Chinese Music 101 – Skin Musical Instruments – The Drum Family

By Sari Xu

A quick review! As we discussed before, Chinese traditional musical instruments are divided into 8 categories, including – silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and skin instruments. Skin instruments – mostly percussion instruments, actually formed a big Chinese drum family for us to explore further.

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Chinese drums, or we called Gu (鼓), was first invented and used to send signals and accompany with dancing back in the primitive times. They were first made of stones, then clays, and finally wood covered with skin leather or paper on both sides. The sounding principle is very similar to foreign percussion instruments such as Western timpani and African drums. Just like African drums, Chinese drums are often used when dancing during celebration and events. The combination of powerful dancing and drumbeat is always inspiring and the best choice for showing the team spirit especially during the agrarian age. Therefore, different regions have different kind of drums which people use the most, and these gradually formed the huge drum family under the percussion instrument category in China.

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Da Gu, The Big Drum (大鼓)
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Flowerpot Drum, Hua Peng Gu (花盆鼓)

Generally speaking, people in Northern China prefer larger drums in terms of the size, while Southern China residents innovated various types of small drums and relative dancing.

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Book Drum, Shu Gu (书鼓), mostly used in Southern China
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Ban Gu, 板鼓, mostly used in Southern China

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing the drum is more like an integrated performance rather than simply sitting still and playing a piano solo opus. Depending on the size of the drum, it could be hold in hands, tied on the waist or in front of the chest, even put on the head, shoulder, or under the arms. Of course, it needs to be settled on the ground if it’s a large one. It could be either beaten by hands or drumsticks, and one performer could play with 1 or several (10 at most) drums simultaneously. Regarding the appearance, Chinese drums are usually painted in the most representative Chinese red with the leather in its natural color. Check out this video for a Chinese drum group performance!

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Some typical dancing formats accompanied with drum performance include An Sai Yao Gu (An Sai Waist Drum), Wei Feng Luo Gu (Gong and Drum), Tai Ping Gu Wu (Tai Ping Drum Dancing), Hua Bo Da Gu (Huge drums with tiny symbals) and several forms of bronze drum dancing performed by the ethnic minority groups. Check out this performance of An Sai Waist Drum!

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Waist Drum, Yao Gu (腰鼓)

An Sai Yao Gu (An Sai Waist Drum安塞腰鼓) is one of the most amazing performances among the all and was also recognized as Chinese intangible cultural asset in 2006. It’s originated from Shaanxi Province and was used for communication and sending signals during wars back at Qin (B.C 221 – 207) and Han Dynasty (B.C 202 – 220). An Sai is a city in Shaanxi, which is a military stronghold located in the Loess Plateau. Besides delivering information, soldiers at ancient times also play the drums to cheer for the battle and celebrate the triumph afterwards. Later, this became a kind of folk dance in this region. Everyone likes this way of celebration during holidays or worships (praying for grain harvest in most cases) because the waist drums could make very loud sounds when a large group of folks playing together. The strong drumbeat, together with the red drums and red ribbon tied on the drums and sticks, inspire people to work harder, and staying united in Chinese culture. Though nowadays, people don’t support their lives mainly through farming anymore, this kind of art performance is preserved as a culture to be played during holiday celebration.

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Though it’s hard to count how many kinds of drums now exit in China, let’s have a glance at some of the representative drums in this big family!

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Row of Drums, Pai Gu (排鼓)

 

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 15 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

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The Amazing Journey Of Kites

Written by Maria Giglio

When you fly a kite you stare at it floating in the air and ask yourself where it will go. But have you ever wondered where does a kite come from? Surprise, surprise… China, naturally! The Chinese kite is called Fēngzhēng (風箏), which literally means ‘air (fēng) zither (zhēng)’. I’ll get to that later but first, a little bit of history that you’ll love. Ready? Then fasten your seatbelt and let’s fly away!

The rise (and fall) of a wooden bird

Would you believe me if I told you that the first kite prototype was invented by a philosopher? You better do! According to some ancient texts, more than 2000 years ago, Mozi (470-391 B.C.), the founder of Mohist philosophy designed a bird-shaped tool made of wood, the mu yuan (‘wooden bird’). According to the story, it took Mozi three years to complete the mu yuan and… only one day to wreck it after a short flight! No wonder that as soon as paper was invented, kites started to be made with it and to be named zhi yuan (‘paper bird’).

