CCTV New Year's Gala

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The CCTV New Year's Gala (
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) is a Chinese New Year special produced by China Central Television. Broadcast on the eve of Chinese New Year on its flagship CCTV-1, satellite channels CCTV-4, CCTV-9, CCTV-E, CCTV-F, and CCTV-HD, the broadcast has a yearly viewership of over 700 million viewers, making it one of the premiere television events of Mainland China. It has the largest audience in the world.[1] The show features various acts, such as drama, dance, music, and comedy.


History and significance

The first CCTV New Year's Gala was held in 1983.[2] It was the successor to Beijing Television's irregular New Year's Eve broadcasts, which date back to 1956. In the 1983 show, a unique and live New Year-related stage was set up at CCTV in Beijing, with performers in the arts, drama, dance, and song selected from all over the country. For every year since then at the turn of the Lunar New Year, the program begins at 8:00PM and lasts until roughly 12:30AM on the first day of the New Year. The program has become increasingly expensive every year, and tends to be set on larger stages each time. The evolution of the New Year's Gala is, in many ways, representative of China's technological growth since 1983, with a significantly new look around every five years. Research commissioned by China Television Research (CTR) in 2007 indicated that an estimated 93.6% of families watched the Gala on television, although these ratings have been disputed.

The program has received extremely large audiences, which have grown significantly over the years. The CCTV New Year's Gala is currently the most watched annual Arts and Performance event anywhere in the world, and as such, its importance has reached over to political, economic, and ethical territory. As the Chinese New Year's Eve is a time where the family gathers, the typical situation involves a large 3-generation family gathered in front of their TV set while making dumplings for the first New Year's meal. The Gala adds a mood of celebration in the house as people laugh, discuss and enjoy the performance. It has become an ingrained tradition on Mainland China to watch the New Year's Gala on New Year's Eve, and the estimated audience numbers over 700 million people.

Rural areas that previously been unfamiliar with concepts such as television often holds great gatherings on New Year's Eve to watch the program. The CCP Government has often emphasized rural areas being able to receive the New Year's Eve Gala as a progress in their economic development.

Some sources indicate that the Gala's popularity has been on the decline, although official sources from CCTV continue to claim an annual TV ratings for the Gala to be above 90%.[3] Although consumerism has increased and younger people in urban areas are more likely to spend New Year's Eve outside of the home, the Gala has become an ingrained tradition in many Chinese families.

In 2009, CCTV vowed to ban all lip-syncing at the gala.

In 2011, Dashan made another appearance in the gala, alongside several foreign nationals of various ages, all engaging in fluent Mandarin conversation, including one of Russian nationality, an Australian and a Kenyan. The 2011 show was also noted for the appearances of various "ordinary people" performers who were selected by popular vote in a TV competition months prior.

The 'ordinary people' portrayals continued in 2012; several amateurs performed on the show. Coinciding with the rise of amateur performers is the decline of nationalist and political rhetoric. In both 2011 and 2012 versions of the Gala, imagery of national leaders were removed from the show. The 2012 gala was directed by Ha Wen, wife of host Li Yong. In a break with tradition, the 2012 Gala removed the announcements of embassies overseas sending New Year's greetings, as well as the My Favourite New Year's Gala Act voting announcement. It also did not conclude with a rendition of Can't Forget Tonight.[4]

Synopsis and features

Although the show has evolved greatly since its creation, the basis by which the Gala is formed upon has remained largely consistent. The makers of the Gala tries to target all demographic groups, including programs obviously directed at a specific intended audience. The Gala has a few basic components that accompany it every year.

The show has four hosts, most of whom are CCTV regular programming hosts. There are an additional two hosts for the mobile hot-lines.

Skits (小品) has a focus on comedy. They tend to portray typical New Year situations in all walks of life, and often reflects on society as a form of social commentary. Skits use enough stage props to rally its message. While always funny, these usually attempt to convey a message such as unity, respect for the elderly, or education.

Xiangsheng (相声), the closest English equivalent of which is probably Stand-up comedy, also focuses on the element of comedy. It usually involves two people who feed off each other in what seems to be a conversation discussing a certain topic, but in other times could also be the basis for a skit without props.

Song and dance (歌舞) are regular performances, occupying every third or fourth program. Music of many genres are played, from traditional folk songs, to more modern, Chinese pop music. Every year, there will be a series of ethnic-related songs quickly fading in and out in succession (联唱), representing China's major minority ethnic groups, the Mongols, Manchus, Hui, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Miao, Zhuang etc. Most songs are accompanied by dances, although there are also always dance performances without singing.

Acrobatics (杂技) are also a regular feature. During most years, there will be magic tricks (魔术) at some point during the night, often involving foreign magicians.

The emphasis on traditional Chinese arts performances such as Chinese Opera (戏剧) has decreased over the years, with only a few appearances in recent years, mostly crammed into no more than 10 minutes of airtime. Since 2006 this segment has been placed after the midnight mark, when there are fewer viewers. This was also partly because CCTV-3 runs a simultaneous broadcast of a New Year's Gala entirely in Chinese opera performances. The categories feature Peking opera, Cantonese opera, Henan opera, and Sichuan opera.

In recent years hosts have also become part of the program, participating in xiangsheng or in skits. In addition, various allusions to hosts occur throughout the night.

