The reel world

Updated: 2011-10-28 09:28

By Yin Yin (China Daily)

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The reel world

A fighting scene in the TV series Romance of the Three Kingdoms is relived at Wuxi Studio, a movie set located near Taihu Lake. [Zhu Wanchang / For China Daily]

Chinese movie towns get in on the act and become tourist attractions

Chollywood, as the Chinese film industry is sometimes called, is taking a leading role in the tourism industry. A growing number of tourists are flocking to movie towns and parks to relive their favorite scenes on the silver screen.

These sites offer a blend of film and traditional Chinese culture to become enjoyable tourist attractions in their own right.

Here are three well-known spots to visit:

1. Hengdian World Studios

Known to many as China's answer to Hollywood, this movie town consists of two huge modern film studios and 12 filming sets that span various Chinese dynasties.

The studios are located in Dongyang in East China's Zhejiang province, 160 km from the provincial capital of Hangzhou.

More than 400 films have been made in Hengdian, including major works such as The Emperor and the Assassin directed by Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou's Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower.

One of the studios' largest buildings is an imperial palace built to look like the early Chinese dynasties of the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) periods. The site is still frequently used to shoot movies based on these times.

The Dazhi Temple houses a 28.8-meter-high statue of Sakyamuni in its Great Buddha's Hall. The indoor statue is considered the largest of its kind in the country.

The movie site also offers entertaining rides and spectacular performances, such as man-made volcanoes that erupt and torrential floods that "sweep" through parts of the area.

Some buildings on site are also based on one of China's most prized scroll paintings, Along the River During the Qingming Festival, which dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and consists of a panoramic display of riverside city celebrating the Tomb Sweeping Festival.

2. Shanghai Film Shooting Base

What was Shanghai like in the 1930s when it captured the imagination of the world as one of the most enchanting cities of the East?

Located in the Songjiang district of southwest Shanghai, this shooting base offers a peek at what the "Paris of the East" was like and acts as a theme park reproducing Shanghai during some of the city's most colorful times.

Visitors will find many familiar scenes in the park, including Nanjing Road in the 1930s, the downtown of Old Shanghai, European-style buildings, a classical Catholic church, Suzhou Creek and landmark bridges. There is also a cross-town tram for visitors to further relive bygone eras.

Wanderers can stop by at the Town God's Temple (Chenghuangmiao), a Taoist temple for the guardian of the city and where the Eight Immortals of Taoist legend are engraved in a richly decorated archway.

Vintage shops out on the streets display the prosperity of Old Shanghai. At the watchmaker's shop, tourists can look at many kinds of clocks made in a classic style. In the clothing store, Chinese qipao dresses and Western-style clothes are displayed to help reproduce precious slices of life in Shanghai that are fast disappearing in today's world.

Canals and cars of the early 20th century dotting the base act as props for movies and backdrops for snap-happy visitors.

Iconic Chinese actors such as Zhou Xuan, Ruan Lingyu and Shangguan Yunzhu are also honored with wax figures on the site.

When audiences watch scenes of Old Shanghai in their favorite Hong Kong or Chinese mainland productions, chances are they are looking at this filming base.

3. Wuxi Studio

This movie set, located near the scenic Taihu Lake, has been home to popular TV offerings such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Water Margin.

An area set aside for the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280) alone occupies 35 hectares. Structures such as Emperor Wu's Palace, Ganlu Temple and the Beacon Tower in the style of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220) can be found here.

Special effects used to depict the decisive Battle of Red Cliffs serve up ancient warships berthed along the river and dazzling battle flags flown at gates to help recreate a grand and solemn moment that turned the tide of Chinese history.

A scenic spot found in the Water Margin is located next to the Three Kingdoms set and is made up of three main areas. Visitors in the County area can take in scenes depicting the life of people during the Song Dynasty.

Buildings in the Capital area are exquisite and showcase the prosperity during those times. The Liangshan Mountain area is built beside a lake in line with the main Water Margin story for visitors to share the camaraderie of Liangshan's 108 heroes.

The studio's Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) Town was constructed for a number of movie series and occupies 15 hectares. Visitors can view palaces, an imperial garden, ancient streets and an area modeled after the Huaqing Hot Spring in Shaanxi province. Tourists also get a chance to enjoy extravagant Tang palace celebrations and dances.

In European Town, located on the other side of Taihu Lake, attractions include a recreation of the Arc de Triomphe, British gardens, a Spanish bullfight arena and Florentine aristocratic square.