Tibetan Music – About Religion, Besides Religion

By Sari Xu

To be honest, as an outsider, I found it hard to distinguish Yi music from traditional music of Dai people. The closer these ethnic groups are geographically, the more similarities we could see among their music. However, Tibetan music is much more distinctive and you can easily recognize it after you read about the following introductions.

About Religious Music                                                                                                   

The main religion of Tibetan people is Lamaism (The Mahayana branch of Buddhism). Therefore, their music is mostly Buddhist music. Other than the traditional chanting music, Tibetan people also created their own musical notation – Yāng Yí Musical Notation (央移谱) back in 14th century. It consists both straight lines and curves, while the 7 straight lines have the same function as the modern Western musical score, the curves replace the notes and indicate the entire flow of the melody. Therefore, there is no publicly accepted standard for these notes. The only way to read the notation is to learn from senior lama (monks), follow their chant, keep practicing daily for lifetime, and truly understand the meanings behind.

Just like the Pilgrimage to Santiago, the road to Potala Palace, Lhasa is another famous route among pilgrims. The religious music is one of the main sources that mentally supports the lama and pilgrims to finish their pilgrimage with a worship on the ground every three steps starting from their hometown until Potala.

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A Yang Yi Musical Notation Sample

 

 

 

 

Besides Religious Music

Other than their religious life, Tibetan people also sing and dance a lot in their daily life. The concepts are mostly about the nature, the family reunion, and best wishes to everything. Some popular types of folk songs including Sgor-Gzhas(果谐), Reba-Gzhas(热巴谐) and Mamani(嘛玛尼), etc. Sgor-Gzhas is the most popular way of singing while dancing in a circle simultaneously. Reba-Gzhas represents various types of dance music to accompany with knife dance, deer dance, musical dramas and so on. The Mamani artists usually hang on a religious painting in front of the audience and tell the religious story through their songs.

Modern Artists and Singers

The music talents of Tibetan people are also widely recognized by audience around China. Tseitain Zhoima, as one of the best sopranos in China, was deeply influenced by Tibetan folk music since childhood. Her iconic works including Liberated Tibetan Serfs Singing the Emancipation, Over the Gold Hill in Beijing, The East is Red, etc. Yangchen Zhoima, probably more known as Han Hong (韩红), is a mixed Tibetan-Han singer and songwriter. Heavenly Road is her prestigious masterpiece.

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Tseitain Zhoima Performing in Tibetan Clothing

Why Tibetan?

Tibetan people are born to be great singers. Why?

Around 8000 years ago, Qiāng Tribe, the ancestor of Tibetan people, settled in the Tibet Plateau and started grazing. To communicate on the endless plain, it’s necessary to have great voice when herding animals. In addition, the atmosphere pressure is much lower at high altitude like Tibet, the trachea, bronchus and lungs of Tibetan people gradually evolved and developed to tackle with the thin air. This helps Tibetan people to reach really high pitches and also spread their voice far away.

Nowadays, more and more musicians fall in love with Tibetan music and started to add Tibetan elements into their own music. No matter what types of music they are doing, they could always find the Tibetan music mixing well with the pop music favored by the majority. Therefore, the Tibetan music now is no longer about religion only, it goes beyond Lamaism, and even beyond the border to the international stage. Check out this performance to see how young Tibetan singers are promoting their own music in a modern way.

 

 

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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Dai Music – Mountain Songs, Zanha and Much More

By Sari Xu

Pavane, or more known as Peacock dance in China, is the representative dance of Dai ethnic minority group (傣族). The dance is usually accompanied with traditional Dai music such as The Spirit of Peacock, Moonlight and so on. Since the top Chinese dancer Liping Yang (杨丽萍) performed this dance on several international stages, people might think this is the most prestigious and only dance for Dai nation. However, the true Dai music and dance are much more colorful than we can imagine.

