The Scenery of Guilin Is as Illusive as Poetry
By Wang Yongli
I travel to Guilin to reveal the secret of “The Impression of Miss Liu SanjIe”, a large reality landscape performance, but I am also deeply attracted by the beauty of Guilin, which is as illusive as poetry. I became so intoxicated with the natural landscape that I didn’t want to go home.
“Guilin’s scenery is the best in the world, and the scenery of Yangshuo the best in Guilin.” What the proverb says is true. Guilin scenery is one of the fantastic natural miracles of China as well as of the world. “The river is like a winding green belt, and the hills are like emerald hairpins.” The poem is vivid so as to catch the characters of Guilin. In the middle of spring I have an opportunity to visit Yangshuo and Guilin. The weather is warm and comfortable. On the banks of the River Li there are vast yellow cauliflowers, which are in full bloom. The water of the River Li is clean, but the hills stand up against the sky, isolated, as if they are some kind of huge mushroom or bamboo shoot that has suddenly been erected from the ground. Some of them like fairy maidens from their haven, slim and delicate, exuding tenderness and love. Some of them, linked together, look like fairies clustered around, dancing happily and playing in the dreamful and surpassingly beautiful landscape. Mist rises from the river and hides the green woods on the hills. As a result, it looks as if a veil is covering this wonderland, as if it is a hazy watercolour painting, as if I have entered an illusive and miraculous world. If you take a boat to appreciate the landscape along the River Li, you will see many peaks with different postures, shaped like human figures or animals, vividly and infinitely. The river loops along the winding river just like a belt—the mountain is surrounded with water. All landscapes are dependencies. The further you adventure, the more different views I look upon, and arrive at Yangshuo imperceptibly. The lovely scene in the film “Miss Liu Sanjie” falls before my eyes, and the beautiful Zhuang folk songs accompanying by the beat of the oar sound, makes me excited. In Yangshuo, listening to the songs and viewing the landscape, let me enjoy the poetic world and fairytale land very much.
On the River Li boat trip, you will read The Tang Dynasty poet Shen Bin's poem: "Five willows are planted by Tao Qian in Pengze county, flowers are all over the land of Panyue County. But the two historic resorts cannot be better than that of Yangshuo, where green lotus hill is someone’s home." The poet of the Qing Dynasty, Kang Youwei wrote a poem “Song of the River Li”: “The egrets are parting from the green beach, the ancient pool is surrounded by sparse and scattered bamboo. Who can enjoy the unique beautiful scenery of the River Li? A volume of poetry flies into my boat." The modern poet Wu Mai wrote a poem (in 1935): "Guilin scenery is the best in the world, Yangshuo the best in Guilin. The reflection of peaks is in the water, while every hill and stream is charming and attractive". Contemporary poet He Jingzhi wrote his best poem about the place, “The Song of Guilin Scenery”. In the poem he praises the scenery of Guilin passionately: "God in the clouds, fairies in the mist. Guilin hills are as beautiful as the Goddess’s posture. Feelings are as deep as love and as wonderful as those of dreams. The water of the River Li is just like how it appeared in my own dream!" Indeed the hills seem as mystical as the hills of a wonderland, the view is as elusive as the memory of a dream, the mountain’s reflection is inverted in the transparent clean water; all these things can make you intoxicated. So the verse captures the natural features of Guilin’s scenery and becomes a part of its romantic legend.
Now the most attractive, fascinating, and illusive view of Yangshuo should be from the performance of "Impression of Miss Liu Sanjie", a large-scale performance put on in the real surroundings. It makes the twelve-kilometre long river, dozen peaks the background, the hills, and the rivers the world's largest natural amphitheatre. With renowned Chinese director Zhang Yimou, and the first national screenwriter Mei Shuaiyuan holding the post of producer, two young directors Wang Chaoge and Pan Yue also join the crew to create the world's first mountain and water live performance of the River Li and the minority culture of Guangxi. Innovatively combining some classic folk songs from the film “Miss Liu Sanjie” with ethnic minority customs and many local elements, they obliquely mix all the things into the performance and, reduced by nature, try to deduce the harmony and poetry of the landscape.
"Singing folk songs; I am singing here, while there you are answering in harmony." With beautiful folk songs, a group of Zhuang girls, dressed in colourful costumes, come from the right bank, standing on a group of rafts, moving toward to the middle of the river. The performance begins. On the left bank, a team of young men each carrying a fishing hat, is singing loudly in response to the girls. On the rafts and the shore, young girls and boys are singing in an antiphonal style, lingering sentiments. A few of the boys row their boats toward the girls, a scene ensues where the boys make proposals to the girls, throwing purses to the girls they love. It is a wonderful performance, and makes me exhilarated.
Then, many rafts, like an arrow, fly to the river’s center, shuttling back and forth. Suddenly, the young boys, each wearing a straw hat and standing on boat, magically and quickly pull out huge red scarves, which are hidden under the water’s surface. For a time the whole river turns into a light red. It becomes a sea of red, a happy paradise!
The music and the lights change in the middle of the pause, while some beautiful girls on remote rafts dance slowly in dresses of silver. The rafts constantly change formation in the river. A team of girls wearing bathing clothes dance towards a wooden arch bridge in the dim light as if they are floating in the air. Soon a beautiful young girl on a small boat appears in the spotlight. She flies toward a huge sculpture, which is silver in colour and shaped like a moon. She climbs up to this moon and dances on its silver fang shape. Wearing thin bathing clothes, she looks luscious and appealing. Someone says the dance displays the scene of a beautiful maiden bathing in moonlight; her semi-nude body in such weak moonlight looks more charming and inspirational. I wonder to myself how fairy-like everything appears to her enchanted vision! She is as if a fairy, after seeing the beautiful River Li, who cannot help but wash herself in the clean water.
At the end of a play there is a pause in the dark, and then from a distance some bright figures appear, girls dressed in national costumes, except their whole bodies can emit light, a fluorescent flashing, as if they are fireflies dancing under the cold silver moonlight. Dancing to the beat of the music, the group of fluorescent adolescent girls manoeuvre themselves into a Z formation, meandering and floating towards the audience. Slowly, with the sounds of nature, the huge Z team approaches, but all of a sudden, all the fluorescence magically disappears, the girls vanishing into the darkness, leaving the audience wowed by the artistic joy.
All that is left are some small fishing boats on the surface of the river. These fishermen sing a happy tune about going home with a full cargo of harvest.
All the performances, lull the audience into a poetic dream or mythical world from which they seem to not want to wake from.
The large reality landscape performance of “Impression of Miss Liu Sanjie” consistently achieves a great success, not only promoting the unprecedentedly prosperous local tourist industry. It also offers a great number of employment positions for the local villagers who participate in the performance in their spare time, increasing their income and as a result their lives are greatly improved. The most important thing is that the beautiful landscape, implicated with culture broadens the outlook of the tourists who come from all over the world. They indulge in it and indeed do not want to go home.
The manager Mr. Mei Shuaiyuan told me: "The secret of the show’s success is the combination of wonderful artistic creativity and the beautiful landscape, the fame of Miss Liu Sanjie who is the legend of Yangshuo and also the brand effect of Zhang Yimou.". Although what he said is short, he made a point and left my thoughts stimulated.