War Games

Fun fact: originally the kite hasn’t always been a toy, but employed as a war tool. Actually, the military use of kites was still widespread even in modern times.

The earliest written evidence of flying war kites in fact dates to general Han Xin, who served under the reign of Han Emperor Gao Zu (202-195 BC). According to the record, general Han Xin used a kite to estimate the distance from an enemy town, so to build a tunnel of the same length to breach the city.

Another case of military use of flying kites is that of Emperor Wu of Liang (464-549 BC). In 549, dissident general Hou Jing surrounded the city of Tai, where the Emperor and his family resided. Since there was no possibility to launch the alarm outside the wall without risking being breached, the Emperor sent out a kite as a carrier pigeon to request extra troops. Unfortunately, while flying the kite was spotted by the enemies who shot it down believing it was a demon. After that episode, the city was taken.

Finally, kites had also been used as bombs for a while. During Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) they were in fact filled with gunpowder and firecrackers – which, by the way, were both also invented by Ancient Chinese – to fly over the enemy campsites and explode. The kites, which were usually crow-shaped, were also known as God Fire Crows and said to be able to carry up to 500 grams of incendiary powder.

The Kite’s redemption song

Let me guess. You are confused. How on earth – or in sky? – such an infernal object became an innocent toy for children, praised and raised all around the world? How did it turn from a symbol of war to one of peace and freedom?

Well, the kites as we know them started to arise during Tang dynasty (around 600 A.D.). Since then, they have been diffused among people of all age and social class in China.

Originally, a kite was equipped with a small bamboo bow and a silk string, so to make it sound like an harp while flying in the air, due to the vibration of the string. This finally explains why the Chinese word for kite is Fēngzhēng (風箏), air zither. The zither is in fact a particular kind of string instrument – from Ancient Greek kithara (κιθάρα) to which also guitar owes its name.

A kite of magic

Over time, the kite has gained a mystical reputation in China. In the past, people lifted musical kites to avert evil spirits with their vibrato. Letting a kite go was instead a sign of bad luck, as it meant to send away protection.

Kites were also considered to have divinatory powers. In his memoirs, Marco Polo reported that before sailing, the crew built a huge kite and tied it to a man – usually a drunk person or a fool – in high wind: only if the kite rose vertically they would sail.

By the 7th century, kites had conquered the Japanese sky, where they were brought by Buddhist monks and kept their mystical fame. In Japanese culture the use of kites was in fact associated with good luck and especially with rich crops.  

From East to West: from kite to airplanes

Already in 1500, flying kites had become very popular around all Asia. From China, to Japan and India, , they have become the favourite pastime for all generations and social classes. The time had come to let kites known by the rest of the world.


The diffusion of kites in Europe is due to explorers such as Marco Polo. However, it wasn’t love at first kite. At first, European only regarded them as exotic souvenirs and started to take them seriously only in 18th century. Brightest inventors of the Western world started to use their knowledge of the kite for scientific purposes.

In 1752, Benjamin Franklin, with the assistance of his son, flew a kite towards a thunder cloud to collect electricity through its conductive wire, thus discovering that lightning and electricity were produced by the same phenomenon. The Wrights brothers used kites for their flight experiments. Slowly all this took to the invention of the airplane at the beginning of the 20th Century.


Today, we ask ourselves if a man can fly: we have built kites, and airplanes, but the answer is still no. But maybe, if it wasn’t for Mozi and his wooden bird, we wouldn’t dare even asking.


About Interact China

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Chinese Music 101 – Stone Musical Instruments in Ancient China

By Sari Xu

As we discussed last time, Chinese traditional musical instruments are divided into 8 categories, including – silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and skin instrumentsI guess stone must be the most questionable category among all, so here are some examples of traditional stone musical instruments:

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A Set of Japanese Style Bianqing

Bianqing (编磬) – It is an ancient percussion instrument consisting of a set of L-shaped flat stone chimes known as Qing(磬), played melodically. The chimes were hung in a wooden frame and struck with a mallet. Along with the bronze bells called Bianzhong(编钟), they were an important instrument in China’s ritual and court music going back to ancient times. It was imported to Vietnam as well as Korea back at the ancient time, and nowadays, people could seldomly see this set of instruments and get the chance to play with it. Instead, it mostly appeared in historical and art museums and temples worldwide, and in some film and television works as well. The melody Bianqing usually plays is comparatively slow-paced and provides a calming and majestic feeling.

