Across China: Innovative street programs in Xi'an revive Tang Dynasty culture
XI'AN, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Even after 10:00 p.m. on a typical weekday, the Grand Tang Mall, a bustling pedestrian area in the northwestern city of Xi'an, was teeming with people, with dazzling lights and vibrant music adding to the lively aura.
The main street of this area features Tang-style pavilions and decorations, and people of various ages, dressed in traditional Chinese attire, taking a leisurely stroll is a common sight. The scenes evoke a sensation akin to stepping back in time to Chang'an, the old name for Xi'an and the capital of China's Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Nevertheless, this alone doesn't fully elucidate why this modern recreation has transformed into one of Xi'an's premier tourist destinations.
Lately, tourists have been increasingly drawn to a series of outdoor performances along the street, featuring cultural elements from the Tang Dynasty but presented with a contemporary approach.
Towards the north end of the block, a crowd of people stood in a circle around a stage, intermittently laughing and cheering.
Onstage, two talk-show comedians portrayed the roles of Fang Xuanling and Du Ruhui, two prominent figures from the Tang Dynasty. They engaged one of the spectators in a lively quiz about Chinese culture, and even if the answers were incorrect, the guest enthusiastically joined in for snapshots with the actors.
"Such an innovative way of combining tourism with culture is good for people to gain some basic knowledge about our culture," said a tourist surnamed Zhu who hails from Beijing.
Here, visitors could also engage in conversations about ancient Chinese poetry with acclaimed poets such as Li Bai or Bai Juyi from the Tang Dynasty, impersonated by actors. Within a mere hundred meters of each other, captivating musicals and dance performances skillfully blended traditional and contemporary elements, making for an immersive cultural experience.
These interactive programs, with strong cultural values, produced by the Grand Tang Mall in recent years have emerged as the new name card of the tourism industry of Xi'an.
As per the official performance schedule, there are more than 20 regular programs, each lasting approximately 10 minutes, which are often repeated multiple times every evening. A travel tip circulating on social media advises that arriving early and securing a spot is essential to enjoy a good view of the popular shows.
"There is a classic story behind almost every performance and the setting for every program retells the history vividly," said a tourist surnamed Wang.
The cultural tourism block stretches from the famous historical landmark, the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, in the north, covering an area of 2,100 meters in length and 500 meters in width.
First constructed in the 1990s, it left the impression of an inauthentic ancient street built in a contemporary era, failing to resonate with tourists visiting Xi'an. However, in 2018, the Qujiang New District initiated a comprehensive project to enhance and revitalize the compound.
"The upgrade included not only the reconstruction of facilities but, more importantly, the production of a series of immersive and interactive performances that seamlessly integrate art with architecture, breathing life and character into the block," said Gao Ruixia, executive deputy general manager of the company running the cultural block.
"Tang Dynasty was a glamorous and romantic period in history adorned by poetry and art performances. We will continue to explore the cultural representations of that era to develop new productions so visitors can feel its charm," Gao added.
Statistics show that the Grand Tang Mall has received a daily average of 300,000 tourists since June. The city of Xi'an saw a total of 200 million tourists in 2022.