Impression Series Tourism Performance

Impression Tourism Performance Series

Yimou Zhang

Impression Yimou Zhang


With the development of modern tourism in China, a new form of tourism performance called grand landscape performance came into being and became very poplar around various scenic spots all around China. In this article, we will introduce and analyze the famous tourism performance Impression Series directed by Yimou Zhang for its success as well as pitfall in terms of economy benefit and artistic value. Overall, the question of whether it is worthwhile artistically and economically to put in all the money and effort to produce such a series of performance will be answered in this article.

In general, the Impression Series by Yimou Zhang was successful as it created a new era for tourism performance with Impression Liu Sanjie being the first grand landscape performance ever on stage in China. However, apart from the success we will also notice that there are some drawbacks after this kind of performance being mass produced around different places without considering the effective market demand. On the other hand, the artistic value of the show is high due to its usage of high-tech device, magnificent performance embedded in beautiful natural scene, profound representation of ethnic minority and number of performers. However, the major problem with the Impression Series is that the general formation of the show remains almost identical without much change, which inevitably resulted in the loss of novelty and thereby audience.

Before we begin our analysis and come to the conclusion, three hypotheses are needed as the foundation of the analysis.

  1. The aim of the Impression Series tourism performance is to represent the local tradition and boost the local economy through increasing tourism income.
  2. The economic effects of hiring Yimou Zhang to direct the performance can be measured in terms of the local tourism annual income difference before and after the show.
  3. The artistic effect of the performance can be determined from the feedback of the critics in terms.

The Impression Series directed by Yimou Zhang involves seven different performances listed as below. We will analyze Impression Liu Sanjie in detail since it is the first grand landscape performance introduced in China ever since and is a great success.

Links for other performances of the Impression Series can be found by clicking on the links below.

  1. Impression Liu Sanjie
  2. Impression Lijiang
  3. Impreession Xihu
  4. Impression Hainan
  5. Impression Dahongpao
  6. Impression Putuo
  7. Impression Wulong


Since the implementation of the reform and opening up policy issued in the year 1978, the economy of China has been developing rapidly. With the rise of life quality for Chinese people in terms of material goods, there is a rising demand for raising the quality of spiritual life. In order to cater to the demand, Chinese government has been investing heavily in the culture industry since the 1990s. For example, the budget of the Chinese government for the culture development industry increased from 1.12 billion RMB to 83.7 billion from the year 1990 to the year 1998. The number of agencies increased from 68 thousand to 92 thousand and the number of people in the industry increased from 495 thousand to 721 thousand.[i] The increasing budget, regulating agency and number of people involved not only represented the rising demand and supply for the culture industry but also laid a solid foundation for the development of tourism performance industry.

At the beginning of the 21st century, more and more foreign tourists went to China for tourism. The increasing number of tourists brought up a huge market for tourism related industries. With increasing market demand, people started to produce new form of tourism performance in addition to the natural scene to attract tourists. For local governments of remote district in China, they tend to rely a lot on the tax income from tourism. Since some in land province in China features beautiful natural scenes but not ideal for agriculture, manufacturing industry or business trading due to its mountainous geographic characteristic, local governments decide to focus on cultivating the development of tourism by creating scenic spots and offer convenient policies for the tourism industry. For example, the newly established scenic spot: Zhangjiajie is the result of the booming of tourism in China.

On the other hand, with the arrival of the 21st century, science and technology has developed extensively compared to 50 years ago, which offers a great number of choices for the directors to express their ideas and attracting tourists. For example, the ability to reshape the scene for the purpose of having a grand stage enables the grand landscape performance. Technology development is very crucial for grand landscape performances since it is not designed to be performed on a real stage which means lots of conventional stage equipment is not available so that substitutes using state of art technology must be utilized to resolve this problem.

In short, the increasing market demand, government support, technology advancement and the need for a new form of performance to attract tourists formed the base of the grand landscape performance.

Performance Introduction

Impression Liu Sanjie

Impression Liu Sanjie

With the support of government and the rising demand of the market, the first grand landscape performance: Impression Liu Sanjie was introduced in the year 2004. This show is directed by Yimou Zhang and supported by Chaoge Wang and Yue Fan, who are all famous movie directors in China.

For the story line, Impression Liu Sanjie brought the character Liu Sanjie from a Chinese folk tell into real life and put her story of being a legendary singer into its full glory by sing hundreds of actors as well as modern technologies. Yimou Zhang used color and symbolism heavily to represent the idea he wanted to convey to the audience.

Impression Liu Sanjie utilized the largest scale of light and smoke system to create a real wonderland in the real world of Guilin, a city with a good reputation for its beautiful mountain and river. The performance involves more than six hundred actors and the stage covers more than 1.654 kilometer squared of water and land.[ii] The show lasts about one hour and has been performed every day since its first premium. The show turned out to be a great success and received very high complement from officers of the World Tourism Organization.

After the success of Impression Liu Sanjie, many local governments started to invite Yimou Zhang as a director for various grand landscape tourism performances for the purpose of branding the scenic spots as well as generating profits. As a result, the Impression Series grand landscape tourism performance came into being.

