If someone wants to make a movie of five thousand years of Chinese history, half of the scenes would (arguably) be shot in Xi’an, the capital of 13 dynasties in ancient China. From the Qing Shi Huang (秦始皇), first emperor who unified the ancient China, to Emperor Taizong of Tang (唐太宗), who made China the most prosperous country in the world, from the legendary Silk Road to the majestic Greater Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an is famed for its historical significance and laced with relics of ancient treasure.
Our recent summer visit to Xi’an was filled with expectant thrill and unexpected amazement. But what impressed me most was a large-scale dance drama, named “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow” (“长恨歌”), based on the love story between Emperor Minghuang and his imperial concubine Yang (Yang GuiFei) in Tang Dynasty, dating back over a thousand years.
The show was performed in an outdoor theater located in front of the Li Mountain (Li Shan) and was composed of a series of dances, which smoothly transitioned as the story developed. When the emperor and his concubine fell in love, calm dance flow and limber steps presented the happiness and peace in the palace. When the rebels attacked the capital and the emperor had to escape from his empire, rapid dance rhythm pictured the panic and chaos caused by the war. Finally, when the emperor was forced to kill his beloved concubine, the slow and trudging dance move conveyed sorrow and loss.
Along with the dramatic presentation of dance moves and the sensational effect of music, the background amplified the visual impact of the story. With the mountain in its far background, the show made full use of special lighting effects, colorful lights flashing and glimmering throughout the mountain and bringing, one after another, heart-pounding moments.
The whole show lasted one hour long, but it captured our attention the entire time. As the show came to the end, our hearts were saddened by the heart-breaking ending of the story and by the fact that this intriguing performance was over.
What made this dance drama memorable is its seamless fusion of traditional culture and modern technology. While I enjoyed watching the twirling and prancing dancers in their bright red costumes, I was astonished at the visual and audio effect that wowed us all, like the spurts of fire and the waterfall.
The story has an unforgettable place in history and will continually be told in various format. At least for now, the show has won my heart and I could hardly think of a better way to present this beautiful love story.