The city of Luoyang in central Henan province aims to revive its cultural tourism hub reputation by staging the epic drama The Empress Wu Zetian, depicting stories of the nation’s only empress in its 5,000-year history.
In the 90-minute show, a crew of about 500 actors bring the late empress back to life, vividly presenting Wu’s life with her fight against immoral imperial leaders, devoting herself to serving the people, and eventually ascending the throne as China’s first and only female monarch.
Created by Luoyang Shun Di Cultural Communication with a budget of 280 million yuan ($43.47 million), the drama won audiences’ hearts not only with its enchanting plots but also with the dazzling and lifelike stage sets. These include a replica of the Lu She Na Buddha of the Longmen Grottoes – a UNESCO World Heritage site with tens of thousands of statues of the Buddha and his disciples.
Luoyang, a city with more than 4,000 years of history, is among the first batch of the National Famous Historical and Cultural Cities named by the State Council in 1982. It served as the capital for several ancient Chinese dynasties including the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), during which Wu rose to power and ruled the country for 15 years.
During her reignfrom AD 690 to 705, Wu reformed the education system to bring in talented people, developed agriculture and enhanced the military. She also left Luoyang a rich cultural heritage.
“Empress Wu is the most famous woman in Luoyang. We want to honor her achievement as a politician and encourage modern women to be confident, independent and self-loving,” the show’s Director Zhang Rensheng said.
Zhang said the performers’ lines are all written with the rhythm of ancient Chinese poetry and read out with a Luoyang accent, in a bid to make the show close to history.
The show also tries to accurately reflect scenes of royal life in the flourishing Tang Dynasty by employing traditional palace architecture style – such as dragon pillars and decorations like large tripods – in the stage sets.
Show highlights include stonemasons who appear to carve the statue of the Buddha every time Wu faces critical choices in her life. The statue, a 1:1 scale replica of that in Longmen Grottoes, is finished when Wu dies in the show.
Pacific-Asia Travel Association research shows that 60 percent of interviewed travelers are willing to pay for tours that carry rich historic and cultural elements. Cultural experience might to some extent become an important factor when promoting local tourism, according to the research.
With the ongoing performance, The Empress Wu Zetian is seen as the next cultural symbol of Luoyang to demonstrate the charm of Chinese history and culture and to attract more visitors.
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