Connections to Contemporary Chinese Performance Culture

There are many elements presented in Impression Series that can be related to concepts of contemporary Chinese performance culture. Being a tourism performance itself, the Impression Series reflected the local ethnic minority as its characteristic. Apart from this, the Impression Series also stands for the idea of Chinese performance Avant-garde in terms of its novelty in formation as Impression Liu Sanjie being the first grand landscape tourism performance ever on stage. Moreover, in order to attract tourists all over the world, western elements have been embedded into the performance. For example, the English lyrics of some songs in the show Impression Liu Sanjie can be considered as an example of inter-culture theater.

In this article, the economy effect analysis corresponds to one important purpose of the tourism purpose of tourism performance, which is profit generation. As we have discussed in class before, the idea of scenic spot in China established the basic needs of tourist attraction. The grand landscape show at a specific scenic spot served the purpose of attracting tourists and its economy performance has a lot to do with its quality. The art value analysis deals with the problem of whether the show has been made attractive enough in terms of its form and contents, which we have discussed a lot in class.

Economy Benefit Analysis


Statistically, the Impression Series has generated large profits for the local governments in general. Take impression Liu Sanjie as an example, the local government Suoyang has an increase in tourism income 500 million RMB within 2 years after the first premium of the show Impression Liu Sanjie. The local land price for the scenic spot became more than six times the price before the show had been on stage. On a larger scale, with the help of this show, Guilin city managed to make 6.875 billion RMB out of tourism by having 13.37 million tourists within the year when the show was put on stage, which had increased 18.63 percent compared to the previous year.[iii]

The effect of the economy boost is obvious based on the previous. In addition, the performance has helped to create may job positions for local residents. For the purpose of reflecting the real life of the local people, the actors of the performance are mainly local people. This keeps the originality of the performance while help to solve the problem of unemployment for the local government.

Even without the branding effect of the performance being included, the economic benefit generated by Impression Liu Sanjie is obvious. We have to admit that the successful is partly due to the famous director Yimou Zhang.


One may now think about the disadvantage brought by the show. Although the directing team for Impression Liu Sanjie aimed to create a grand show without damaging the beautiful natural environment significantly, there are still some draw backs. For example, bamboos are used as cheap and environmentally friendly material to build stage on a river and can be removed whenever not used. This has consumed a tremendous amount of bamboos at the place where the stage is setup.

Impression Hainan

Impression Hainan

On the other hand, not all shows in the Impression Series gained that amount economy benefits for the local government as impression Liu Sanji did. This can be illustrated by the example of Impression Hainan. With a total investment of 180 million RMB, Impression Hainan is not only supposed to support itself but also bring Hainan province with more tourism income. However, it turned out that only on third of the seats out of more than five hundred seats are taken for each performance and the Hainan Impression Cultural Tourism Development Limited Company was forced to sell fifty five percent of the stock for the Impression Hainan performance to some company located in Shenzhen.

The major economy inefficiency of Impression Hianan Dao is due to its incorrect price setting. For grand landscape shows like the Impression Series, which usually involve large number of actors and large cost, the anticipated number of audience must be met to ensure profit generation. However, the lowest price for each ticket is 235 RMB, which is more expensive than the lowest prices for the 2008 Bejing Olympic opening ceremony. This resulted in the failure of profit generation.

We see from the economy analysis that the Impression Series is successful economically in general but have some counter example due to mismanagement. More generally there are many unsuccessful grand landscape shows in China due to blind flowing of the Impression Series without market search.

Hence, it is in general worthwhile to produce grand landscape performance in terms of profit generation when managed properly.

Art Value Analysis

The art value of the grand landscape performance is not as controversial as the economy value as Yimou Zhang has done a great job in terms of putting together masterpiece of arts.

First, the grand landscape performance features the integration of the beautiful natural scene and modern technology. Modern technologies such as moving stages and net controlled LED suits are used for performance at night to create amazing visual effects.

Second, the performance usually involves large number of actors doing same motion together. This arrangement offers the audience a feast of sight and sound as it is not usually seen in daily life.

Third, the Impression Series aims to represent the lifestyle of the ethnic minorities of a specific region. Many ethnic minority actors are involved to reproduce their life on the stage.

Fourth, the Impression Series performance such as Impression Liu Sanjie, combined some foreign elements its performance, such as lyrics in English. This can partly be considered as an inter-culture performance for its bilingual aspect.

On the other hand, the minor drawback of the series of performance is the repetition of performance style. This is not considered a big issue if new wines are pooled into old bottles properly. Yimou Zhang did a great job in putting the new content unique to the specific scenic spot into the good old form of grand landscape tourism performance but the trend followers among scenic spots around China were not doing that fine. However, there are critics who believed that the Impression Series was going down due to its identical strategy for each performance.[iv] Therefore, the art value of the Impression Series is highest at the beginning due to its novelty and a little lower later.


Based on watching the performances and the previous analysis, we can conclude that the performances are worthwhile in terms of its art value as the quality of the performances is good. However, it is not immediately clear whether it is worthwhile to produce a specific performance in the Impression Series economically as it depends on whether the performance suits the unique situation of the scenic spot.


[i] Fang, Xi. (2010). Impress on “Impression”. URL:

[ii] An, Dong. (2012). The Brand Marketing Research of the Large-scale Riverside Show was called “Impression Snjie Liu”. URL:

[iii] Xing, Qian. (2011). “Strategic Planning of Grand Landscape Performance of “Impression Series”. Hundred Schools in Arts. 123(7), 73-77. URL:

[iv] Critics on Impression Cities by Chinese Government Official, URL: