We wandered over to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda on our first night in Xi’an to watch the light and music performance they have in the fountains in the North Square every night.
The performance starts at 9pm in the summer months and we arrived way too early so we killed some time eating some yummy noodles from a food stall nearby, followed by a bit of people watching. Every morning and evening in China it seems that people gather in public spaces to exercise, so we spent some time watching a big group dancing near to the square.
It was still a long time until the performance started but I suggested to Alan that we head back to the square to nab a good spot to watch it from. We found an amazing spot at the base of one of the pillars running alongside the square. We could both sit on the wall and watch the performance in comfort. I settled myself down, got the tripod set up for the camera and then waited for 9pm to come by. I was amazed at how busy it was already and also feeling smug at our good position. The atmosphere was something akin to our bonfire night in the UK with families out enjoying themselves together, it felt rather festive.
We started to notice a lot of whistling coming from what looked like guards. It seemed that their job was to tell off rule breakers by blowing their whistle at them, gesticulating fiercely with their hands before marching over to reprimand the offender. What constituted an offence wasn’t too clear, but it seemed that stopping on the walkways in the middle of the fountains wasn’t allowed. We amused ourselves watching these guards dash back and forwards telling tourists off.
Soon, however, it transpired that we were rule breakers too! It seemed that sitting on the wall was not allowed, I’m not sure why, just that the explanation involved a lot of arm waving and pointing. Being British and therefore used to following orders we meekly got down from the wall and stood next to the fountain instead.
It got to 9pm and the crowd was thronging around the fountain. Then the show began. At first we watched the fountains, observing the different shapes of water being created, the varying heights of the jets of water and all the different colours illuminating the square all in time to music. It was quite pleasant.
Then, very slowly, the comedy show began. At first there was only a few of them. They would creep stealthily onto the walkway in the middle to pose for their photo before dashing back behind the edge. When spotted there would be a shrill squeak of a whistle and an agitated guard heading in their direction
Here is is a guard in action trying to usher people off the fountain:
Soon, however, the sheer quantity of them was overwhelming the guards. People became bolder, posing for long periods of time to ensure a perfect photo. The guards kept squeaking away, but no one was paying them any attention anymore. The guards would go over to reprimand them and they would shrug them off or ignore them. There was no stopping this mob of photo hungry Chinese tourists! We were no longer watching the fountains, the people now had our full attention. Some of the highlights of what we saw were…
A woman posing with her very pampered pooch:
Stick thin and very elegant girls doing their best poses:
A Chinese Tina Turner look a like:
In the end I think the guards were broken, they knew they had been defeated by the mob. Their whistles became half hearted and some of the energy had gone from their chasing.
Then, as quickly as the chaos had started, it stopped! We were soon almost by ourselves watching the light show. It seemed as soon as they had their photo of themselves posing in the fountain these tourists would leave. We watched the last few numbers in peace and then headed back to our hostel chuckling to ourselves about the unexpected comedy show we had been treated to that evening.