Fascinating Hangzhou city, on China’s east coast close to Shanghai, welcomed back at the beginning of the month the internationally acclaimed ‘Impression West Lake’ staged production and nightly spectacular.
The one-hour show of local legends and myths is presented in five seamless acts and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 in the USA for original score. It is open-air theatre at its best with lavish sets, lighting displays and hundreds of costumed performers gliding over the lake in synchronized choreography (the stage is a few centimetres below water level). The ultimate ode to love, the five ‘impressions’ loosely tell a story of doomed mortal passion but eternal heavenly devotion. Staged ten months of the year (March – December), the show was created by Mr. Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, and is staged once or twice every evening (weather permitting) at 7.45pm and 9.15pm, depending on the season, and is the highlight of any visit to the city.
Other established nocturnal cultural events which portray the history and culture of Hangzhou include the ‘Night on West Lake’ and ‘Romance of the Song Dynasty’ shows – both colourful indoor extravaganzas which showcase the talents and artistry of local performers incorporating song and dance, and feats of acrobatics and agility. The latter display cost more than 100 million Yuan (approx. £1 million) to produce and is watched annually by over two millions domestic and international tourists.
There are numerous regularly scheduled cultural events and festivals in Hangzhou of interest to international tourists such as:
• The Dragon Well Tea Festival from 8th April – 8th May - hosted by the villagers of the Dragon Well tea plantation, known also as Longjin green tea, one of China’s most popular and famous tea varieties. Domestic and international tea connoisseurs come to Longjin to pick tea, participate in time-honoured tea ceremonies and learn about the health and medicinal benefits of green tea polyphenols.
• International Dragon Boat Festival - 15th June - staged in the picturesque Jiancun village of the Xixi Wetland National Park (China’s first and only wetlands park) where there is a permanent Dragon Boat Exhibition, this is one of the most popular festivals in the leisure calendar which regularly draw over 40,000 visitors annually. This year 45 boats will compete in the race, 18 sponsored by international companies.
• West Lake Lotus Festival - traditionally in July and August, visitors to Hangzhou West Lake go to the Qu Yuan Feng He scenic spot armed with a phalanx of cameras to take hundreds of photos of the lake side carpeted with thousands green lotus leaves and bright pink lotus flowers.
• Osmanthus Festival - in September in West Lake’s Man Long Gui Yu Park and Jue Long village is when locals take time to enjoy the official flower of the city - the powerfully fragrant Osmanthus tea blooms which perfume the air throughout the hot and humid summer months. On both sides of the main roads, thousands of osmanthus trees are in full bloom and colourful tents are erected for visitors to enjoy a variety of cultural performances including the Dragon Well Tea Courtesy show.
• West Lake International Expo incorporating a Fireworks Show – is traditionally held in October and is one of the main highlights of the local calendar when the dazzling fireworks display is magnified and amplified in the reflection of the lake.
• Hangzhou International Silk Festival - in October is hosted by the municipal government of Hangzhou, the festival celebrates the unique history of silk manufacture, dye, embroidery and artistry for which the city has been famous for centuries (the Hangzhou Silk Museum is China’s one and only dedicated museum to this renown national export).
• Hangzhou International Food Festival - staged over a one week period in October, the food festival is a celebration of the city’s unique cuisine where dishes such as Dongpo Pork and West Lake shrimps cooked with tea can fully feted by food lovers. There are recipe and cookbook competitions and a variety of cooking demonstrations.There are numerous additional local celebrations, festivals and events held throughout the year in Hangzhou enjoyed in the safe and tranquil surroundings which led to the city being awarded accolades by several national and international tourism organizations as China’s Top City for Leisure and the Safest City in China. Please visit www.gotohz.com for more information.