One night in Wuhan: COVID-19's original epicentre re-learns how to party
Wuhan, China
Photography by
Aly Song.

Reporting by
Cate Cadell
Thomas Suen.
Updated 4 Jan 2021
24 images
In a crowded Wuhan beer hall, Zhang Qiong wipes birthday cake from her face after a food fight with her friends.
Qiong wipes birthday cake off her face at a beer hall.
"After experiencing the first wave of epidemic in Wuhan and then the liberation, I feel like I'm living a second life," says Zhang, 29, who works in a textiles shop in the central Chinese city that was the original epicentre of COVID-19.
People play with toy guns outside a bar.
Outside, maskless partygoers spill onto the streets, smoking and playing street games with toy machine guns and balloons.
Nightlife in Wuhan is back in full swing almost seven months after the city lifted its stringent lockdown and the city's young partygoers are embracing the catharsis.
People dance at a nightclub.
In scenes unimaginable in many cities around the world reeling under a resurgence of the pandemic, young Wuhan residents during a recent night out crowd-surfed, ate street food and packed the city's nightclubs as they looked to make up for lost time.
The revival of the city's hard-hit nightlife economy offers a glimpse into a post-pandemic lifestyle that many hope will become a reality in 2021, after the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
People wearing face masks walk out of a ferry as they pass the Yangtze River.
Wuhan hasn't reported a new locally transmitted case of the disease since May 10, after undergoing one of the strictest lockdowns worldwide.
The city of 11 million was shut off from the rest of China in a surprise overnight lockdown beginning Jan 23, with road blocks erected and planes, trains and buses barred from entering the city. Almost 3,900 of China's 4,634 recorded COVID-19 deaths occurred in the industrial city.
A girl arrives at a nightclub.
Students, musicians, artists and young workers - the backbone of the city's nightlife scene - told stories of being stuck in their homes for months, many using the opportunity to prepare for a time when the city would recover.
"Some of my new music will definitely be about the pandemic time," said Wang Xinghao, frontman of Wuhan pop rock band Mad Rat, which drew a crowd of over 100 people to a local venue on a recent Wednesday night.
Wang flailed and jumped on stage, pulling crowd-surfing fans on stage, and at one point, tossed his faux leopard skin coat into the screaming audience.
He said one of the new songs was inspired by the three months he spent living in close quarters with his mother.
A man is helped by friends to get into a taxi outside a nightclub.
Many said the end of the lockdown has inspired larger turnouts.
"During the epidemic time, Wuhan was really a dead city," said rock music enthusiast Yi Yi after the show. "Now people are all coming out to eat and have fun. I don’t think there were as many people before the epidemic."
People celebrate a birthday at a street restaurant at night.
Despite the thriving night scene, Wuhan business and restaurant owners say it could still be some time before the surge in turnover makes up for massive losses during the lockdown.
A man drives a car outside a nightclub.
But for patrons now flooding Wuhan's nocturnal hotspots, the message is more straightforward.
“I just really want to cherish this time, because in life you never know when it will end," said Zhang in the Wuhan beer hall. "Make every happy day count."
1 / 15

A man opens a bottle of beer with his teeth.

More from
Aly Song
Subscribe to the week’s best stories
Leaving Hong Kong: A family makes a wrenching decision
Hong Kong
Editor’s choice
From home to hospital: giving birth during the U.S. coronavirus outbreak
Fort Worth
Christmas wishes from Santas around the world
More Stories
Reuters photographer captures police shooting of gunman at Manhattan church
New York
Editor’s choice
U.S. election year shaped by pandemic and Trump's defiance
How much plastic are you eating?
Editor’s choice
US saw summer of Black Lives Matter protests demanding change
Editor’s choice
How Covid upended life as we knew it in a matter of weeks
Argentines celebrate 'eternal love' for Maradona with tattoos
Buenos Aires
Editor’s choice
A Picture and its Story 2020: Part two
Editor’s choice
A Picture and its Story 2020: Part one
New York
Schools close and student pregnancies rise in lockdown Kenya
The thaw of the Third Pole: China's glaciers in retreat
Meet the Thai “Drag Race” star marching for democracy and equality
Editor’s choice
The stories behind the standout images from the U.S. election

Back to Top
We have updated our Privacy Statement. Before you continue, please read our new
Privacy Statement and familiarize yourself with the terms.
Follow UsLike UsFind Us Editor's Choice Interactive Behind the News Cultural Atlas Forces of Industry Living Planet Moment of History Perspective Shifting Society Tales of the Unexpected StoriesPhotographers Latest On a frozen pond far from the Olympics, meet China's ice hockey veterans Recommended The stories behind the standout images from the U.S. election
 Follow UsLike UsFind UsSubscribeiPad AppAboutFAQsContactRSSBack to reuters.com