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The Famous Zeng Hou Yi Bianqing (曾侯乙编磬)

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A Bianqing with 24 Chimes

 

Qing (Sounding Stone, ) – Not necessarily a set, a single L-shaped flat stone could also make great sound as a chime itself. The shape of such stones was often quoted as description for the reverent ritual pose. Important information on Qing nomenclature is contained in the Erya dictionary (尔雅, the oldest surviving Chinese encyclopedia known): the large sounding stone was called xiāo(毊), and a solo performance on Qing, jiǎn(寋). However, the mentioned names do not have much currency in the classical literature. But what we are sure about, is that this kind of instruments, along with the traditional melodies, are widely favored by Chinese ancient scholars and literati. Qing is even mentioned in the Analects as one of the instruments played by Confucius. In the Han dynasty treatises on music, its sound is referred to as “reminding to the monarch about his officers who died while protecting the borders”.

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A Single Qin

Tezhong (特钟) –  It is a single large stone tablet hung by a rope in a wooden frame and struck using a mallet, works in a very similar way to a bell. Thedifference between a Tezhong and a Bianzhong is a Tezhong is usually hanging alone and larger in terms of size. It’s made of bronze and has a sonorous and loud sound. It was invented during Shang Dynasty (B.C 1600) and was mostly played with Ya Music (Ya Yue, 雅乐, similar to Japanese Gagaku). Nowadays, again, we can only find this kind of instruments in museums, and Chinese archeologists are gradually finding more and more instruments from the emperors’’ graves and archeological sites.

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A Tezhong Bell

One fun fact about these stone tones are, Bianqing are usually played along with Bianzhong (smaller than Tezhong), and the harmonic melody the two make together are called “The sound of golden stone”!

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A Whole Set of Zhong

Last but not least, check out this video clip for a short Bianzhong performance at the Blackhawk Museum with all the musicians in Traditional Chinese Han clothing!

 

 

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 15 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Chinese Music 101 – Bayin: 8 Tones of Chinese Traditional Music

By Sari Xu

Before the rising of electronic music, even before the discovery of electricity, nature was where all the greatest music stems from. Despite of the differences among each ethnic group, Chinese people, all together have devised tons of traditional musical instruments that could be grouped into 8 categories based on their materials – silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and skin. Under each category, there must be something you are familiar with and something surprising!

Silk Instruments: silk instruments are mostly stringed instruments nowadays. Back at the ancient times, before the use of metal or nylon, the Chinese have used twisted silk for strings. They could be grouped into 3 categories: plucked, bowed, and struck. Some popular plucked musical instruments include Guzheng, Pipa and Sanxian. Others like Guqin(古琴), Se(瑟), Konghou(箜篌,harps), and Ruan(阮) are less popular nowadays but very typical in traditional music performance especially for solo. Outside of the greatest Han ethnic group, ethnic minorities also have their own stringed music with talented players. For example, in Uyghur traditional music of Xinjiang, Tembur, Dutar and Rawap are widely played and are either fretted or fretless plucked lute. It’s very easy to recognize them with their long neck and representative Uyghur patterns.

Xinjiang people have also devised some fancy bowed instruments such as Ghaychak, Sataer, and Ghushtar. Other ethnic groups like Mongolians and Zhuang people also got the talents in design and devised the “horsehead” fiddle Matouqin(马头琴) and Zhengni(筝尼), respectively. The most common bowed instruments include Erhu, Zhonghu, Jinghu, Banhu, etc. They could be together described as Huqin(胡琴), which refers to the family of vertical fiddles. Though plucked and bowed instruments each has a large family, there are comparatively fewer instruments under the “struck” category. The most representative one is Yangqin(扬琴), which is a hammered dulcimer commonly used in traditional Chinese music orchestra till today.

Bamboo Instruments: bamboo instruments, apparently, are instruments made of bamboo and usually refer to woodwind instruments like vertical flutes. Dizi, Xiao, Paixiao and Chi are some commonly played Chinese flutes worldwide. Other woodwind pipes could be categorized into free reed, single reed and double reed pipes. The most representative instruments in these 3 categories are Bawu, Mabu, and Suona respectively.

Wood Instruments:Most wood instruments are of the ancient variety. For example, Muyu (木鱼) is a rounded woodblock carved in the shape of a fish, and could be struck with a wooden stick. It’s mostly used in Buddhist chanting. Another example would be Bangzi(棒子), which is also a woodblock, smaller than Muyu and has a higher pitch.

