Unlike the display of raw power seen during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, the southern city of Guangzhou displayed that region's distinctive character with beautiful and delicate performances that incorporated water and flowers during the celebration on Haixinsha Island in the center of the city to mark the beginning of the 16th Asian Games.
It is the second time a Chinese city has hosted the Asian Games - the first time, the capital hosted the event in 1990.
The Guangzhou Asian Games, which will run from Nov 12 to Nov 27, have attracted athletes from all 45 members of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
The Guangzhou Asian Games have attracted 9,704 athletes, 184 more than participated in the Doha Asian Games four years ago and a new record.
The event will also break another record - the 476 gold medals up for grabs in 42 sports are the most ever.
Six new sports have been added, including cricket, dance sport, wushu and dragon boat racing.
"After six years of diligent preparations, the city of Guangzhou in the People's Republic of China is about to show us the fruit of all of their hard work and effort in the form of a great 16th Asian Games, the biggest sports event in Asia," said Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the OCA during the opening ceremony that cost 380 million yuan ($57 million)
"Once again, we are about to witness Asia's best athletes battle it out over 16 days of intense competition while displaying sportsmanship and serving as ambassadors for Asia," he said before Premier Wen Jiabao declared the games open.
Compared with the metal drums and the representation of ancient printing machines at the Beijing Olympics' opening ceremony, which was directed by China's world-renowned movie director Zhang Yimou, Guangzhou's celebration was more about the soft elements that surround local people in their daily lives.
From the very beginning, the one-hour performance made full use of water, which is considered to have bred the unique culture of the people of the Lingnan - the name of the geographic area of southern China.
The drop of water at the beginning became a fountain, rain, a swimming and diving pool, a river and the sea during the performance.
The palm leaf and kapok flower, products of two common local plants, also spoke of the local people's love of nature.
Performers with lanterns representing 200 fishing women and brave sailors reminded the audience of the city's connection to the sea that it has fought with and worked with over the centuries to make its living.
In front of eight sail-shaped hanging LED screens - the world's largest - 180 performers presented a four-dimensional show in the air with 1,320 operators on the ground.
Forty-five holy water girls put water collected from all of the countries and regions into a basin, symbolizing the vision of the Guangzhou games - Thrilling Games, Harmonious Asia.
The basin rose to be the main caldron for the Asian Games flame and rested in the center of a bridge that was also built to represent harmony.
The last five torchbearers also emerged from the water - Wu Guochong, the first of the five, is China's dragon boat team leader and he ran onto the stage straight from the Pearl River.
The last torchbearer, He Chong, the Asian and Olympic Games diving gold medalist, lit a huge Chinese firecracker with the help of two children and fireworks rose to light the main caldron, which realized a perfect combination of water and the games' flame.