Mountain Songs

Just like other ethnic groups living in the mountain area, Dai people living on the mountains also have their unique mountain songs (山歌), which is a kind of folk songs people love to sing in the mountain when they are climbing, doing farming and playing around. If you have been travelling to the mountains, you can tell the echoes made by the nature are best harmony for the singers. Though solo is the most common form of mountain songs, young couples also created tons of antiphonal songs (对歌), or “Call and Response” to express their love to each other, laud the nature and their hometown in turn.

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Typical Mountains in Yunnan Province

The mountain songs are generally divided into two categories – Han Ma (喊嘛) and Han Tong Mao (喊同卯). In Chinese, they both literally mean “shouting out”. The difference is Han Ma is more lyrical and the latter is more cheerful with more straightforward melody.

If necessary, Ding Qin (玎琴) is used to accompany with the love song. It is a traditional plucked string musical instrument like Pipa (琵琶) used exclusively within the Dai ethnic group. People usually call it “instrument of love”.

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Ding Qin (玎琴)

I believe, the best mountains songs are all improvisations. Once Dai people got inspiration from the environment and folks around them, artworks just come out by the light of nature.

Chinese Rap – Zanha’s Talking and Singing

Zanha (赞哈) in Dai dialect refers to the semi-professional artists who perform at special occasions in Sipsongpanna (西双版纳) such as holidays and festivals, building up new houses, marriage and new-born celebration, Buddha events and so on. In Menglian County (孟连), they are called Wogan (窝甘). Therefore, their tones are specially named as “Zanha Melody” (赞哈调) or “Wogan Melody” (窝甘调). Usually, there is one singer and one accompanist collaborating together to make the polyphony. Combining the singing and talking together, people like the way of “Shuochang” (说唱) since hundreds of years ago. Does this remind you of the modern rap music? Well, you’ll find the beats to be very distinctive!

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Folk Artists Performing Zanha Melody

 

Dance Music

Other than the most famous peacock dancing, Dai people also owns lots of dances imitating fishes, elephants, and red deer, etc. Therefore, there are dance music called Peacock Songs, Drum Melody, Twelve Horses Melody, Yilahui, Hanzha and so on. These songs are mostly accompanied by the “elephant foot drum” (象脚鼓), a traditional Dai drum look like the elephant’s foot. Interestingly, Dai people love to place a layer of glutinous rice in the middle of the drum surface to make the sounds deeper.

 

Musical Instruments

Hulusi and Bawu are both widely used within Dai group either as solo instruments or accompany with the dance and songs. Hulusi is especially popular since it’s derived from the Dai group. There is a Hulusi masterpiece called There is a Beautiful Place. I hope by checking out this Hulusi performance together with the Yunnan view in the video, you can find this beautiful place!

 

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!

Yi People – Their Music and Life

By Sari Xu

Ethnic minority people are better at singing and dancing than the Han people in general. One possible reason I guess is that the minority people live very close to the nature even till today, so they get lots of inspirations and ideas from the mountains, the rivers, and the forests, and also get the places for them to sing and dance.

Yi ethnic minority group is typically keen on singing and dancing, with its unique melodies and musical instruments locating at the South-West of China. Everyone from Yi could as least sing one traditional melody or Shan’ge (山歌, Chinese folk songs, lit. mountain songs), with ladies and gentlemen having quite different parts. While Yi guys usually have a deep voice, women are known for their soft, yet crisp voice with a really broad range. Basically, they sing all the time through their daily life, that’s when they created the mountain climbing melody (爬山调, Yi people mostly live in the mountain), visiting melody (进门调), welcoming melody (迎客调), drinking melody (吃酒调), marrying melody (娶亲调),  just to name a few.

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These melodies above are just some rhythm to follow. People write lyrics usually with 5 or 7 words, and 1, 2 or 4 sentences in sequence to create songs when they are doing farming and other labor work, singing lullaby to babies, and celebrating festivals. Therefore, just like most of traditional Chinese folk songs, we don’t know the author of these songs and there were no music scores to keep the record. Actually, there’s no need to do so. People sing their favorite songs all year round and generation by generation, and those most popular ones are automatically passed on till today when modern composers find them. Generally, composers would follow the traditional Chinese 5-tone model (五声调式) with 5 solfège – do, re, mi, sol, la.