Stone Instruments:Yes! Stones could also produce beautiful musical rhymes. Back at the ancient times, there were a range of stone chimes like Bianqing(编磬), Tezhong(特钟) and Qin(磬).

Metal Instruments: Metal instruments are mostly percussions. The two greatest categories here are Luo (Gong) and Bo.

Clay Instruments: Believe it or not, both wind and percussion instruments could be made of the clay! Xun is a typical wind ocarina made of baked clay, and Fou is a percussion instruments that could be played just in the way of playing the drum.

Gourd Instruments: gourds could also be used in music and Sheng and Hulusi are two representative wind instruments made of this “plant”!

Skin Instruments: Don’t be scared! Animal’s skin was commonly used to make the surfaces of drums. These include Dagu (“Gu” in Chinese means the drum), Jian’gu, Bangu, Biangu, Paigu, Huagu, Yaogu, Diangu, Yanggegu, Gaogu… and so on! Haha, this is such a big family!

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The Chinese Drum Family

Other than the 8 categories, instruments made from other unique materials do exist as well, and I promise these treasures, at least one of them, would be a big surprise! Next time, we’ll have some more discussion regarding each category of the Bayin (8 tones), as well as other traditional Chinese musical instruments! Stay tuned!

 

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

 

Chinese Folk Tale: The Butterfly Lovers

Written by Stefania Miletti

Here I am again with another love story, but what can you do when there are so many touching stories in Chinese culture! If I could I would share them all! But for today, I have “The Butterfly Lovers”, a tender young love in a time immersed in traditions.

The Butterfly Lovers

Once upon a time, during the Eastern Jin Dynasty, the costumes were different from what we know now. In fact, while the boys enjoyed their daytime at school, girls stayed at home to help with the household chores. However, Zhu Yingtai, ninth and only daughter to the Zhu family form Shangyu, Zhejiang, begged his father to let her go to school and learn. At first her father was against it but after Zhu continued unceasingly to ask him, he agreed to let her go at the condition that she’ll be accepted in one of the schools. Her father was quite sure that no school would have wanted a girl among their students. But, oh boy, was he wrong to underestimate the intelligence of her daughter. In fact, Zhu, knowing very well that it would have been impossible for her to get admission as a girl, disguised herself as a boy and successfully got admitted into a Hangzhou school, where also her aunt lived. 

Every day, she will dress up as a guy and attend the school. In her class, she became close friends with a boy named Liang and, with the passing of time, the two friends became inseparable. With time Zhu started to have stronger feelings for him, realizing she was in love. The problem was that Liang thought she was a boy, but she was not ready to give up. Zhu thought of a plan; she asked Liang to come to her hometown after graduation and to ask her father for her “sister’s hand”. Liang agreed without thinking twice, he did not want to lose Zhu, so he thought that by marring his sister, they will still be good friends and will see each other quite often.

With this promise in mind, soon after graduation, Liang found a job and worked extremely hard to save money for the marriage. Once he reached his goal, he lost no time and presented himself at Zhu house. When Zhu finally saw him, after one year of being apart, she felt as if all her hopes and dreams had come to life. She run into her loved one’s arms crying and shouting: “Liang! It’s me! I’m Zhu, your friend! As you can see that I’m a girl, now there’s nothing standing in our way, we can finally be happy together!”

Liang was initially shocked at this revelation, but soon everything made sense. Now he understood why he felt such strong connection with Zhu since the beginning. Gathering his courage, he confronted Zhu father, explaining his profound love for his daughter and asking for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, the father did not agree, he explained that Zhu hand was already promised to a wealthy merchant and there was nothing the young man could do to change his mind. 

The lovers’ hearts were shattered. Liang left, empty handed, feeling more alone than ever. The mere thought of him not seeing Zhu again, filled him with despair and on his journey home, he collapsed and died. 

When Zhu heard of his lover’s death, she lost her all her will to live. She agreed to marry the merchant her father choose for her at the only condition that the wedding procession passed by Liang’s grave. 

The dreaded wedding day came, and Zhu collected herself, put up a façade and started the wedding procession. Wind began to howl stronger and stronger, and the shy darkened as the procession neared the cemetery. Suddenly Zhu jumped out of her palanquin and through herself on his lover’s grave, crying her heart out. As the weather conditions worsened, a lightning bolt broke the grave open and Zhu jumped into it. 

