Shaolin Kung Fu Show in the Beijing Red Theatre

After traveling around Houhai in Beijing, we were treated to a kung fu show based off the famous Shaolin Temple. Thankfully, the tickets were relatively cheap with the price of about 160¥ per person, which is about $23. Before we were allowed to enter the theatre, we were greeted by a young boy sitting pretzeled-style with two wooden sticks that every so often he would bang against the bell in front of him. To say he greeted us was an understatement because during the times he was not ringing the bell he would stare intensively past everyone crowding around him, never uttering a word. Once 30 minutes had passed all 19 of us were ushered into the theatre by our wonderful tour guide William the first. Luckily, we were able to snag seats very close to the stage!

The whole show was beautiful and engaging. It told the story of kung fu while demonstrating the countless abilities a kung fu student obtains while studying at the Shaolin Temple. My favorite scene would have to be when the couple had a whole section of the show used to display their intimate feelings for one another. This was an important part within the show because it was the catalyst for the turning point for the main character. Additionally, the colors and the way the actors utilized the stage was absolutely captivating! Aside from the romance scene, there were times when I was cringing and wishing for the show to end. This would happen when one of the students would place himself atop a spear with his bare belly and spin around on it. Before the student would perform the stunt they would use fruits or some other prop to prove that the spear could actually puncture him. Other than moments like that, the show is definitely an activity that you should do when visiting Beijing.

Just in case this description was not enticing enough, I have provided a link for reviews and a trailer of the show. Personally, I have always loved watching kung fu movies like the Ip Man series and The Grandmaster, so being able to see kung fu transition from a screen into a show was amazing. Just from watching the show you can begin to understand the hard work that the kung fu students must endure during their day-to-day training. Besides the actors and actresses, the props that they use are incredible! Their ability to morph the stage into any type of environment is mesmerizing. Whether they are displaying the inside of the Shaolin Temple or the training grounds, you feel as though you are a part of the show rather than a spectator. The only negative comment I have is that I wished they served regular popcorn rather than caramel or vanilla. The Shaolin Kung Fu show is a must see when visiting Beijing!

Lijiang: Old Town and Party at Nongjiale!

After spending two days at Dali we hopped onto another bus and made our way over to Lijiang. Once the three-hour bus ride was over, we arrived at a hotel that was 7,874 feet high in elevation. When entering the hotel it had a small wooden bridge that led us into a beautiful courtyard (see below). It reminded me of the openness and nature-like aura of the Linden Center in Dali.

 

Once we were settled into our new rooms the group ventured out into the old town to explore Lijiang. Our tour guide was Lilly, a friend of Dr. Bullock, and we followed her down the small mountain into the main part of town. While there the group parted into two groups, one that went to a Western-style restaurant and the other that was more of a traditional Lijiang meal. After dinner, we were given time to explore the old town. While walking around the old town it felt like we were in a completely different time that was not modern and industrialized like Shanghai. The buildings looked new but had an ancient architecture to them while the mom and pop shops were welcoming and intriguing. During our time there we honed our skills in bargaining (讨价还价) and immersed ourselves into the Lijiang community. Below are some pictures that help to capture what walking around the old town felt and looked like. On the left shows the beautiful river that runs through the whole town and on the right is an alley that took me to a cafe that had live music being played by local artists. I remember that while the woman was singing our assistant director could not help but sing along and connect deeply with the song. Apparently, the woman was singing a really old Chinese song that spoke about true love and the aching feeling of loving something very deeply.

 

At night Lijiang’s old town turned into a city full of lights. A couple of the group members and I made our way down the mountain and into an underground mall that had stores similar to the ones you would find in Shanghai. To make it feel even more like a modern city there was a huge club that was playing techno music that had many people dressed up like they were going to a cocktail party.

Before we left for our next stop in Yunnan Province some of Dr. Bullock’s friends invited us to a dinner that gave us a taste of the Nashi culture. We ate some hot pot that included potatoes, chicken feet, beef, pork, corn and much more! At the end of the meal, the Nashi people sang one of their traditional songs and then we had a dance party. Once the folk music went on we all got into a macarena line and kicked out our legs from side to side (shown in the pictures below). The party ended when it began to pour so we said our final goodbyes and headed back to our hotel.

Reflecting back on Lijiang now, I really enjoyed the old town and how it felt like it was taking me back in time. However, it is worth mentioning that tourism is a double-edged sword for the people that live there. While all the tourism gives them a steady flow of income it also enables the government to start demolishing pieces of the old city to make Lijiang more modernized. I spoke with some of the local people and they said that the present Lijiang is completely different because the new developments in the city are taking away some of the old town’s natural attractions. I hope Lijiang can still maintain its beautiful aspects as more and more people go to visit. This was one of my favorite places to explore while in Yunnan Province.

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