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Two spectacles that you shouldn't miss in China

Updated on July 14, 2011

The Romance of the Song Dynasty, named as one of the three best permanent shows in the world, and Impressions of West Lake directed by the acclaimed Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), are two magnificent spectacles that you shouldn't miss in the gorgeous city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in China.

Both spectacles are hallucinating and a truly unforgettable experience for the senses. An explosion of vibrant colors displayed in beautiful costumes, outstanding scenography and lights immediately catches your eyes and leaves you in awe. The amassing music transports you to alluring places, while the dances and acrobatic choreography are as creative as superbly synchronized.

Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM
Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM

Chinese Culture and History

Romance of the Song Dynasty

Romance of the Song Dynasty is a spectacle that includes acrobatics, acting and dance that is based on the history, legends and culture of Hangzhou with a hint of other Asian cultures. The show develops in six acts: "Liangzhu Lights", "Budist Monks", "Palace Dancing", "Shinning Spears and Armored Horses", "Beautiful West Lake and Legends", "Picking Tea Leaves", and "The World Meets Here".

An explosive and amazing acrobatic performance opens the show with a celebration of the Liangzhu 良渚, the neolitic culture that inhabited the Changjiang (Yangtze) delta circa 3400 and 2250 BC. Immediately, this fast paced act is followed by the serenity and stillness of the Budist monks and the achievement of Nirvana (the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflicting inclinations and attitudes). The music and the design of shadows, lights and digital images helps to create a lasting visual impression of the monks reaching the Nirvana.

Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM
Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM
A scene of "Shinning Spears and Armored Horses". Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM
A scene of "Shinning Spears and Armored Horses". Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM

After this contrasting display of some of the cultural influences that the city of Hangzhou have received in the course of about five millenniums previous and during the advent of the Song Dynasty (960-1269 AD), twelve beautiful dancers from the Song era emerges from the public. Then, the stage becomes the court of the Song period where an amazing spectacle celebrating the King's birthday takes place. The stage is filled with palace officials, servants, entertainers, along with a King and Queen, all in colorful and magnificent traditional attire. The celebration is eclectic in terms of music, dances and costumes.

"Shinning Spears and Armored Horses" is an act performed in honor of Yue Fei, a renowned general of the Southern Song Dynasty who was killed defending the reign from the invasion of the Jin Dynasty. In this act, we see a well choreographed battle between the armies, that includes live horses running across and arrows flying to the stage, cannons and bomb blasts, and a lovers farewell.

In "Beautiful West Lake and Legends" the classical and well known Hangzhou myths of "White Snake" and "Liang Zhu" merge their stories in a brilliantly staged "West Lake" that includes water fountains, mist and drizzling drops of water falling all over the theatre like rain. After this jaw-dropping act, we get immersed in the tea culture of Meijia Wu, the Hangzhou village famous for the production of Longjing (Dragonwell) tea. A group of young ladies chant a traditional harvest season song while picking the leaves from a "field" full of tea bushes.

The final scene of the show includes several dances from different parts of Asia: a traditional Taiwanese dance, an Indian dance, a traditional Korean dance with fans and drums performed by women, and the Korean Pungak (a traditional dance performed by men in which a ribbon attached to the hat is twirled with the head while the dancer is making some acrobatic dance movements).

A scene of the legend of White Snake. Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM
A scene of the legend of White Snake. Romance of the Song Dynasty/Photo by CaribeM
Song's Dynasty Town (Park)/Photo by CaribeM
Song's Dynasty Town (Park)/Photo by CaribeM

Song Dynasty Town

Situated at southern-west part of the West Lake scenic area backing on Wuyun Mountain,Qiantang River to its south, Song Dynasty Town is the first largest and biggest theme park featuring the civilization of Song Dynasty in China.

Besides the home place of the spectacle "Romance of the Song Dynasty", the theme park is a recreation of a Song era city, full with streets with food, candy and souvenirs vendors and shops, fair games, acrobats, street performers, puppet show, a haunted house, among other amenities. It's worth to spend a whole day in the park after of before watching the show.

Impressions West Lake/Photo by CaribeM
Impressions West Lake/Photo by CaribeM

Impression West Lake is an open-air spectacle of light, music, dance and theatrics shown on the Yue Lake of the West Lake (just in front of Yue Fei Temple). The story is a very creative interpretation of the Hangzhou legend "White Snake". Using the lake and its surroundings as a stage and the mystical music of Kitaro, directors Wang Chaoge, Zhang Yimou, and Fan Yue have created a wonderful spectacle of lights, engineering and hundreds of actors that should not be missed if you have the opportunity to visit the breathtaking city of Hangzhou.

Since this spectacle is an impression of West Lake and one of its famous legends, you will be able to appreciate it even more if you get to know a bit of the city's history and culture before you go to the show. The spectacle is incredible and unforgettable, a feast for the senses and a snapshot of Chinese creativity and imagination. To describe the show here will spoil your experience.

One of the bridges at West Lake/Photo by CaribeM
One of the bridges at West Lake/Photo by CaribeM

The West Lake

Located in the historic center of Hangzhou, the capital of the southeastern province of Zhejiang, the Xi Hu (West Lake) is a gorgeous natural space surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens. A treasury of ancient sculptures and architectural features are enhanced by the natural setting of the peaks, serene forests and springs, dense foliage, weeping willows and a wide variety and colorful blossoms. Whatever the time of the year, the panorama is pleasing to the eye and the nuances of light shade together with the moods of the season, weather and lights and shadows of the day, present an ever-changing picture that has been described as 'intoxicating'. The Xi Hu was a favorite imperial retreat and there is no wonder why this lake have inspired many Chinese poets and romantic tales, enchanted politicians and fascinated visitors for many centuries.

If you want to learn more about the Xi Hu and its history, go here

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    • CaribeM profile image

      CaribeM 7 years ago

      Hey! Thanks for your comment. If you need some advice for your trip let me know. I'll give you some pointers. Take care!

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 7 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      China is an amazing place and I look forward to going there in the next 12 months. Thank you for an excellent hub.