After that the storm subsided as fast as it had started. But when the people reached the grave, trying to find the bride to be, all they could see was an empty coffin. Then, out of the blue, two beautiful and radiant butterflies flew out the coffin, dancing and chasing each other like two young lovers. People all around were in disbelief and watched the scene as the two butterflies flew out of sight, beginning their lives together.

From Story to Music

In 1959 “The Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto” was written by the skilled minds of two Chinese composers, Chen Gang and He Zhanhao. The work they presented is astonishing and is divided into seven section. Each of these sections depicts a clear image in the story’s timeline, from the joyful youth, to the unbearable sadness derived from a lost lover.

I assure you that listening to this concerto will make you feel every emotion that the butterfly lovers experienced in their story, especially thanks to the brilliant execution of the orchestra.

Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. 







About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact Chinain 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashionvia ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team! 
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Match Made in the Stars: a Chinese Folklore Story

Written by Stefania Miletti

All of us have a soft spot for love stories. Let’s admit it, deep inside we all want to believe that true love concours all. This believe is deep rooted in all culture and has prevailed though time till nowadays. 

Well, the other day I stumbled across this fascinating story and wanted to share it, hoping that it will make you smile.

The cowherd and the weaver girl (牛郎与织女)

This is one of the most famous Chinese folklore stories, believed to date back to the 6th century B.C.

The two main characters, the cowherd and the weaver girl are stars, the first one denotes to the Altair star and the second one to Vega star. 

The two stars fell hopelessly and deeply in love with each other.

Unfortunately, according to the rules of the Heavens, for stars and deities it is forbitten to have passionate relationships. So, when the word of their tender love reached the Empress of the Heavens (plot twist: also the grandmother of the Weaver Girl) she was outraged and, as a punishment, she banned the Cowherd star to earth as a mortal. On the other hand, the weaver girl was bound to weave forever without rest. In fact, according to Chinese mythology, the clouds were “weaved” with magical silk threads of different colors according to the time of day or season.

But one day, thanks to the pleads of a group of fairies that wanted to pay a visit to the Bi Lian lake, the Heavenly Empress let the Weaver Girl join them. At the same time, the Cowherd Star, was reborn into a farming family, and was named the Cowherd. Unfortunately, after his parents died, he was left alone with his siblings, who treated him badly and after some time, they chased him out the house with only a cart and an Ox. Together with the old animal, the brave protagonist was able to overcome great hardships, and managing to rebuild their life and live happily in a tiny house.

What the Cowherd didn’t know, is that the Ox was no ordinary animal, in fact he was a Golden Ox star.

One day, the Ox spoke to the Cowherd, much to his surprise. The animal said to him: “You have to go to the Bi Lian lake today, there you’ll find fairies. If you steal the red dress, while they are in the water bathing, the fairy will become your wife”. The Cowherd, not quite believing what he had just heard, took the advice since he was feeling lonely and yearned a partner. 

He went to the lake, and hold and behold, he found the fairies. Once they were all in the water, he took the red dress. But the fairies, realizing that there was a human around, left the lake, all but the one whose red dress was missing.  Gathering his courage, the Cowherd walked forward and asked the Weaver girl if she was willing to marry him in exchange for her dress. The girl immediately realizes, upon seeing him, that he was her long lost love so, hesitantly, she accepted.

From that day, their life together was perfect. They had a daughter and a son and were really happy as a family. But it was too good to be true, their happiness was not long lived. In fact, when the Heavenly Empress heard the word that the two were reunited, she was simply furious! Blinded with rage she sent the heaven guards to retrieve the Weaver girl. 

Back on earth, the old Ox sadly passed away, but before he died, he spoke again telling the Cowherd to keep his ox hide because he will need it to fly to the sky.  Once the Weaving Girl heard this story, she realized that the old Ox was indeed the Golden Ox Star that was sent to earth because he tried to plead in favor of the Cowherd Star.

Unfortunately, the heavenly guards found the two lovers, they took the Weaving Girl and run away. But right when she was flying away, the Cowherd shouted: “Weaver girl, wait for me!”. When she looked back, she saw the Cowherd following her and the guards wearing the magical ox hide and carrying their two children, each of them in a basket. They came closer and closer, the Cowherd almost managed to catch up with the heavenly guards, when the Heavenly Empress appeared. Raging with fury with a wave of her hand, she created the Milky Way between the two spouses, creating an impassable barrier. 