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The best scene to enjoying Yi people’s favorite songs would of course be – dancing. Since there are so many types of dances, people even specifically divide them into “music dance” (乐舞) and “song dance” (歌舞) within their group. While music dance is usually dance accompanied with Yi music instruments, song dance is the dance that most suitable to dance when singing. Some famous dances include: Da Ge (打歌), Die Jiao (跌脚), Luo Zuo (罗作), San Bu Xian (三步弦), Pi Zhan Wu (披毡舞), etc.

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Pi Zhan Wu (披毡舞)

Da Ge and Die Jiao are similar to tap dance with fancy leg movement. Luo Zuo could be simply described as Da Ge plus hand gestures while all these 3 are circle dances. San Bu Xian is a music dance accompanied with 3 different chords played by bamboo flutes and Pi Zhan Wu (Zhan means felt in Chinese) requires the dancer to wear a felt and imitate the gestures of the eagle or bear.

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The best time of the year for Yi people to sing and dance as much as they want, would be their Torch Festival on June 24th (on Lunar Calendar) shared with some other ethnic groups like Lahu people (拉祜族), Naxi people (纳西族) and Bai people (白族). Except bullfighting, cockfighting, wrestling and horse racing which mostly participated by men, everyone, even kids and the elderly would form a circle and dance together with music and singing.

Other than the local melodies, Yi musical instruments are also something you can’t find elsewhere previously. Mabu (马布), Bawu (巴乌), Kouxian (口弦) and Hulu Sheng (葫芦笙) are some examples that later being applied by modern musicians around China. The famous some adapted from one Yi folk song is Please Stay, Guests from Faraway (远方的客人请你留下来). Now we can tell how welcoming the Yi people are and how music equate to their life!

Check out this video made by a travelling photographer who visited Shilin Yunnan (云南石林) for the Torch Festival! I promise you can feel the fire everywhere!

 

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!

Modern Chinese Orchestras – Some Famous Chinese Bands and Their Magnum Opuses

By Sari Xu

The word “Orchestra”, or more specifically, symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra, must remind you of the sparkly and glowed Western classic musical instruments – fiddles, cellos, violas, clarinets, oboes, flutes, trumpet, tubas, etc. dating back to the European Renaissance period (around 14th – 17th centuries). Shining, classic, elegant, and traditional. Actually, the orchestra doesn’t only exist in Western countries, in China and various overseas Chinese communities, there are also several forms of modern orchestras that contains mostly Chinese traditional musical instruments.

The modern Chinese orchestra was first developed out of Jiangnan Sī Zhú ensemble (江南丝竹, silk and bamboo instruments based ensembles formed in regions south of the Yangtze River) in the 1920s into a form that is based on the structure and principles of a Western symphony orchestra but using Chinese instruments. The orchestra is divided into four sections – wind, plucked strings, bow strings, and percussion, and usually performs modernized traditional music called Guó Yuè (国乐, lit. national music). You might hear other titles more often like Mín Zú Yuetuan (民族乐团) or Mín Zú Yuè Duì (民族乐队) in mainland China, Zhōng Yuè Tuān (中乐团) in Hong Kong, Huá Yuè Tuán (华乐团) in South East Asia, or Guó Yuè Tuán (国乐团) in Taiwan. The “Yuè Tuán” means orchestra, and sorry for having so many characters all referring to “China”, don’t be confused, all these names share the same meaning!

