearing a light show. The lights were all centrally controlled and made patterns and such. I was most fascinated by the fact that the lights on one person would occasionally die out. When that happened (a total of 3 times that I noticed), that person would discreetly step back, and their neighbors would join hands. I liked how fault-tolerant it was. :)

The image at the top is actually from the finale, so feel free to go back up there and look at it again, and be like, wow, that is the most insane stage ever. :)

Of course, you also have to consider that they can afford paying 600 people a night because they don't pay them very much. I heard from a local tour guide that the non-professional performers only make 700 RMB (about $100) a month, which is a low even by Chinese standards, and that they only make an extra 20 RMB or so each night that they have to do two shows. Still, I think this show has probably brought in a lot of business to Yangshuo and helped the local economy.

All that aside, though, again, where else can you see a nightly show that employees 600 performers and has actual mountains as a backdrop! Not cardboard ones! Crazy!

Comments (1)

omg. this is so incredible and insane and totally over the top. only in china!!!

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