Spring Festival Gala: Greatest Variety Show

Numerous traditions have emerged to celebrate the Chinese New Year in addition to popular Chinese New Year myths and auspicious Chinese New Year decoration. One of the more prominent recent additions is the Spring Festival Gala.

a group performing in the spring festival gala

Every year, China Central Television (CCTV) broadcasts this variety show. The Gala has since become one of the premier television events in the nation.

Locally known as Chūnwǎn (春晚), the Gala is very popular among diaspora Chinese communities. For this reason, they are always recognized in the show.  Learn more about the holiday by checking out our list of fascinating Chinese New Year facts and Chinese New Year superstitions.

History of the Spring Festival Gala

Before CCTV aired the program first in 1983, Beijing Television irregularly broadcasted New Year’s Eve shows from 1956. These shows were considered by many to be the predecessors of the Gala. The evolution of the Spring Festival Gala is seen by many as a representation of China’s technological growth.

In 1996, the Gala was broadcasted from three separate studios in Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing.  This feat was repeated in 2016 when it showed live split-screens in four major cities: Guǎngzhōu (广州), Hū lún bèi ěr (呼伦贝尔), Quánzhōu (泉州), and Xī’ān (西安).

The addition of Light-Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs to the stage in 2009 also significantly enhanced the viewing experience. Currently, the Spring Festival Gala is the most-watched arts and performance event in the world. When families gather for the for New Year’s Eve dinner, they gather in front of the television set to watch the Gala and eat dumplings.

Discover more about Chinese New Year custom in our content. We also provide articles on Chinese New Year foods, drinks, and desserts.

Spring Festival Performances

The Spring Festival Gala is a grand avenue for Chinese performers and entertainers to exhibit their talents. Performances on the show include:

Comedic Acts

There are two types of Chinese comedic acts performed in the Spring Festival Gala: xiàng shēng or stand-up skits (相声) and xiǎo pǐn or sketches (小品). Stand-up skits are usually performed by two comedians dressed in traditional cheongsam. Sketches give a comedic take on real-life issues. In recent years, popular topics for sketches include fraud, family life, and migrant workers.

two male comedians in traditional cheongsam performing a stand-up skit at the spring festival gala
Yunpeng Yue (岳云鹏) and Yue Sun (孙越) performing a stand-up skit.

Song and Dance

The Spring Festival Gala has been a platform for young celebrities and amateur performers to shine but many old-time favorite acts can be witnessed every year as well!. In 2016, the song Bèi ér Shuǎng (倍儿爽) went viral after it was performed in the Gala.

2015央视春晚节目29舞蹈《大地春晖》1080p 56个民族创意服装秀 杨月秋 李飞 孟庆旸等

The genre of the performances ranges from traditional, folk, ethnic, and contemporary acts. Additionally, Chinese pop singers like Leehom Wang (王力宏), Hán Gēng (韩庚), Chris Lee (李宇春) have also been invited to perform in the Gala to appeal to more demographics. The various ethnic groups in China are often the subject of song medleys and dances.

Acrobatic Acts

The breath-taking acrobatic show is one of the most awaited performances in the Spring Festival Gala. Hints of Chinese tradition are also incorporated into these performances. You will often see spinning plates, bamboo poles, as well as yo-yo tricks.

春晚记忆— 热门舞蹈 TOP9: 2012年 《雀之恋》 | CCTV春晚

Magic Acts

At least one magician also performs at the Spring Festival Gala each year and the host of the Gala is often included in the act. Renowned Chinese magician Louis Liu (刘谦) rose to stardom after performing in the Gala. Since then, he has been invited for many consecutive years.

Chinese Opera

The focus on traditional arts in the Spring Festival Gala has slowly been diminishing over the years. Nevertheless, they still play a significant role in the show.

2016 央视春晚戏曲《戏游花果山》|CCTV春晚

A Chinese opera medley is usually performed towards the end of the Gala.
It features parts from classic Chinese operas such as Peking opera (京剧), Henan opera (豫剧), and Shaoxing opera (越剧) among others. A special Spring Festival performance exclusively for traditional Chinese opera is also broadcasted by CCTV-3.

Spring Festival Gala Traditions

To start the event, the hosts give out blessings for the New Year and reading Spring Festival couplets. Customarily, the show ends with the singers performing a rendition of “Can’t Forget Tonight” (难忘今宵) by Lǐ Gǔ Yī (李谷). She is still invited to lead the tradition despite being over 70-years-old. In 2012, the song was not performed at the Gala but was reinstated the following year.

Reach and significance

The Spring Festival Gala is also broadcasted internationally by CCTV-4. The network also broadcasts the show in specific regions through CCTV-Español and CCTV-Français. Performers are usually invited by the CCTV production team but there are also televised auditions and competition to encourage amateur talents.

Although the annual viewership of the Gala is disputed, a couple hundred million viewers are said to be a certainty. The acts give viewers an idea of what traditional Chinese culture and also work to promote good ethics and customs. Regardless of where diaspora Chinese are in the world, they would calculate the difference in the time zones to watch the Gala.

New traditions to the Spring Festival Gala have come to light over the years. Nevertheless, the significance and impact of the Spring Festival continue to grow each year. It is a night filled with happiness and hope for Chinese all over the globe.

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4 thoughts on “Spring Festival Gala: Greatest Variety Show”

  1. Been wanting to watch Spring Festival Performances for the reason that I’m a fan of magic acts, acrobatic arts, etc. I know that it is really fun to watch together as a family.

    Reply
  2. So this is a new site that was built with the same idea except for the fact that it isn’t entirely open-source, so I don’t see exactly what the difference is.

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  3. I remember reading somewhere that Spring is only for those who can’t afford their own labs. It is only for those of us that have a large social network to go to.

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  4. If you enjoyed watching the videos on Hulu, I’d highly recommend watching it and going to it all weekend. It shows the kind of people who have really struggled to understand the whole world at once – a man who has grown up in the “space” space for many years, and who hasn’t really studied what the whole world thinks about space.

    Reply

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