The origin of modern Chinese orchestra dates back to early 20th century, when a number of Chinese musicians became interested in improving traditional Chinese music. A notable early pioneer was Zheng Jinwen (郑觐文, 1872-1935) who founded a music institution in Shanghai in 1921, the Great Unity Music Society (大同乐会), to develop and maintain Chinese music in the modern age, recreating ancient music and instruments as well as creating new ensemble music for Chinese instruments. Zheng experimented with increasing the number of player in a Jiangnan Sī Zhú ensemble to 35, and separated the instruments into different sections. He began to standardize the instruments, for example inventing methods to resolve the problem of traditional instruments such as Dizi (笛子) where the fundamental tuning for various instruments may be different. He also updated traditional instruments such as the sheng by increasing the number of pipes to increase its range and allow it to play harmony and chords. In the past, each player may embellish their parts at will, but in this new orchestra, Zheng wrote specific music for each instruments or sections like what Western orchestra composers do. One early signature tune of the music club was Spring Flowers on Moonlit River (春江花月夜), arranged for the ensemble by Liu Raozhang in 1925 based on an older tune for pipa which we discussed before.

With the efforts of the united group of musicians, artists, composers and performers, modern Chinese orchestras rose significantly during the past century and there existed some famous and notable orchestras that even went international: China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra, founded in 1953, is a major Chinese orchestra based in Beijing. A compilation of the orchestra’s music entitled Phases of the Moon: Traditional Chinese Music, produced by the China Record Company and released by CBS in 1981, was one of the first and best-known recordings of Chinese music in the West.

Shanghai Chinese Orchestra was the first large-scale modern orchestra of traditional instruments in China founded in 1952. It performed in more than 80 cities in China, as well as in more than 30 foreign countries. In 2001 and 2003 it performed two Chinese New Year concerts at the Musikverein in Vienna. It achieved a number of world records as recorded by Guinness Book of Records. In 2001, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra recorded the largest number of people performing the erhu at the same time with a thousand players performing at a mass performance entitled Music from a Thousand Strings.

You may wonder, so China doesn’t have orchestras, or bands before 1920s?

Of course not! Ancient Chinese orchestras existed since the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 B.C) and was used at royal court and later during Confucian ceremonies. Click here to see what instruments the ancestors play back at that time!

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: Gourd Musical Instruments – The Sheng Family

By Sari Xu

Gourds, not only the fruits of some flower plant species in the family Cucurbitaceae, but also form its own family in Chinese traditional musical instruments – one of the 8 tones as “gourd tone” (匏). This tone includes Hulusi – which we are now very familiar with, Sheng, Yu, and He, etc. You may wonder are they just made from different shapes of gourds. Of course not! There are more interesting stories behind!

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Sheng (笙), similar to Hulusi, is a mouth-blown free-reed instrument consisting of multiple pipes. It’s a polyphonic instrument and is enjoying an increasing popularity worldwide recently especially as a solo instrument, while in the modern large Chinese orchestra, it’s usually used for both melody and accompaniment. Speaking of the history of Sheng, it’s one of the oldest instruments in China, with images depicting its kind date back to 1100 B.C. –  its “family members” He and Yu were first mentioned in bone oracle writings dating from 14th to 12th century B.C, while the first appearance of the word “Sheng” existed in some of the poems of Shijing (《诗经》, Book of Odes), dating back 7th century B.C. Traditionally, it has been used as an accompaniment instrument for solo Suona (we’ll discuss later!) and dizi (link previous article here) performances.

Check out the ensemble of a Sheng and a Suona here!

Just like Bangzi and some percussion instruments we’ve discussed, Sheng is also one of the main instruments in Kunqu (Kun opera, 昆曲) and other various forms of Chinese opera. Furthermore, it’s widely played in traditional small wind and percussion ensembles in Northern China.

 

Unlike single reeds or double reeds, which vibrate at the pitch according to the length of the attached air column, Sheng’s reeds vibrate at a fixed frequency. Covering the holes on a traditional sheng’s pipes would cause the entire length of the pipes to resonate with the reeds’ frequency. If the hole is open, the resonant frequency would not match, and hence no sound is produced – that’s why it has multiple pipes! Interestingly, the player could make a sound by EITHER exhaling or inhaling into the mouthpiece, sounds like a melodica, right? One more tricky skill is that players can produce a relatively continuous sound without pause by quickly switching between the two – much like bow changes for stringed instruments!

