Yangshuo “Impressions” Sanjie Liu – Open Landscape Theatre

This photo of Impression Sanjie Liu (Evening Showtime) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This photo of Impression Sanjie Liu (Evening Showtime) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Sanjie Liu – Open Air Landscape Theatre

Tonight, looking forward to the Open Air landscape Theatre , the largest of its kind in the world. A magical performance on the river and along the riverbanks with  Karst Mountains as a backdrop. I cannot wait to see this! The choreography at the Chinese Red Threatre for their production of ‘The Legend of Kungfu” was pretty amazing, so this will be fantastic.

The landscape theatre is worth a look in the daylight being environmentally designed to blend and harmonize with the surrounding landscape of karst mountains and flowing river. The theatre gives an 180 degrees panoramic vision over a 2 km range of the river. The green terraced auditorium seat 3,500 people. The show was first performed in 2003. Do go and see the auditorium and the Drum Tower and buildings in daylight as well as night-light. I just loved the multi – gabled Drum Tower and the environmentally friendly architecture and construction.


Entrance to Impressions ‘Sanjie Liu’ Landscape  theatre Yangshuo

First Impressions

Our tour group rocked up to the  theatre  entrance; directed to our seats, quaint, practical seats (reminded me of Asian toilets);  young women in traditional costumes selling the programs. Pagoda style entrance with festive red lanterns. For the next couple of hour or so, we sat entranced and awestruck by the  theatre   performance as it unfolded in the darkness, on the river, against twelve towering karst peaks. Awesome!



Myths and Legends

Sanjie Liu is a beautiful fairy singer in the myths and legends of the Zhuang ethnic minority.  A film ‘Sanjie Liu’ about the legend, produced in 1961, made the Li River famous worldwide for the beautiful scenery. I haven’t caught up with this film yet, but I must!  Since over 50 years has passed since this film was made, interesting to see the changes in scenery and way of life along the Li River and countryside.


Impressions – an outline of the story 

Impression: Sanjie Liu is divided into seven parts including a prelude and epilogue.The Prelude begins with the Legend of the Scenery, the karst mountains like silver shadows in the darkness. Sanjie Liu a spirit of songs can be heard softly as the spirit  floats everywhere, on the wind, clouds, river and  karst peaks.Out of the darkness emerge  five villagers bathed in a golden light singing the legend. Red Impressions follow with miles of red silk flowing on the river, giving the impression of fisherman throwing out their nets and drawing them in again, as they balance precariously on bamboo rafts (pretty amazing). There are six men  to each bolt of red silk performing the movements, balancing on bamboo rafts  (do the maths,about 15 rows of red silk, all I could manage to count). How amazing is that?  Green Impressions brings illuminations of daily life of the people of the Li River. Smoke curling upwards from cooking pots, women washing, in the fields, fishing, all the everyday things in their lives.


Blue Impressions: Sanjie Liu Love song

Blue Impressions – love song of Sanjie Liu-the bathing bride in the river,even the moon caught up in this love song. Probably the most beautiful and poignant moments in the performance is in Blue Impressions. Gold Impressions – fishing lights cormorants, traditional fishing on the Li River. Who better to perform this scene than the skilled local fisherman and women on their bamboo rafts.  Silver Impressions – grand finale, over two hundred  villagers  in gold and silver costumes charge along the river bank and across the bridge with fire sticks in a brilliant grand finale performance. Finally The Epilogue – daylight is fading, songs of Sanjie Liu drift over the river, and leaves one enchanted and awestruck by this wonderful theatre performance.

The landscape  theatre, special  lighting effects and music, the eerie mistiness over the water and karst peaks, shimmering reflections on the river,  make for an amazing and absorbing spectacle.

Photos of Impression Sanjie Liu (Evening Showtime), Yangshuo County

This photo of Impression Sanjie Liu (Evening Showtime) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

There are over 600 performers all from nearby villages. The stage setting for the performance covers an area of 1.654 square km along the Lijiang (Li) River.This is a wonderful production especially when you realize the majority of the scenes are performed on the river by the villagers, balancing on their bamboo rafts. The play expresses scenes of the daily life and culture of the villagers, living in harmony with the nature and the  beautiful landscape of the Li River and Karst Mountains. An awesome spectacle, not to be missed if you are in Yangshuo.


 The Director

The director of this wonderful landscape production is Zhang Yimou, Chinese film director, producer, writer and actor, and former cinematographer. Zhang Yimou, has won many awards and international recognition for his work. He directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, which received  international acclaim.

(Movies: (The Hero,House of Flying Daggers,Curse of the Golden Flower and The Flowers of War to name a few)

Zhang has co-directed four other outdoor folk musicals,with co-directors Wang Chaoge and Fan Yue, under the title Impression in  four other provinces of China, in similar landscape theatres.

The Theatre

Theatre entrance is on East Street (Dong Jie). From West Street(Xi Jie).

It is about a 25 minute walk, take a taxi or battery car.

Regular Seat: CNY 198  ($38AUD) VIP Seat: B2 CNY238:   B1 CNY 320.

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  1. Wow I’m heading there in a few months and didn’t even know this performance existed. I hope there’s a performance when I’m in the area, thanks for the wonderful post!

    • Hi Tiffany, The show has been closed down for a month in January and reopened 2nd February 2014. Usually two performances 7pm and 9.20pm. Don’t miss it, it is truly an amazing production. thanks for your comments. Lyn

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