A dance troupe organized by the Cultural Center of Pu’er City & LanCang LaHu Autonomous County performed “Swing (Arms) to A Springtime” at this year’s CCTV (China Central Television) Spring Gala – CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) annual Lunar New Year extravaganza. Surprised to learn of a city called Pu’er (Pu-erh) (普洱市)? This prefecture-level metropolis, population 2.6 million, was renamed from SiMao to Pu’er City in 2007.

Screen capture of Spring Gala Pu’er City dancers in a row
Screen capture of Spring Gala Pu’er City dancers from above

Administratively sub-divided into one district and nine autonomous counties, Pu’er City in southern YunNan Province is home to several ethnic groups, including LaHu, HaNi, Yi, Dai, and Va; and all have contributed significantly to everything tea. SiMao District hosts the annual China International Pu’er Tea Festival. The LaHu people are known not only for the practice of roasting tea right before steeping, but also for valuing teas more than other worldly possessions.  A HaNi legend recounts that while celebrating a young hunter’s capture of a leopard, a gale caused tree leaves to fall into a pot of boiling water; the HaNi people discovered tea and have savored it ever since.

LaHu’s vivacious traditional dances and percussion-centric music inspired this year’s performance, chosen not by invitation but via a vigorous submission and selection process. The production has received numerous recognitions, including Pu’er City’s People’s Choice Camellia Award.

Some traditional outfits in Pu’er City

Three women in traditional Pu’er City clothing outside
Some women in traditional Pu’er City attire serving tea

“Such Lushness”, or literally ”Just This Verdant,” is the Year of the Tiger’s most applauded segment – a choreographic interpretation of the splendid 39-foot-long Song Dynasty (960–1279) masterpiece A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains, also known as A Panorama of Mountains and Rivers. (Li, a Chinese unit of distance, is equivalent to 1,640 feet.) The Spring Gala’s tech teams boasted their seamless incorporation and deployments of 5G (mobile network/cellular technology), AI (artificial intelligence), and 4K/8K (ultra HD resolution). The stage floor was covered with slippery LED screens, which must have given the dancers loads of undesired challenges.

Pu’er tea on display in a store

This is not the first time I have written about the Spring Gala. As commented in the other post, adorning every year’s gala are the inscrutable moments, many of which unveil new propaganda schemes the CCP had concocted during the preceding 12 months. Viewers, especially China-based Chinese themselves, lament the gala’s decline in quality and content. I offer this advice: Eliminate the Western influences, i.e., rock music, rapping in Mandarin, hip hop dances, etc. The 2014 Drill Dance from the ballet The Red Detachment of Women, premiered in 1964 during the height of the Cultural Revolution and performed for Nixon and entourage in 1972, sets the supreme standard. One YouTube comment reads, “Appalled yet fascinated.” Honesty is the best policy, and that presentation is not only brutally honest but also historically accurate.

Screen captures and photo of pu’er display provided and copyright held by author
Photos of people in Pu’er City provided and copyright held by Babette Donaldson