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A small ensemble of different sizes of Shengs

Nowadays, musicians classify Shengs into various types including traditional sheng, and keyed sheng (also known as “improved sheng” (改良笙) developed after 1950s. Within the keyed sheng category, there are soprano, alto, tenor, and bass sheng divided based on their ranges, and keyboard sheng in addition. Keyboard sheng, sometimes referred as Pai Sheng (排笙, a row of sheng, like the Pai Xiao, which means a row of Xiao), has a keyboard layout instead of the typical buttons. Pai Shengs have reeds from 37 all the way to 53, which cover the variety ranges from Alto to Bass.

Just as we mentioned at the beginning, instead of Sheng, Yu (竽) and He actually existed first in bone oracle writings and are also classified as gourd musical instruments. Yu, compared to Sheng, is played in single lines melodically rather than providing simultaneous tones in harmony, and generally larger in terms of the size. It was used, often in large numbers, in ancient China’s court orchestras. He (和), in contrast, is generally smaller than Sheng.

 

Last but not least, what if combining Sheng and Hulusi together? Then, it comes the Hulusheng (葫芦笙). It’s also a free-reed organ just like Sheng, but with a windchest made from a dried bottle gourd like Hulusi! And you may have already guessed – same as Hulusi, it’s very popular in Southern China, mostly in Yunnan Province, played by the ethnic groups there!

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A Modern Hulusi (Cr. Interact China)

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: Metal Musical Instruments – Another Big Percussion Family

By Sari Xu

A quick review! We’ve discussed that among the 8 tones of Chinese Musical Instruments, stone, skin and wood categories mostly contain percussion instruments like the Chinese drum family, ancient Bianqing and the Muyu used in the temple, etc. Other than that, under the category of metal tone, there’s also a group of percussion instruments!

 

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Bo (钹), sometimes also called Chazi (镲子), is a type of cymbals. It falls into the category of concussion idiophone, or struck idiophone, which consists of two plates that are clashed together. It was originated from Western Asia and was introduced to ancient China during around 350 B.C along with the ancient Tintu music. Similarly, just like the wood instrument Bangzi (梆子) and Muyu, Bo was also first used in Fanyue (Buddhist music, 梵乐) and now widely played not only in traditional Chinese music performances and traditional operas, but also in various folk music and dance performances. Since Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing (1644 – 1912) Dynasty, it’s typically used to accompany with Qun Opera (昆曲) and other regional operas.

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There are several different types of Bo, mainly being categorized based on the size of the cymbals: Xiaobo (小钹) means small cymbals; Zhongbo (中钹) means medium cymbals; Dabo (大钹) means large cymbals; Shuibo (水钹) literally means “water cymbals”, it has a thinner plates and makes a softer sound more like water; Jingbo (京钹) is the cymbals used in Beijing Opera; Shenbo (深钹) is also called Gaobian Daluo (高边大锣), which is a deep, flat Gong used in Chaozhou (潮州, a city in Southern China) music. Now, you may wonder – what is the Gong in China?

Gong, a type of percussion instrument used worldwide, has a Chinese division called Luo (). For those who are not familiar with gong, it is an East and Southeast Asian percussion instrument that takes the form of a flat, circular metal disc which is hit with a mallet. It also found its way into the Western world in the 18th century when it was used in the percussion section of a Western-style symphony orchestra. It is mostly made of bronze and was first used by the ethnic minority groups from west-southern China. Because it has a deep tone and long lingering sound, it’s widely applied in many fields as an accompaniment instrument and just like Bo and Bangzi, is quite popular among the traditional operas such as Beijing Opera, Bangzi Opera, Flower Drum Opera, and many other folk operas.

Luo could also be divided into several categories: Daluo, Chaoluo, Xiaoluo, Zhangluo, and Yunluo. Daluo(大锣) and Xiaoluo (小锣), are representing the large gong and small gong, respectively. Chaoluo (超锣/山锣, mountain luo) is one of the most unique kinds with the longest and widest usage in the history. It has a black frame and center, with a copper body. It’s also a great gift option among the bands and orchestras.