Live phone and mobile lines open up every year during the hours of the Gala for the choosing of the audience's favourite program during the night. In recent years the numbers have been 168-99-999, and 160-996-996. The ultimate favourite programs are revealed at the CCTV Lantern Festival Gala, held 15 days later.

Seconds before midnight, the hosts lead a countdown to New Year's, ending with the knocking of the bell. Around an hour after midnight, the program ends with the song Can't Forget Tonight (难忘今宵).

The clock appears in (1986-present), confetti in (1984; 1990; 1991; 1992; 1993; 1995; 1996; 1997-present) and balloons in (1996-present).


Since the early 1990s, the Gala has also contained subtle political enhancements. In at least one program every year, the Communist Party leaders are glorified in one way or another, to the background of a patriotic-sounding song. Displayed every year are images of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. In 2007 and 2008, the entire line-up of Politburo Standing Committee members were displayed. In 2011, imagery of national leaders were cut from the show, despite the rendition of a patriotic song that emphasized Hu Jintao's Harmonious Society and Scientific Development Concept ideologies. In 2012 there was even less political content, only a few minor references to "building a strong nation" and the 18th Party Congress. A certain stress has been put on Chinese reunification for many years. National unity is also constantly put into the mix. In 2009-10, a feature for every provincial TV station has been inserted to reflect regional differences and interests. In 2012, the New Year's countdown included the hosts reading out couplets in Shanghainese, Cantonese, and Henan dialect. Programming always includes performers from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, usually in songs, and their affiliation with any of these entities were always displayed on screen,[5] although as of 2010 this has been phased out.


The 2007 edition of the gala was panned by critics online as lacking in creativity and novelty.[6] The 2007 gala also gained infamy for the mass breakdown referred to as the "dark three minutes" where the six hosts, Zhu Jun, Zhou Tao, Li Yong, Dong Qing, Zhang Zequn and Liu Fangfei collectively started a chain of misread and mistimed lines. Zhang Zequn was the first to read his lines incorrectly, obviously reciting the wrong chunlian, although the audience still applauded. Li Yong then mentioned the transition from the year bingxu (year of the dog) to dinghai (year of the pig) and a greeting to "mother comrades across the country" before being cut off by Zhu Jun's loud declaration that the new year had almost arrived. Liu Fangfei, who was relatively new to the gala, then read a line that was obviously incomplete, followed by seconds of dead air. Zhou Tao tried following it up, only to be interrupted by Li Yong. Zhou then gave Li Yong an annoyed stare, obviously visible as the camera was focused on her. Zhu Jun then interrupted Li Yong again, only to be interrupted by Zhou Tao before the ten-second countdown began.[7] Host Zhang Zequn has since then apologized on his CCTV blog.

The three minutes of mismanagement, along with the general dullness of the programming led some Chinese online forums to criticize the 2007 Gala as "the worst in 20 years", citing Zhao Benshan's skit as the only bright point.

Despite the criticisms, the Gala is still a ratings powerhouse, a program in which other TV stations, some of which have gained prominence in their own right (notably Hunan TV) have scheduled their own New Year's specials on different days to avoid competing with the CCTV gala.[8]

Since 2011 the introduction of LED multimedia backgrounds/floor, the "bright" and "low resolution" LED scenes created a heavy visual burden and even a distraction from the main stage performance. Particularly the "low resolution" LED background creates certain aliasing artifacts for TV viewers.

Eminent performers

As the program is watched by more Chinese than any other, a performance in the New Year's Gala could propel a relatively unknown name into household talk and national celebrity overnight. The following people are often associated with the Gala:


There have been over twenty hosts in total, beginning in the early 1983. The first ever production of the show was hosted by Jiang Kun, Liu Xiaoqing, Ma Ji and Wang Jingyu. In later years Zhao Zhongxiang and Wang Gang gained prominence. Ni Ping appeared in over ten galas beginning in 1991, making her the most veteran female host.

Current hosts are Zhou Tao, Zhu Jun, who have been hosting since 1996, and Dong Qing and Li Yong, since 2001. Zhu Xun and Bai Yansong hosted the event in 2009.

Shanghainese stand-up comedian Zhou Libo has repeatedly turned down offers from CCTV.

Recurring Performers

Guest appearances

These performers have made appearances at the Gala:[9]



  1. Louisa Lim (2012-11-28). "Will China's First Lady Outshine Her Husband?". NPR. Retrieved on 2012-11-28.
  2. The First Spring Festival Gala. Xinhua News Agency. January 30, 2011
  3. Latham, K. Pop Culture China!: Media, Arts, and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO, 2007. pp.60 ISBN 978-1-85109-582-7.
  5. e.g. The titles of Jay Chou's appearance would be introduced on screen as Jay Chou (Taiwan, China) (
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    ), or in the case of Andy Lau, as Andy Lau (Hong Kong, China) (
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  6. 春晚好不好 各说各的话 Is the Gala good? So many opinions. Meizhou Daily. February 19, 2007
  7. Chunwan screw-ups: Viewpoints and analysis: 春晚名嘴集体掌了自己嘴 孔庆东博客炮轰春晚. Enjoy February 24, 2007
  8. CCTV gala gets mixed reactions. China Daily. February 19, 2007
  9. "2013中央电视台春节联欢晚会节目单". Retrieved on 9 February 2013.

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