January 30, 2024
BEIJING – To celebrate the arrival of 2024, Li Chao traveled from Shanghai to Liuyang, Hunan province, to watch a fireworks display.
Liuyang is known as the “hometown of fireworks”, but the 23-year-old was unable to obtain a ticket to see a fireworks show at Sky Theatre, because they had sold out.
She and her friends, along with people from across China, settled on watching the display, which was also livestreamed, from an open playground.
To witness the pyrotechnic delights on Dec 31, more than 160,000 people traveled to Liuyang, which boasts a population of 1.4 million and is situated about 70 kilometers from Changsha, the capital of Hunan.
Li said: “I had never seen anything like these fireworks before. The evening was romantic, mesmerizing and festive. More important, after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone in the large crowd was ready to celebrate.”
She added that the fireworks were like stars shimmering against the dark canvas of the night sky.
After watching the display, which lasted more than an hour, Li said that the fireworks show she had seen at Shanghai Disney Resort seemed small in comparison.
The entire event on New Year’s Eve lasted more than four hours, but Li and her friends returned to their hotel early to avoid traffic.
Wang Biao, head of Sky Theatre, said the show was livestreamed on short video platforms — trending on Douyin and Kuaishou — two of the largest such platforms in China, with more than 600 million views.
The theatre is located alongside the Liuyang River, with the stage for the display set against a backdrop of mountains.
Wang said the show featured a combination of water, mountains and fireworks, as well as a dance performance, adding that such displays can also be staged at other tourist sites or amusement parks.
A total of 50 fireworks shows were livestreamed at the theater last year during weekends and festivals, and people now know that such displays are held in Liuyang on Saturday nights, Wang said.
“People come to the city because it is the hometown of fireworks and showcases their aesthetic appeal,” he said.
Wang said the theater can seat about 10,000, so for occasions such as New Year’s Eve, spectators need to be creative in finding locations to watch the fireworks, such as from rooftops or balconies of apartment buildings near the theater.
Villagers set up small lounge chairs in hills near the theater, charging 100 yuan ($14) for each seat, he added.
Yi Xin, who also works at the theater, said rehearsals are staged for the fireworks shows to ensure they are eye-catching.
Nearly 80 percent of audiences at the theater are younger than 50, and most of them are either in the 21-30 age bracket, or married couples aged 31 to 40, who also bring their children or parents to watch the shows, he said.
Yi added that the displays are happy occasions at which people bond with one another, and there have been no bad reviews for the shows.
Wang said the theater plans to show more than 50 fireworks displays this year to bolster its brand image and provide a venue for people to spend their weekends.