The Festival On The Great Wall Of China

ying yang festival

We're all looking for that one truly unique experience in life, something that will perform the holy trinity of being unforgettable, exclusive and let's face it, so amazing looking that all your mates secretly hate you when they look at your inevitable barrage of Instagram pics and Snapchat's about it. But with the global neighbourhood we now live in, an infinitely connected world where you can go anywhere and there will already be at least three very passive aggressive Trip Advisor reviews waiting for you there, literally the most remote island you can think of, and every hotel on it, maybe it only has two, will have a handful of three out of five star reviews with lots of exclamation marks at the end of a sentence regarding bed sheets, in this kind of world, are there really any properly individual moments anymore?

Well, yeah, they are still out there just about, and none really can be said to be any more individual than raving on the Great Wall of China. Indeed, you read correctly, there really is a festival situated on the most iconic of all walls, probably the world’s most favourite ever wall in fact, a wall so huge and good at keeping out foreigners once upon a time that Donald Trump probably wets himself about it every night. Yet instead of this never ending pile of bricks being an alarming indicator of a creeping dystopia, it plays banging dance music, all day and all night long, for three days straight.

Yes, the YinYang Festival, which takes place on a part of the wall built 1,400 years ago that runs through Huangyaguan, is an electronic music festival that beats nearly every single one going in terms of original location. The event was created in 2014 by Tommy Hendriks and his wonderfully named partner Rainbow Gao, after successfully running club nights in their home city of Shanghai. This month (N.B. It's June if this piece gets published later than this month) saw the fourth instalment of the festival, and although festival's in China are certainly a different proposition what you might expect in Europe, it was nonetheless a special party. “There’s no separation between rich and poor, or between a rich artist and poor artist, or VIP customer or normal customer,” says Tommy, “It’s a little bit like communism.”[i] And indeed, the festival espouses this socialist vibe by letting it's comrades/punters bring their own food and booze, letting them camp for free near the wall and by never paying any of the artists or DJ's a fee to pay, so, in essence, it's the Marxist utopia we've all been secretly crying out for.

But, although you might think the still openly communist Chinese government would be happy to see a festival extolling its socialist values thriving within its borders, they are also more protective than European countries might be. “Back home, when you go to festivals, everything is allowed almost,” explains Tommy, “(But) if something goes wrong with a festival in China, most likely it will close down. In 2004 there was another festival at the Great Wall and a foreigner who was very drunk fell from the Great Wall and broke some parts of his body. For 10 years, the Chinese government didn’t allow anybody to do a festival on the Great Wall. So this is a really big challenge.” So although China is certainly embracing the festival culture that has come to define European summer's, there certainly is caveat's to that, one obviously being that you can't get so drunk that you fall off the oldest wall ever made because you'll ruin the party for everyone.

Saying that, the YinYang festival has been running without qualms for four successful years’ now, and there is a good reason for that. “It’s like a really big group of friends being really respectful of the place where they are, and they just come to have a really good three days,” Tommy says “So far we never had any problems, everybody is so polite and so friendly.” So fingers crossed you'll still be able to visit and have a lovely time before a bunch of drunk lads bored of Magaluf come and start falling off things in the near future.

The fact that they've been allowed to have the festival at all is part of a push to get people to see the Wall itself as more fun and multifaceted than just a historical place of interest. Tommy elaborates: “There is a government organisation called the Great Wall Society and their job is to make the Great Wall not only be seen as a place you could walk and which was built 2,000 years ago, but also where the culture can flourish, where you can do marathons, do commercial activities. So they are really happy.”

It's probably not the first place you envisage when you are planning your summer festival itinerary, but if you're looking for something more truly outside the box but still just as 'little fish - big fish - cardboard box', then China, and the YinYang festival, may well surprise and inspire you.

[i] All quotes taken from this South China Post interview: