Wednesday, November 28, 2007

China - Day 10 - Li River to Yangshuo

Whenever I had previously envisioned China, after the initial thoughts of firecrackers, steeple roofs, scorpions on a stick, hole in the ground toilets, communism, orange chicken, and the Great Wall passed I pictured the Li River. Although, I never knew it was the Li River I was imagining. All I could think of were the signature mountain landscapes and the winding rivers. I thought the entire country looked that way based on how much I'd seen the images in popular culture or history class:

(20 yuan dollar back, printed with images of the Li River)

(Traditional Chinese Art)
So actually seeing the place was rather inspiring. We took a 5 hour cruise on a 2 story boat, one of about 400 on the river doing the same thing. This boat, although not made of bamboo, was basically as primitive. A few crude welds on a couple of sheets of metal, a lawn mower engine strapped to a propeller and presto changeo, we had a boat. To it's credit, it managed to get a boatload of people down a river that was easily only a couple feet deep on average.

Anyhow, we gently passed by some old villages and fishing parties, clicking pictures and drinking tea; the life of the Chinese tourist.

Most of the day went by at this pace, a gradually we made our way to a small tourist town of Yangshuo.

We arrived at a tiny plot of cement just tall enough for us to disembark the boat. And were instantly thrust into a community that exists primarily through the wallets of the Li River tourists and some major theater act I'll get to later.

From the ferry landing we had to walk about a mile to our hotel. There were significantly fewer cars within this city, primarily congested by tourist foot traffic and the occasional golf cart like delivery truck.

Jessica's sixth sense kicked in and after about 5 minutes she realized that this place was filled with incredibly good knock off merchandise. I admit, even I was impressed with the quality of this crap. I mean, to this day people see the stuff we got there (ok maybe just the purses jessica bought, after all my watch already broke) and swear that they are the real thing. Anxious to spend some money, we raced to our hotel, got situated then made a journey back to the market area for some hard core bargaining. Some 4 purses, 2 rolling luggages, numerous silk garments, and who knows what else later it was time to head back for dinner, and some weird show everyone kept raving about.

To this point, I had seen my fill of "shows" and was contemplating ditching the group for some more time in the city, but Jim assured me that I would be a fool in doing so. Thankfully, I listened to him.

We finished dinner and started our bus ride to what was claimed to be some big cultural show with dancers or something that really didn't capture my interest. The only thing that broke the layer or resilience around my thick skull was that the same guy who is in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics was producing this show. Now, if you know me, you know I can appreciate most forms of art. I mean I can even find some abstract sculptures to contain some shred of artistic value, but without fail...halftime shows, cheerleaders, and choreography in general have never been something I considered artistic or worth my time. Generally, by rule, if people are dancing in any kind of production within a sports arena its bound to be horrid. And the Olympic ceremonies have reinvented the term tacky. So, in full "this is going to suck" mode, I went along for the ride.

I sure am a real idiot sometimes.

I realized that sentiment at about the same moment when I observed half of the freaking planet lined up trying to get into this arena/theater/stadium we were heading to. Even more so when we got of out the bus and merged with the hordes of thousands of people trying to get to their seats. Honestly, there were probably 100,000 people in the audience of this show (which plays every night!). A show, to this point, that I still had no idea the content of. It was dusk, but there was just enough light to find our seats and sit down. My brain didn't process where the stage was going to be in front of us, for our seats looked forward towards nothing but the Li River.
And well...then the indescribable happened:

(Those are mountains about a mile away and about 700 boats with fisherman on them, all moving in unison: both images were found at
The mountains as far as a mile away lit up with spotlights, thousands of dancers and fishing boats appeared on the water, the riverbanks were lit up by archers with flame arrows, everything followed some kind of color scheme as was set to music...I'm telling you, I doubt I will ever see something so incredibly beautiful and man made in my entire life.

Somehow, this guy...who damn well better prove me wrong about opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics, made a performance with thousands of actors on such a grand scale that no amount of adjectives will ever come close to capturing. There was some sort or story about some Chinese woman and how she liked to dance on the moon or something, but there was no translation needed. Hands down...the coolest show I have ever, or will ever see in my life.
That night I realized a couple of things.
1.) China really does have more people than physics should allow, thus making anything possible i.e. the most beautiful production ever choreographed in history. and
2.) I deserve to be slapped in the face when I decide, before knowing anything, that I do or don't like something.

Conceding that point to China, I put the score of awesomeness at: China - 8,330,484,32 and David - 0.

Broken, and in disbelief I went to bed.

If you ever find yourself in China, you must...MUST make a trip to Guilin, find someone who will drive you or ferry you to Yangshuo and find a way to see this show. It is called the " Impression on Sanjie Liu".

I found this video on youtube: which kind of illustrates the show:

Days 1-2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Days 11-12 Day 13



Jim said...

Great desciption of the River Li and the evening show (here's a little secret - when talking you into attending the show, I was also talking myself into going, as I too was getting tired of some of the tourist silliness and missing out on drinking and carrying on with the locals) :)

Thuaners said...

thanks for this! i'll definitey try to see this show if im ever in china.. you really sold me! :)