Yunluo, literally cloud luo, or sometimes called nine-tone luo, is the only kind of luo that could be used to play the melody. It’s a set of Xiaoluo organized together on a wooden stand and is widely employed in traditional Chinese orchestra.

Luo, and Bo – though this two percussion families largely compose the big metal tone family, there are also other metal percussions such as Pengling, Dangzi, and Yunzheng, etc.

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Last but not least, let’s check out the percussion ensemble performance of the famous opus called The Quarreling Ducks which Shuiluo is the main performing instrument here, and guess “what does the duck say”?!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzHCzAKLgAM

 

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!

Silk Crossroads: Chinese Brocade in The World

Written by Maria Giglio

Ever wondered where all that Shakespearian costume vibes that Brocade shoes evoke come from? Well that’s an interesting journey.

Back in Renaissance, Italian folks went crazy about silk brocade. As a matter of fact, the English word brocade derives right from the Italian word broccato (interestingly sharing roots with the word broccoli!) to refer to the embossed (broccus means sprout in latin) effect produced on the surface by the weaving technique. However, brocade carries far more remote origins than Italian renaissance, dating back to the Chinese warring states period (around the 5th Century B.C), a time when the silk-secret had not been unravelled yet.

The character Jin (锦), used to compose the Chinese name for Brocade Zhī jǐnduàn (织锦缎) literally means golden dragonfly and refers to the noble texture of the fabric which originally was refined with gold and silver filigree which nowadays are replaced by copper or alluminium powder. Silk brocade features a unique colourful pattern, usually displaying flowers and nature, the distinctiveness of which is given by an irresistible tri-dimensional effect.

But first, the technical stuff

Brocade is not an independent but an auxiliary weaving technique used to ornate the main fabric with a carving effect. It is usually realised on a draw loom, where the basic design is created on multiple wefts (continuous brocade) while extra inlay effect is created with a supplementary weft (non-continuous brocade).

Chinese Brocade styles: the ones to watch

Chinese silk brocade has a long, established tradition. Mentions of silk brocade can be found in the Book of Songs, the oldest known collection of classic Chinese poetry (11th-7th Century B.C.). During the 1980s, pieces of brocade were retrieved at the Chu tombs of Warring States Period in Hubei Province.  Brocade varies from region to region, and many minorities have their own peculiar weaving style. Amongst the all, Yun, Shu and Song brocade are the most ancient and renowned types. To give an idea, Yun brocade developed over 1580 years ago during the Yuan Dynasty and is the most prestigious because of the use of gold and silver foil in weaving.

Shu brocade, coming from Sichuan and flourished between Han and Tang dynasties (3rd Century BC to 10th Century A.D.) is recognised worldwide as a textile gem, being characterised by a strong predominance of red.

Finally, Song brocade originates from Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, the homeland of silk and reached its peak of popularity during the Song Dynasty because of its soft texture and the bright colourful design.

Today, Chinese silk brocade is acclaimed worldwide as a cultural relic. In 2006, Yun, Song and Shu brocade were enlisted in the national intangible heritage.

An intriguing history of weft and theft 

Although silk textiles have been extremely popular in the Western world since Ancient Greece and Roman Empire, where they were being exported via the Silk Road, the Chinese Empire managed to keep the secret of silk production for over 30 centuries, which secured a China’s monopoly on the textile’s trade.

It was under Byzantine Empire that the secret of sericulture was finally revealed to the world. According to the legend, in 550 A.D. two monks sent by Emperor Justinian to discover how silk was made, stole mulberry cocoon, silkworm and eggs and brought them back to Constantinople.

Chinese influence on Italian fashion history

After the disclosure of sericulture to the world, the commercial relations between West and East slowly declined, and by the end of the 14th century, brocade production was not an Oriental prerogative anymore. In Italy, the cultural fervour characterised by a pursuit of beauty and perfection during Renaissance, favoured the evolution of silk weaving techniques and the elevation of textile artisanry to a form of art, contributing to the establishment of Italy as a fashion sanctuary.