Now the only thing they could do is gaze at each other for eternity, knowing that they are so close yet so far apart. They cried and cried, all of the celestial being felt sorry for them, hence a flock of magpies build a bridge between the lovers. Eventually even the Heavenly Empress pitied them and finally allowed the family, mother, father and the two little children, to stay in the sky and let them meet each other once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month.

After this story, the 7th day of the 7th month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, is known as “the Chinese Valentine’s Day” (七夕节) 








About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact Chinain 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashionvia ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team! 
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Crying In Their Shoes: The Cruel Myth Of Foot-binding

Written by Maria Giglio

Have you ever seen a foot fitting in the palm of your hand that is not that of a child?

Female foot-binding is a practice as old as a millennium that used to be widespread among Chinese women until earlier 21st Century and was officially banned in 1912 by the Republic of China.   

You may wonder why the practice had been around for so long, and the answer is not that easy.  

In China, a lotus foot, as small as 3 inches, was considered a symbol of feminine beauty, sensuality and elegance.  

Fitting in the lotus feet 

As a foot this small was rare to find among adult women, foot-binding had to start as soon as possible in order to prevent its natural growth, usually around the age of 5, and took about 2 years to complete. The girl’s feet would first be treated with hot water and oil, then all toes, except the big toes, would be broken and bound to the soles to form a triangular shape; finally, the feet were bent double and wrapped in a silk strip that would have been changed every two days to avoid infections.  

As a foot this small was rare to find among adult women, foot-binding had to start as soon as possible in order to prevent its natural growth, usually around the age of 5, and took about 2 years to complete. The girl’s feet would first be treated with hot water and oil, then all toes, except the big toes, would be broken and bound to the soles to form a triangular shape; finally, the feet were bent double and wrapped in a silk strip that would have been changed every two days to avoid infections.  

After the treatment, girls had to walk for long so to facilitate the breaking of their arches so that heal and shoe would crush together to fit in smaller shoes.  

Origins of Foot-binding 

There are many versions about the origin of foot-binding. What is certain is that this practice was particularly popular during Song dynasty. However, a common belief relates the invention of foot-binding to the period of Tang dynasty, around the 10th Century and thus before the Song. Emperor Yu Li asked his concubine Yao Niang to dance on her toes on a six-foot tall golden lotus. Yao Niang binded her feet in white silk so to perform the dance which was so enchanting that every woman in Court had wanted to imitate her ever since. 

Historically, the first archeologic evidence about foot-binding in Ancient China dates to 1243, during the Song period, in the tomb of a 17-year-old girl named Huang Sheng.  

Meaning and spread of foot-binding 

Foot-binding had never been imposed by law. Then why did it last for so long in first place? As already mentioned, a lotus foot was an aesthetic requirement for a Chinese woman and soon became a status symbol. Women with bound feet were typically regarded as particularly attractive and seductive. This is also encouraged by the soft and slow way in which women need to walk because of the pain and uneasiness caused by the binding. 

Among many aspects, one important reason why foot-binding had been widespread until later years is its relation to Han culture. After their invasion of China in 1636 and the establishment of Qing dynasty, the Manchus imposed to the conquered their costumes and traditions and among made several attempts to ban foot-binding. Consequently, Han people, who also represent the majority of Chinese nowadays, kept practicing foot-binding as a way of resistance to the ‘barbaric’ oppressors who, on their side, stopped trying to ban it. 

During the Qing Dynasty and up until the 19th Century, bounded feet increasingly became a mark of beauty and turned into an advantage for finding a wealthy husband.

After the arise of many protests within the Chinese community, in 1912 the Republic of China officially banned foot-binding, but lack of enforcement and resistance didn’t stop it from being diffused until 1990s, when the practice had disappeared with the last generation of lotus feet women. By the end of the 20st Century all shoe factories in China had closed due to the lack of demand. The last factory, Zhiqiang in Harbin, was shut in 1999 with all the unsold stock being donated to the Heilongjiang Museum of Ethnography.       

Pleasure and Pain: Lotus Shoes 

Because of the pain caused by the broken bones and the awkward position of the feet, women could barely walk and so spent a lot of time home hand-sewing and embroidering to embellish their lotus shoes. 

But what did this footwear look like? As the name suggests, the lotus shoes recalled the shape of a lotus blossom with their cone shape. They were usually made of cotton and silk and enriched with fine embroidered or hand-sewn patterns, representing animals, flowers or ‘shou’, the symbol of longevity.  

