More than just a film lot, the vast Hengdian Studios embodies both a history of China and its future

On a sweltering, overcast afternoon, an old bus from Yiwu city is bouncing along the narrow mountain road toward the town of Hengdian, Zhejiang province, its windows covered with translucent dark-blue paper. Inside, it’s gloomy and smells of gasoline. But no one’s complaining: The passengers are looking forward to spotting some celebrities.

“I am sure she is in Guangzhou Street,” says one young woman, discussing actress Zhao Liying (The Journey of Flower, Princess Agents). “We can definitely see her there tomorrow.” Her friend has a different opinion: “The show she is filming is set in the Song dynasty, so they must be in the ‘Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival.’”

We are heading for Hengdian World Studios, the largest outdoor film lot in the world, spanning over 2,500 acres—27 times larger than Paramount and Universal Studios put together. It’s one of China’s biggest attractions, pulling in more than 100 million tourists since it opened in 1996.

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author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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