Long-lasting cultural interweaving

Sometimes we think of fusion as a concept that belongs to our modern times. Every culture claims its own, unique, virgin identity. And in part that is certainly true. But the fascinating history of humanity tells us something slightly different. Without interaction, there is no inspiration. Without inspiration, there is no progress. What if the silkworm had never slithered out the Silk road?

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!

DIY: Make Your Own Chinese Book!

By Stefania Miletti

I’ve always had a passion for books, the felling of the paper in your fingers, and the emotions that words can provoke, are my favorite things. So when I learned that I could make them, I was so excited! And thus begun my journey to learn all the different techniques to make books. 

I have to admit that usually I make European bond style books, but I was intrigued by the idea of learning Chinese binding methods, so after a bit of research and different trials, I think I got it. 

I’m going to keep this tutorial as simple as I can, but if you would like to know more about specific terminology or bookbinding tools and techniques, fell free to ask! 

The Tools You Will Need

  • Paper sheets, I used 40 A4 sheets 140 gms, but you can use whatever paper size and gms you want your book to be
  • Book cloth (if you don’t have book cloth you can use whatever fabric you have at home)
  • Cardboard 2mm (if you don’t have this particular height, you can use whatever you have at home, even cereals boxes)
  • Bonefolder, if you don’t have a bonefolder you can use a flat ruler
  • Ruler
  • PVA glue, better if liquid
  • Brush
  • Waxed thread, if you don’t have this you can use whichever thick thread you have or normal thread
  • Sewing needle 
  • Screw hole punch, or an awl in alternative, to make stitching holes in your paper

Optional:

  • Decorative paper
  • Book press, if you don’t have a book press any weight will do, for example a big dictionary or a pile of heavy books.

A Little Bit of Background

Chinese booking is an ancient art that as seen many different types of bookbinding techniques. One of the most known is the “stitched/stab binding”, which is not only traditional in China, but many East Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. Many, including myself at the beginning, often confuse Japanese and Chinese stab binding. Although very similar, they are different. In fact, it is not a surprise that, like many other aspects of Chinese culture, bookbinding techniques were spread throughout Japan during the Tang dynasty. The Major difference between the two techniques is that in Japanese bookbinding, the distance between each sewing station is the same, while in Chinese booking usually the middle length is smaller than the others.

Japanese Binding
Chinese Binding


How to Create the Cover

I find that when books have a hardcover, it makes them more durable and easier to carry around.

For the hard cover, we start with the cardboard. As I mentioned before I’m making an A4 book, which measures, 210 × 297 millimeters, but I want my cover to be a little bit bigger than the paper, so that the angles of the paper do not get ruined.

  • Cut 2 cardboard pieces that measure 2 millimeters, more than the A4 size, on every side EXCEPT the side where we are going to stitch our book. So the overall measurements for each cardboard should be 212 x 301 millimeters.
  • Since we want our cover to bend, we need to cut out a joint piece. A joint piece is a small strip that we eliminate from our cover to allow it to bend. This joint piece is usually quite small. I measured 3 cm from the left and cut a strip of 4 millimeters wide. Do not throw the joint piece away! We’ll need it for later.
  • Cut 2 pieces of book cloth, of length 30.1 + 4 cm (2 cm extra for each side) and height of 21.2 + 4 cm (2 cm extra for each side).
  • Glue the book cloth to the cardboard. Tip: I would advise to help yourself with the ruler in order to glue all the pieces straight.
  • Now is the part where our joint piece come to place. Do not put glue on the joint piece but place it right in between the 2 pieces of carboard, and after you glue everything else in place, take it off.
  • With the help of a bonefolder, or a ruler, smooth the surface so that all air bubbles and excess glue are eliminated
  • Now the corners! For this part I think it’s best that I actually show you how to make them. They are called librarian corners, they are round, different from the normal pointy corners. I have to admit that are my favorite type of corners to make.
  • After you made all the corners, with the help of a bonefolder or a ruler, you can fold the sides.
  • Gently tap all the corners with the bonefolder or ruler to make them rounder.
  • Cut 2 pieces of decorative paper, to glue on the inside of the cover, that are the same size as the inside pages of your book, in my case A4 paper (210 × 297 millimeters)
  • Glue the decorative paper on the inside of the cover, and smooth with bonefolder or ruler to avoid air bubbles and wrinkles. Don’t forget to score the gap created by the joint earlier, so it can bend properly. 
  • Let it dry in the book press or under some weights and repeat the process for the back cover, and the cover is done!