The style and colour of lotus shoes varied according to the occasion. For example, while brides typically wore red shoes, the colour yellow was usually reserved to aristocracy, Imperial members, and in general wealthier classes. 

A painful expression of Chinese pride 

Nowadays, foot-binding is quickly stigmatised as an unnecessary and cruel practice aimed at perfect female bodies, compared to tight corsets. But the truth is much more complex than that, and the story of foot-binding tells us that there was a time when cultural identity would have been defended at any cost. 

Are you curious to see lotus shoes live? Check out the following collections around the globe: 


About Interact China 

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”  

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste. 

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts. 

Shape

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!  
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you! 

Pig-In The Chinese New Year: Happy 2019!

Written by Maria Giglio

As you probably already know, on Tuesday 5th February in China and among Chinese communities around the globe started the celebration of the new Lunar Year, aka Spring Festival. The festival will last for the next few weeks, following the Lunar Calendar. Each year is represented by a Zodiac animal and 2019 is the year of the Pig.

In the traditional Chinese Calendar years follow a sexagenary cycle named Ganzhi. This 60-year system is characterised by the combination between 10 Tiangan (heavenly stems) and 12 Dizhi (earthly branches). Each year is then determined by – and named after –a pair of stem and branch.

Each heavenly stem corresponds to one of the 5 Chinese elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water – each combined either with the Yang or the Yin polarity. Therefore, for each of these elements we have respectively: Wood (Yang) & Flower (Yin), Sun (Yang) & Fire (Yin), Mountain (Yin) & Soil (Yang), Metal (Yang) & Gold (Yin), Water (Yang) & Air (Yin).

The 12 Earthly branches instead correspond to the Zodiac Animals: Rat (鼠, shǔ), Ox (牛, niú), Tiger (虎, hǔ), Rabbit (兔, tù), Dragon (龙, lóng), Snake (蛇, shé), Horse (马, mǎ), Goat (羊, yang), Monkey (猴, hóu), Rooster (鸡, jī), Dog (狗, gǒu) and Pig (猪, zhū).

So, forget about the daily horoscope: the Chinese Zodiac is a 12-year based one!

Are all Pigs Equal?

We have already said that 2019 is the year of the pig, the last of the zodiac symbols. But what does it mean, and what kind of pig? Well, according to the sexagenary cycle, for this year the Earthly branch of “Hai” – the pig – is paired with the Heavenly Stem of  “jǐ”, the Yin Earth. So 2019 is the year of the “己亥” (jǐhài), the Earth Pig.

Along came the Pig

Why the pig is the twelfth and last element of the Chinese Zodiac? According to one version of the Chinese mythology, it is because the Jade Emperor called for a great race to the Heavenly Gate to select his 12 guardians. The rat, the first animal of the Zodiac, came first thanks to his cunning, outsmarting all the animals that ran faster than him. Due to his laziness and constant hunger, the pig stopped several times during the race to eat and rest. The legend holds that the Emperor was just about to close the race and proclaim the 11 winners when the Pig came snorting.

The Pig born identity

In Chinese horoscope there are 5 kinds of Pigs depending on the heavenly stem the sign is matched with: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.

In general, the Pig born have a peaceful, generous and friendly personality. Pigs are also intelligent and particularly ambitious and passionate in pursuing their objectives. However, because they are very generous and naive, it is very easy to take advantage of them.

As to the Earth Pigs, extroversion is their distinctive feature among all others.

Thanks to his personality, the Earth Pig usually excels in many highly remunerative careers such as medicine, finance and law. Thanks to the fact that he is also very extrovert, the Pig easily succeeds in performing arts.

Past and future Earth Pigs

Because of the sexagenary cycle, the only other living Earth Pigs apart from 2019 babies are those born in 1959 and the next ones will be born in 2079!

Among the Earth Pig celebrities there are actress Emma Thompson, Dr. House Hugh Laurie and Rupert Everett.

Sadly you won’t find George Clooney, even though he definitely is a Pig lover.

Luck in 2019 for Earth Pigs… and others

Unlike the western Astrology, in Chinese Horoscope the birth sign year (本命年) is considered to be unlucky.

But seriously, this is not a Pig deal! In fact, this animal is traditionally associated with luck, thus entering the year of the Pig is seen to bring about fortune and wealth to everybody.

Having that in mind, there is nothing left but wishing you all an amazing 2019!

