Chapter 4: Impression Lijiang

From my last post, you can see that I was upset about the lack of yak riding on my tour. This was all because we were rushing to catch Zhang Yimou’s stage production Impression Lijiang.

Most of you know who Zhang Yimou is. Maybe you’re shaking your head right now, unable to think of who this man is and what he does. Well, he’s a director. A prime example of what’s called the 5 generation of Chinese directors. He’s done some classic cinema pieces such as To Live, House of Flying Daggers, and Hero. I bet some of you have seen these.

If not, then if you watched the spectacle that was the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, you’ve seen a Zhang Yimou production.

Impression Lijiang just screams Zhang Yimou. From the bold contrasting colors to the synchronized movement of thousands of people to  the general sense of being thrown into an epic saga, Impression Lijiang is something to behold. The show takes place in an open air amphitheater (with amazing acoustics) every day at 11 AM, weather permitting. As it’s at the base of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the outside scenery contributes as a backdrop for the action happing on stage.

Nice Lines

Since the theater is amphitheater style, I’d recommend sitting in the back. You get a decent view of the dancers on stage and there’s an extra surprise in one part of the show.


Men riding horses come around the top of the amphitheater at one point. Also, if you sit closer to the entrance, you can see the performers getting ready for their cues to enter the show. It’s all very interesting.

The show itself is supposed to be a celebration of the 30-some minorities that live in Yunnan. Although there’s an introduction in the beginning where members of the cast cheer when their ethnicity is called out, the dances and songs that they perform don’t give any distinction between them. So there was a slight homogeneity to the show that would make the uninformed spectator think that the minorities are have one homogeneous “other” culture. Of course that’s not true, and I may be underestimating the audience a bit, but I felt there definitely was that threat.

Although, there was one part of the show that had each minority dress in their traditional outfits, giving them some distinction. But since there were no signs saying with outfit belonged to which minority, it all just seems like a giant colorful lump of non-Han (although some of the performers were indeed Han people).

Women of Various Minorities

Dancing in a row

The Basket Dance

The Horse Parade

China is not short of manpower, that's for sure

I enjoyed the show for the most part. But I have the same criticisms of the show that I have of Zhang Yimou’s films: aesthetically pleasing but lacking in substance. It was nice to look at all right, but there was no cohesiveness to the whole thing. No flow at all.

Still, it is a sight to see.

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