the Light Show

I’ve always wanted a photo with my hand in the dragon’s mouth (or is it a lion?), walking from the parking area to the entrance of the light show we saw this statue and I thought I would take my chance.

For months I’d seen the brochures and post cards for the Yangshuo Light Show and I had missed my chance to see it over the Christmas holiday.  With only one day left, I made it a point to see the show that everyone was buzzing about.  I was told that the show, which is presented on the Li River, just downstream of downtown Yangshuo, utilizes thousands of actors.  I was told that the show is massive in scale and that its use of the Yangshuo mountains as backdrop – to include special lighting effects – was not to be missed.  It was made bySanjie Liu, the same artist who created the opening ceremonies show at the Beijing Olympics.  Surely the photos looked amazing, I had to see it for myself.

Curry obtained tickets for us and even drove us to the venue in his minivan.  We parked some distance from the open air “natural” amphitheater and walked the rest of the way.  There were hundreds of cars and the traffic was gridlocked for kilometers.  I’ve been in crowds before, but the crush of (Chinese) humanity was intense.  We took our place in line and Curry reminded us to keep our eye on him and his flag, he would lead this group of 40 of us through the entrance to a courtyard inside where he would issue our tickets.  As tall as I am, I had to squirm to keep him in sight (below) and as I saw so many red and yellow flags, I had a feeling that it would be no easy task.

By the time we began our “move” to the inside of the venue, it was fully dark and the push of the crowd made the task of keeping Curry in sight all the more difficult.  As we pressed towards the gates, I looked out over the writhing sea of black hair and kept tight to our line of 40 tourists all mis-matched from so many European countries.  The couple just behind us was a mixed couple from Germany and Mexico; their cute little daughter already fluent in 3 languages.  I snapped the photo below just before we pressed through the turnstiles, and then, lost all sight of our group.  Inside, some 200 meters later, we recognized the German/Mexican couple and a few others.  Eventually we found Curry and received our seating assignments but not without a little stress along the way.

If you ever go to the Yangshuo Light Show, go early (see the first show), and stick CLOSE to your guide.

It was winter time and the temperatures were quite cold.  I saw that they were renting little butt pillows (seat cushions) and surplus Army jackets for a buck or two.  I rented two pillows and jackets so that the show would be comfortably warm.  I am sure that I must have been quite a spectacle for the local Chinese as I wore my green Army jacket and stood a good foot and a half taller than the rest of the crowd.

I found a video I shot while standing in line to rent jackets and pillows; if you don’t speak Chinese, you can see how confusing the procedure can be:



Once the show began I saw what all the fuss was about.  The theatrical area was a wide open area of the river that made a lake like harbor.  The background had many of the beautiful rock hills that give Yangshuo its distinctive “look,” and these hills were alternately lit with colored lights that created a beautiful almost surreal backdrop as hundreds of actors performed on the water.  I say on the water because they were – actually – walking on the water.  I am sure that there were scaffolds under the water, platforms that allow the actors to walk about appearing as though they were walking on the surface of the harbor.  It really looked quite magical and the musical soundtrack was dramatic and bold and the entire show was overwhelming to the senses.

My photos really do not do it justice.

In the sequence below, the actors rowed simulated boats out from the bank of the river, each stroke of the oars choreographed in sequence and at a dramatic time in the soundtrack, each “rower” reached down and grabbed a handful of fabric that was laying just under the water.  This 100 meter (or longer) piece of material created a virtual screen and when hit with the colored lights made for an amazing visual display.



In another sequence, some dancers on a far platform had “light suits” that light up their entire bodies much akin to some aliens from another planet.  As these dancers moved with the music, more and more light up down the line and soon the line of dancers that were before unseen in the darkness, made a trail from the far side of the harbor, across the water, all the way to the near side.  Each dancer moving to the beat of the music creating a magical impression; the photos and videos can’t quite do justice to it but I can say: if you are ever in Yangshuo, it is a must see!

Far off, deep in the river harbor, a lone actor lit up.  He (or she) seemed to be wearing a suit covered in small lights.  As this actor began dancing, another actor, next to him lit up also.  And it began in sequence, more and more actors appearing from the darkness, dancing to the hypnotic Chinese music.  The stage that they were on reached towards the grandstands and soon there was a long lightning bolt trial of dancers all light from head to toe in little light bulbs.  It was a very neat effect and provided a wonderful visual display.



The grand finale came as a large boat sailed across the harbor and dancers from each Chinese group came out on stage.  Each actor that represented the many minority groups of China was dressed in the traditional minority costume making for a dazzling display of colors.  The show was masterfully choreographed, the music was perfect for the venue and the entire show was “bigger than life” set in the Yangshuo mountains.  Like I said earlier,  if you ever have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it!



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