The album is a balance of previously released tracks by Jarre, new compositions inspired by Chinese culture, and one rearranged traditional Chinese track ("Fishing Junks at Sunset"). The album consists mainly of live material, plus ambient sound recordings and one new studio track "Souvenir of China". Other new compositions recorded live include "Night in Shanghai", "Laser Harp", "Arpegiator" and "Orient Express". "Fishing Junks at Sunset" is a new arrangement of a very old traditional Chinese song known as the "Fisherman's Chant at Dusk", which was performed and recorded with The Peking Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra and is often wrongly attributed as being composed by Jean Michel Jarre, misled by the album inlay.
The album was originally released as a double-disc LP, then as a double-disc CD. There was also a CD release in two separate volumes, with the cover color changed to blue (Vol. 1) and yellow (Vol. 2). In 1997, a one-disc remastered CD was released, made possible by reducing the total running time to 78:17 by reducing the gaps and audience noise between tracks. The remastering was done by Scott Hull at Masterdisk to the 96 kHz, 24 bit standard.
One of the album's original tracks – "Arpegiator" – was used in the soundtrack of the film 9½ Weeks as well as in several mid-1980s episodes of the American soap opera Santa Barbara. Opening track "The Overture" is the first movement of "Magnetic Fields Part 1" slowed down.
The album reached #6 in the UK charts and #1 in Portugal.