Lijiang's "Impression Lijiang" will undergo its annual maintenance closure from December 21 to 31.
The lavish mountaintop show has an impressive 4.5 out of five rating on Tripadvisor, where out of a total of 678 reviews, more than 90% are either very good or excellent. At an altitude of 3100 meters (10,100 feet), the Impression Lijiang Show is the highest, large-scale, open-air performance anywhere in the world. It is performed daily in a natural amphitheater, with the imposing Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a spectacular background. There are more than 500 performers from ten different minorities and more than a hundred horses in this spectacular show.
World famous director Zhang Yimou, the driving force behind critically acclaimed wuxia epics such as Hero and The House of Flying Daggers, as well as cultural classics like Raise the Red Lantern, is the brainchild behind this amazing extravaganza. This is the man who choreographed the opening ceremony of the 28th Olympic Games in Beijing back in 2018, and so he knows a thing or two about large-scale spectacles. Impression is actually a series of shows that are set in popular tourist locations all over China, and include Impression West Lake in Hangzhou and Impression Liu Sanjie Liu in Yangshuo, of which officials from the World Tourism Organization said after watching, “It’s worth taking a flight from anywhere in the world to watch the show.” Others in the series include Impression Hainan, Impression Dahongpao at Wuyi Mountain, Impression Wulong at Taoyuan Grand Canyon near Chongqing, Impression Putuo at Putuoshan Mountain and Impression Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie. There is now also an Impression National Music Show and even an Impression Melaka that is staged in Malaysia.
Located 20 kilometers north of Lijiang in the Blue Moon Valley Theatre, the Impression Lijiang show is the only show in the series that takes place during the daytime, taking unique advantage of the stately 5596 meter Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a backdrop. In fact, the promoters describe it as being a conversation between the performers and the mountain, allowing the audience to experience the close relationship between nature and our own human existence.
The sixty-minute musical features can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. Local people are employed in an extravaganza that showcases their tribal culture. In the clear mountain air, the singers can be heard without the use of microphones and the final sections are especially exciting, with troops of men marching on stage and skilled horsemen galloping their horses over a gangway that circles all the way around the edge of the arena. Think Ben Hur in the Himalayas! Of the now innumerable live-shows that are performed both indoors and out, in tourist destinations all over the world, this ranks as one of the very best!
There are a dozen or more clips of the show uploaded to YouTube, but this short recording by a German tourist is one of the better examples.
The VIP seats are less crowded and have by far the best view. They are only 70 RMB more than the normal price but are well worth the extra cost. With regular tickets, you need to queue up early and sit as close as you can to the stage to get a good view. This is not always so much fun when the domestic tourists insist on pushing and shoving so much. The VIP seats even have separate, clean VIP toilet.
Try to go on a clear day where you can see the mountain as the stunning backdrop. If there are clouds in the area, save your money and do not bother going all the way to the top of the mountain. All you will see is thick pea soup. If your travel is flexible, it is best to check the weather forecast and come on a clear day.
If the skies are clear, then be warned that UV rays are very strong at this altitude. Organizers offer free baseball caps, but it is best to bring your own wide-brimmed light-colored hat and plenty of sun-block. There are no umbrellas allowed, but long sleeves and a good hat should be protection enough. If you are especially sensitive, then try to book tickets for an earlier show, before the midday sun reaches its zenith. If you do not mind the sun, sit on the very top rows to get the most of the dramatic mountain backdrop. At this altitude, the air is fresh, but the temperature can change suddenly and the wind can soon pick up. So, hold on to your hat! If you want to bring a can of oxygen, buy it in advance, down at one of the supermarkets, where it is available at a quarter of the price that it is sold on the mountain.
Even if you do not speak a word of Mandarin, the emotion and the spectacle alone conveys a massive amount of meaning. In addition, there is a scrolling text in the corner which includes English subtitles. If you sit somewhere in the lower middle section, you can see both the large screen and the smaller screen with the translation. The English "subtitles" are rather over-simplified and unless you understand Mandarin, you will not be able to get the full meaning of the show, but it is still worth watching, just for the costumes and sheer grandeur.
You might also want to bring a selfie stick to so that you can capture pictures of the performers, rather than the back of the audience’s heads. A flask of hot coffee will also be very welcome at this time of year. You might want to wait a while to leave your seat just after the show, to avoid the mass barging and shoving that seems to be quite an acceptable part of Chinese tourist culture.
If you are on a tight budget, remember that tickets are 280 RMB person at the ticket office, but only 228 when booked online. If you are in a group and want even deeper discounts, hire a private driver to take you to up to the mountain, and ask them to negotiate lower ticket prices for you. Most can get the price down to 200 per person and you will not have to endure a tour bus full of excitable locals. There is also another very good show that takes place nightly at the Red Square theatre back in town, which has if anything even higher production values and incorporates huge IMAX 3D screens. Then, of course, there is the equally moving “Dynamic Yunnan” that shows nightly back in Kunming. Feel free to contact us now if you would like help booking tickets for any of these shows.