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Chengdu's Jinsha Takes Centerstage
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Inspired by the Jinsha Relics discovered in the outskirts of Chengdu, the musical extravaganza, Jinsha, has been playing to sell-out audiences since its first show at Beijing's Poly Theater on April 8, 2005.

In Chengdu, the birthplace of Jinsha, the musical has played to more than 150,000 people over 256 performances.

On April 15, Ye Dan, producer of the musical and the director of the Jinsha International Theater at the Chengdu Art Center, spoke exclusively with China.org.cn about the reasons behind the growing interest in Jinsha and future plans for the musical.

For one thing, the city of Chengdu has been working tirelessly to promote and develop its travel industry. The recently concluded 2006 China Domestic Travel Mart was attended by 45,000 trade visitors. The Jinsha booth was constantly crowded with people and all tickets for shows were sold out.

"We had to add an extra performance to meet the demands of guests from the travel mart." Ye said. "Jinsha is now not only a musical, but also a new cultural phenomenon. We want to make it one of the best."

             Ye Dan

A Jinsha performance is included in city tour packages that take visitors to the Dujiangyan Dam, Jinsha Relics, Temple of Marquis Wu and the former residence of esteemed poet Du Fu. "This is China's first cultural and musical tour that Chengdu is trying to establish," Ye said.

Jinsha (which literally means "gold sand") was inspired by the Jinsha Relics, which were excavated on February 8, 2001. These relics, which were discovered in Jinsha Village on western outskirts of Chengdu and believed to be a branch of profound Sanxingdui Relics in Guanghan, are of the Shang and early Western Zhou dynasties, and are evidence that there was civilization in Chengdu more than 3,000 years ago.

A Jinsha museum, which will house the relics and the musical, is scheduled for opening later this year.

The musical, first conceived in March 2004, was the brainchild of the Chengdu government. It was designed to be a modern-day celebration of Chengdu's ancient civilization.

Tasked with putting the musical together, Ye and his team set out to create a production that combined culture with showbiz pizzazz.

"We had three subjects to choose from at that time. They were the Dujiangyan Dam, a historic figure Zhu Geliang from the Three Kingdoms period (220-280), and the Jinsha. We finally decided on the Jinsha which we thought could best represent the 3,100-year-old Ancient Shu Kingdom civilization."

The production company, the Chengdu Jinsha Sunbird Performing Arts Culture Co., Ltd, was established in 2004 with support from the Chengdu Municipal Communist Party, Chengdu Municipal Government, Chengdu Municipal Culture Bureau, Chengdu's TV and radio stations and newspaper groups. As the company's first major project, Jinsha cost 16 million yuan (US$1.99 million) to make.

To ensure top quality performances, producers employ the Broadway model when recruiting talent. Artists of the highest caliber from all over the country, including songwriter San Bao and playwright Guan Shan, were handpicked to put the show together.

San Bao, the general director and composer of the show, wrote the musical scores for famed movies such as Not One Less and The Road Home by Zhang Yimou, and popular TV-series such as The Story of A Noble Family by Liu Guoquan. When asked what attracted him to work on Jinsha, he said that Chengdu's culture and the Ancient Shu civilization have always fascinated him.

"And I want to do a great musical in China; that's why I'm here," he said. San Bao was so inspired by the project that he composed 22 melodies in less than three months, setting up the framework for the musical.

The musical tells the story of the young archeologist, Sha, who discovers the Jinsha Relics and is transported back in time, some 3,000 years, with the help of a genie to meet his pre-ordained lover, Jin.

Critics such as Wen Shuo, the vice director of Musical Research Center of Beijing Dance Academy, say that Jinsha, with its grandiose acoustic and visual effects, is more a concert than a musical because of its weak storytelling.

The original version was 120 minutes long, but has since been cut down to 75 minutes. According to Ye, "This is to save the tourists' time."

"The abridged version is for tourists who might have busy travel schedules. The 120-minute version will only be staged for aficionados."

Ye added that there are big plans for Jinsha. Plans are under way to take the show to the US, Germany and France.

"Several foreign agencies have contacted us, and we are scheduled to perform in Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego in the second half of the year," he said. "What's more, we have decided to expand our offering by producing CDs, DVDs, concerts, and philharmonic performances. We'll make it China's best musical ever."

(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui April 24, 2006)

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