Guilin Festival: where culture, nature, and creativity converge
Published: Nov 10, 2023 03:01 AM
Photo: Xinhua News Agency

Photo: Xinhua News Agency

The 2023 Guilin Festival, came to an end on Sunday in Guilin, a famous tourist destination in South China's Guangxi Province. The ten-day festival had a theme of coexistence, seamlessly integrating art, theater, and the natural splendor of the region, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency on Thursday.

The event was hosted by the Guilin Municipal People's Government and the Central Academy of Drama. A total of 140 activities and performances, featuring plays, folk music, operas, and monologues in different languages from 14 countries and regions.

While theater remains at the heart of the festival, the 2023 edition transcended traditional boundaries, allowing audiences to immerse themselves in a rich tapestry of experiences. 

From the grand processions of the Classic of Mountains and Seas to exuberant New Zealand Maori dance performances that captivated throngs of enthusiastic spectators, the festival pulsed with energy. 

Over 80 percent of this year's performances took place outdoors, harmoniously blending with Guilin's natural beauty. Unique venues like the "Mountain Theater," "Water Theater," "Cave Theater," "Grass Theater," and "Island Theater" allowed the landscape to become an integral part of the theatrical experience.

The stunning surroundings have inspired artists. The Russian cast of The Cherry Orchard remarked on the picturesque setting, while the German ensemble performing The Threepenny Opera along the Li River reveled in the unique stage, where the sky served as the backdrop, the earth as the stage, the mountains as scenery, and the water as a mirror.

This year's festival was marked by its youthful spirit. Across seven major sections - drama performances, urban arts, academic forums, children's programs, and more - the themes of "youth," "vitality," "diversity," and "innovation" resonated. 

The opening spectacle, Camel Xiangzi, directed by He Nian of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, reimagines a classic work for modern audiences, inviting them to explore the timeless wisdom embedded in literary masterpieces.

Two productions from the "Global Chinese Youth Theatre Directors Talent Program," namely Huang Ying's new adaptation of Journey to the West (2023) and Zhao Miao's physical theater piece Fearless Mother and Her Children, garnered acclaim from international audiences and received multiple awards from the Scottish Asian Arts Foundation.

Director Wang Xiaoying aptly summarized the festival's essence, saying that the future of theater lies in young talent. Guilin Festival's focus on nurturing young theater professionals infuses it with dynamism. These emerging artists carry the cultural legacy forward, embodying the essence of Chinese artistry.

In August, the festival made history by hosting an international press conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, becoming the first Chinese arts festival to venture beyond its borders for a high-profile promotional event. 

The festival has captured the attention of over 200 domestic and international media outlets, as well as social media influencers. 

Topics related to the festival have been read about more than 900 million times on Sina Weibo, Douyin, life-style platform Xiaohongshu, and the Meitu Xiuxiu platform, the Xinhua report said.

Hao Rong, director of the Festival Organizing Committee, chairman of the Art Committee, and president of the Central Academy of Drama, said that the Guilin Festival is not only a response to the call of historical context, but also an inheritance of traditional literary and artistic spirit. It is also a reflection of the development of literature and art in the new era. 

"We hope to build the Guilin Festival into a 'Chinese-style art festival,' an international people's art festival based on diversity, mutual learning, and inclusive public benefit, based on the subjectivity of Chinese culture," he noted.