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How Guangxi’s ‘Goddess of Singing’ became a million-dollar light show

Last week, natural theater project Impressions Liu Sanjie (《印象·刘三姐》) announced bankruptcy. Fortunately for fans of the Guilin, Guangxi attraction, Liu Sanjie’s official Weibo account later clarified that company restructuring will not impact their ability to see the nightly outdoor song-and-dance numbers, performed with extravagant lights on the Li River against the picturesque karst formations of Yangshuo county.

Co-directed by Zhang Yimou, Wang Chaoge, and Fan Yue, the show earned a revenue of 0.21 billion RMB and a net profit of nearly 0.1 billion RMB in 2017, spawning a copycats in scenic spots across China: Impressions West Lake in Hangzhou, Impressions Lijiang, Impressions Hainan….

Liu Sanjie is actually the odd name out, but revelations that the company’s bankruptcy was caused by unwise loans and investments make it timely to revisit story behind the name, involving a local deity whose heroic sacrifices and connection to Guilin have lately been overshadowed by the tourist branding.

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author Tan Yunfei (谭云飞)

Tan Yunfei is the editorial director of The World of Chinese. She reports on Chinese language, food, traditions, and society. Having grown up in a rural community and mainly lived in the cities since college, she tries to explore and better understand China's evolving rural and urban life with all readers.

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