CCTV New Year's Gala

Written by Matteo Updated Feb. 7, 2024
watching CCTV New Year's Gala with family

The CCTV New Year's Gala, also known as the Spring Festival Gala, is commonly abbreviated in Chinese as Chunwan (春晚 chūn wǎn). This gala is an entertainment show with a combination of modern media and folk customs, which is broadcast live to the world by China Central Television (CCTV) every Chinese New Year's Eve.

CCTV New Year's Gala is a must-see TV show on Chinese New Year's eve for every Chinese family. Believe it or not, it has the largest audience of any entertainment show in the world. The 2020 edition of the Gala attracted over 1.2 billion viewers.

The 2024 CCTV New Year's Gala will be broadcast at 8 pm, February 9th, 2024. 

Significance of the CCTV New Year's Gala

The theme of the Chinese New Year is a family reunion. The CCTV New Year's Gala plays an important role in this special occasion.

Chinese New Year's eve is the reunion day for every Chinese family. After the reunion dinner, all family members will sit in front of the television to watch the gala together. Chatting, laughing, and enjoying the performance, the CCTV New Year's Gala adds a mood of celebration in the house. It has become an ingrained tradition in China Mainland to watch the Spring Festival Gala on New Year's Eve.

History of the CCTV New Year's Gala

As the traditions of the Chinese New Year, Chinese people have performed the lion dance, dragon dance, conjuring tricks, and other types of acrobatics during the Spring Festival in ancient times.

Since the reform and opening-up, Chinese people's material life has gradually improved, but their cultural life is still scarce. People have very little entertainment. Since more and more Chinese families could afford television in the 1980s, hosting a national party on TV became possible.  

In 1983, CCTV aired its first live New Year's Gala. Since then, the CCTV New Year's Gala would annually broadcast at 8:00 PM, lasting for 4.5 hours on Chinese New Year's eve.

CCTV Building

CCTV Building

Though Beijing, the capital of China, has always been the main event venue of the New Year's Gala, the gala was broadcasted also from separate studios in Nanjing and Shanghai in 1996. To emphasize the event's national reach, live broadcasting not only from CCTV's Beijing studios but also from other major Chinese cities has become a routine since 2016.

In order to get closer to the common people, CCTV began to solicit programs from all over the country in 2005. Many programs from the folk appeared on the stage of the Spring Festival Gala through talent shows.

With the development of the economy and technology, the show has become more interactive with audiences. In 2010, the hosts and comedians began to quote the most popular internet buzzwords in the show. Since 2015, audiences have had the chance to win cyber red envelopes by shaking their smartphones ceaselessly while watching the performances.

With a history of over 30 years, the Gala has not only showcased the development of technology but has also increasingly extended its international reach. It is broadcast globally and is known by virtually every Chinese person around the world.

Types of Performances

CCTV New Year's Gala includes many different types of performances such as singing, dancing, stand-up skit, sketching, magic, acrobatics, and Chinese opera. Audiences can vote on their favorite performance via mobile phone. The results of the vote are revealed 15 days later during CCTV's Lantern Festival Gala.

Comedy Performances

Stand-up Skits

Stand-up Skits

Comedy performances are language programs that are the most popular types of all performances in the Spring Festival Gala. It includes stand-up skits (相声 xiàng shēng) and sketches (小品 xiǎo pǐn).

The stand-up skit, also known as comic dialogue, is typically performed as a dialogue between two comedians. The leading actor is called Dougen (逗哏dòu gén) and the supporting actor is called Penggen (捧哏 pěng gén). Guo Degang, Yue yunpeng, and Jiang Kun are famous stand-up comedians in China.

The sketch comprises a series of short scenes, performed by a group of comedians. The stand-up skits focus on single jokes and imitations, while sketches emphasize the comedic exploration of a situation. Zhao Benshan, Guo Donglin, and Feng Gong are famous sketch comedians in China.

The theme of the performances usually explores real-life issues or propagates political attitudes. In recent years, anti-corruption, anti-poverty, and family life have been hot topics.

Song and Dance

Song and dance performances have always been an indispensable part of an entertainment program. They range from classic styles to traditional folk, ethnic and modern acts.

CCTV would invite some venerable artists and young singers or actors/actresses who are the most popular within the year, such as TF-boys and Fu Yuanhui. As a tradition, the gala would end with the song A Memorable Night (难忘今宵 nán wàng jīn xiāo), originally performed by Li Guyi.

Acrobatics and Magic



Performances of acrobatics and stage magic are also usually featured on CCTV New Year's Gala.

Chinese acrobatics appeared in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), then became an important part of traditional Chinese culture. With the gorgeous lighting and modern stage, audiences will enjoy breathtaking performances. You can see contortionists working with partners and performing impossibly flexible movements, as well as amazing feats of pedaling jars, spinning plates, and climbing bamboo poles.

The magic show has always attracted the attention of all ages. Some young people would discuss the tricks online while watching the show. Liu Qian is one of the most popular magicians in China.

Chinese Opera

Chinese opera played an important role in the early years of the Spring Festival Gala. With the passage of time, however, it has not been emphasized so much.

But still, as a sort of traditional art, there's a Chinese opera medley near the end of the Gala. It features several opera styles including Peking opera (京剧), Yue opera (越剧), Henan opera (豫剧), Sichuan opera (川剧), and more.

Foreign Celebrities Performing in the CCTV New Year's Gala

red lanterns

In addition to Chinese performers, some famous foreign celebrities have shown up and joined in with Chinese performers at the gala.

Dashan (大山) – Canadian Mark Roswell, a performer and television host who rose to fame after performing in fluent Mandarin in a sketch comedy at the Gala in 1998, as well as in 1999, 2009, and 2011.

Yanni – the first western musician at the gala, who performed remixes with Chinese zither performer Chang Jing in 2013.

Céline Dion – a world-renowned French-Canadian singer who joined Chinese singer Song Zuying in singing the Jasmine Flower (Mo Li Hua 茉莉花) in Chinese at the Gala in 2013 and also sang the classic My Heart Will Go On – in English of course.

Sophie Marceau – singing La vie en rose with Chinese singer Liu Huan at the Gala in 2014.

Criticism of the CCTV New Year's Gala

Some people criticized that the CCTV New Year's Gala was too focused on the tastes and preferences of audiences from northern China. The viewing rate in southern China such as Guangxi, Guangdong, and Hong Kong is very low. To improve this condition, CCTV would invite some performers from Hong Kong or Taiwan every year.

The CCTV New Year's Gala used to be the favorite TV program of the Chinese people in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. As technology advances, a lot of interesting shows was broadcast on TV or online. The Spring New Year's Gala was considered old-fashioned by the young generation. It needs to reform itself to keep up with the times.

Despite all the criticisms, the CCTV New Year's Gala has brought immeasurable laughter and unforgettable memories of the Chinese with splendid moments and also some not-so-splendid. The gala is more than just an entertainment show but also a reflection of real life, showcasing Chinese culture. It will always be a grand event for Chinese people, filled with happiness and hope.

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