In the shadow of the ancient town of Pingyao, located in North China’s Shanxi Province, the night came alive with brilliant lights and soulful melodies. Here, actors passionately reenacted tales from bygone eras, narrating the stories of unwavering loyalty, courage, and fidelity of the region’s merchants. The unique format of the performance saw the audience navigating through various performance scenes, guided by the performers themselves.
Beijing-based student, Song Ciyi, shared her impressions after the play’s conclusion: “Both the set designs and the actors’ portrayals were remarkable. The depiction of Shanxi’s moral fabric through this drama deeply resonated with me.”
The play in focus, See Pingyao Again, isn’t just a transient spectacle. Over its decade-long run, it has seen a staggering turnout of more than 5 million audience members, a testament to its allure. Comprising a formidable team of 300 artists and support crew, it offers spectators an immersive dive into Pingyao’s history.
Despite running five shows daily during the high tourism season, securing tickets for the performance remains a challenging endeavor. Kong Lingjuan, the marketing chief at the local culture and tourism enterprise overseeing the show, shared insights into its escalating popularity: “Not only does the drama unfold Pingyao’s rich past, but it has also evolved into a major draw for tourists.” She highlighted the impressive 8.3 million yuan ($1.2 million) revenue accumulated from the performances during the recent eight-day holiday stretch, which celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day.
The rise of such performances isn’t an isolated trend. A recent study by the China Association of Performing Arts unveiled some compelling numbers. In the initial half of 2023 alone, revenue-generating performances across China amounted to a colossal 193,300. The total ticket revenue recorded a staggering 673.49% year-on-year growth, reaching a whopping 16.8 billion yuan.
The allure of immersive live dramas extends beyond the precincts of closed theaters. Touristic destinations are capitalizing on the format, integrating the vast expanses of outdoor landscapes into their narrative tapestry, which has found considerable traction among visitors.
Chen Hongjin, affiliated with the Bureau of Culture and Tourism of Pingyao county, accentuated the impact of these live spectacles. She emphasized how such theatrical renditions augment the tourism experience, propelling the industry’s evolution. She opined, “The amalgamation of ‘tourism+performance’ has not only revitalized China’s theatrical landscape but has also underscored the boundless synergies that can be harnessed from the confluence of culture and tourism.”