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

The Ethnic Tribe Who Bears Their Ancestors’ Hair

written by Camille Boukortt

There are 55 recognised minorities in China and among those, the Miao people are some of the largest ethnic minorities with a population over 10 million people. However among this group exist many subgroups, including the Suojia, or Longhorn Miao people.

I used not to know much about Chinese ethnic minorities, but when I started learning about them, the Longhorn Miao people left me a lasting impression because of their gorgeous and intricate headdresses. The latter are made with strings of wool and linen interlaced with the woman’s ancestors’ hair, and are passed down from generation to generation, making them an invaluable and precious legacy of one of the oldest tribes in mainland China.

Longhorn Miao Child wearing traditional Miao clothing

Centuries-Old Traditions

Miao people are known in Asia as the Hmong, meaning “free men”. They are ethnically different and linguistically distinct from the Chinese and the other ethnic groups in China and Southeast Asia.

The Miao appear in Chinese history as far as in 2500 B.C., being described as a rebellious tribe banished from China’s central plains around that time.

Miao people have their own language and although the younger generations also speak Mandarin, older tribe members do not understand it and are unable to communicate in that language. Even among Miao people, there are 5 different languages ! Each one of them is associated with a certain sub-groups. They are spoken languages as they had no official script until the mid-20th century, when they started using Chinese characters.

Instead, they wrote about their history and chronicles through their craft, on their clothes and every day items passed down from generation to generation.

Hair With Meaning

It is important to note Longhorn Miao women do not bear the heavy headdress on a daily basis, instead wearing the long hair and wool piece only during festivals or other special occasions.

Longhorn Miao mother helping her daughter put on her headdress

The tradition of wearing one’s ancestors’ hair comes from wanting to honour them beyond death, and wanting to preserve their image for posterity. The horn shape, however, has multiple supposed origins and meanings. One supposition would be that the tribe, living in the mountains, started wearing them to scare off dangerous animals to ensure their safety. Another theory says Miao people wore crossbows and bows behind their head as a send off ceremony after the King Miao died in the war, vowing revenge for their king. Later, these people would replace the weapons with wooden long horns as decoration.

Some say the moon-shaped horns represent Miao’s people worship of the moon, as they often sing to it at night.

Whatever the reason may be, the peculiar and gorgeous headdress is sure to attract curious looks from anyone unfamiliar with their customs !

two Longhorn Miao children

Preserving Their Culture

However, a lot of younger Miao girls and women keep their headdresses away, both for practical reasons due to the long time required to put them on, as well as the will to preserve their fragile family heritage. Nonetheless, globalization and modernisation even in the countryside has started a constant battle for the preservation of minorities’ culture, as those minorities do not have any incentive to learn about them and perpetuate them, and rather move to bigger cities or choose to work factory jobs that pay them more than selling their own produce.

Longhorn Miao mother and daughter

Supporting ethnic minorities is key when it comes to preserving their cultural heritage !

I hope this article has enlightened you about the beautiful culture of Longhorn Miao people, as well as made you want to learn more about them and support their cultural traditions and unique heritage.

 

 

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team! 
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!


Tips For A Healthy Life: Qi Energy And How To Let It Flow

Written by Maria Giglio

We all know that modern Medicine is about blades and stitches, but to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM} blood is not the only thing that flows in our body. Healing is rather a matter of mind-body and Qi (氣). 

What is Qi? 

Qi is the vital energy flowing in the Universe and its parts, including men. It doesn’t start or end, it eternally transforms. 

Two opposites make one

Qi has a dual nature represented by Yin/Yang (陰陽) polarity. In other words, how could you know good without bad existing, or see the light if you had never experienced darkness?  

Keep balance  

Balance of the opposites is the key to keep Qi in harmony and live a healthy and happy life. As Ancient Greeks used to say, ‘Meden Agan’, nothing in excess.  

Zen remedies to disharmony

Disharmony can reveal both in physical and emotional forms. For example, emotional stress and air pollution are similar causes of excess in Qi. TCM offers different ways to practice control of Qi and keep a steady mind, like breathing techniques, feng shui, acupuncture, or tai chi

Mens sana in corpore sano 

TCM doesn’t offer a cure but rather methods to take care of ourselves. Whether it is by directing furniture towards east or taking 5 minutes to lie on the floor, we have the power to shape life as we want it.

After all, don’t you think it is exciting to feel that we are more than just flesh and blood?   

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!