|These three theme parks revive the world of ancient China in a flash of spectacle. They were originally built as TV sets for mini-series based on two of China's most famous historical novels, the Three Kingdoms and the Water Margin. Later a third set was built for a series about the life and loves of the most famous emperors of the Tang Dynasty.
Having built such large and elaborate sets, after production finished the city decided it would be a shame to tear them down and instead turned them into historical theme parks. They spread over many acres along the shores of Lake Tai Hu, made up of many market squares, palaces, temples, mansions, and prisons where the most famous stories of the novels were set.
The buildings were designed based on a study of actual historical architecture and paintings, and built to match the historical standards, creating a remarkably vivid environment. Even the clothing and hairstyles of shop attendants and restaurants' waitresses are done in historical styles.
But the architecture is only the backdrop for the real highlight of the parks - live performances and staged battles. The two novels the parks are based on are full of action - Three Kingdoms tells the story of China's most famous civil war, while the Water Margin is a Robin Hood-like tale of righteous bandits fighting corrupt officials. For the TV series, producers recreated many of the novels' battles and fight scenes, and reenactments of the most popular ones are staged every day.
Set in the historical street and palace courtyards, they're very well performed - the performers and stuntmen were trained to meet the standards of national television. One especially entertaining type of show features the extravagant kung-fu and martial arts battles that are such a staple of Chinese films and television. But while on television directors and editors crop out the ropes and harnesses that makes the superhuman jumps and triple aerial somersaults possible, at the theme parks these are all visible to see, pulling the veil from the mystery from these seemingly impossible feats. Another great type of performance are the staged battles, featuring horseback fights, cavalry battles, and trick riding. The parks invite superb horsemen from as far away as Mongolia, and choreograph fights that both evoke bygone eras and are also captivating and lively shows. They're so popular that the audience at these staged battles is often standing room only!