How to Create the Text Bock

Now let’s dive into the text block. 

  • First of all, we need to mark for sewing stations. Taking a pencil, a ruler and a guide paper, mark 4 spots. Measure 2 cm from the edge of the paper and trace a straight line, this is where our stitching stations will be situated. Station A and D are around 2 cm from the border, station B and C are around 8.5 cm from the border.
  • Alling the guide paper to sections of papers (I did 7 to 10 sheets of paper per block)
  • Using a Screw hole punch or an awl, pierce the stations. It can be difficult but don’t be discouraged, because at the end the stations holes won’t be seen except the ones on the cover.
  • Once we pierce everything, including the cover, we can start sewing.

Stitching 

Now it’s time for the fun part! Take your needle and thread. I’m using a thick sewing needle and thick waxed thread. If you are using normal sewing thread, please double or triple thread it to give your stitching strength.

  • Take your thread and measure 5 times the height of the cover. With Chinese binding, it is better to have more thread than run out of it. 
  • Take a portion of the pages, and start from the bottom of C station hole, put a little bit of tape (one that does not ruin the paper), on the end, so that it stays in place. This will be where our final knot will be tied. 
  • Take the whole book and wrap with the needle around the spine and back into station C. Then move toward station D as shown in the picture 
  • Go through station D, wrap again the needle around the spine and through station D as shown below
  • Now wrap the needle around the head/corner of the front cover and back through station D
  • Go again first through station C, then through station B and finally through station A. Once reached station A, wrap around the spine with the needle and back into station A.
  • Wrap the needle around the head/corner of the front cover and back through station A
  • Then go toward station B
  • Wrap the needle around needle around the spine and through station B, and move toward C
  • Remember that at the beginning we took part of the papers and left part of the thread in between the pages to tie a knot in the end? Now, instead of pulling our needle all the way through station C, we are going to return the needle in between the pages where the end of the thread is. 
  • Ensure that the stiches are all tight and with the 2 ends tie a knot.
  • Cut the excess thread and we are DONE! 

Now you have a Chinese bound book!













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!

Peonies & Co.: The Enchanting Power of the Chinese Flower

Written by Maria Giglio

Attention boyfriends of the world, I’m about to tell you the secret to a woman’s heart: if you love her, bring her flowers. That’s right, that’s it. Every woman in the world has a thing with flowers… unless she’s allergic, of course. In any case, no doubt she will fall in your arms. But why? Well, for starters it’s the simplest gesture to show appreciation to your other half. Plus, because there is a mystic, millennial symbolic connection between flowers and women.

Many cultures worship flowers as a universal image of feminine grace, beauty and prosperity. For example, in Christian tradition the Virgin Mary is often associated with the lily, symbol of purity or referred to as “Mystical Rose” without thorn to represent her sinless nature. In Buddhist culture, the lotus is worshipped as a symbol of perfection and fertility; resembling the woman’s uterus with its rounded shape, this flower is known for its incredible beauty and the capacity to stay clean despite flourishing in swamps and wet habitats. The energising power of flowers and spring are immortalised in Botticelli’s eternal masterpiece La Primavera.

In Botticelli’s La Primavera, Flora (3rd figure on the right) personifies the rebirth of Spring wearing a floral dress

Naturally, this charming love story between flowers and women reaches one of its highest peeks in Chinese culture, where it has been widely celebrated over millennia by a prosperous artistic tradition.

Chinese blossoms

Since ancient times, the Chinese have cultivated a true passion for flowers, by decorating their public and private spaces with beautiful gardens. Interestingly, the Chinese word for flower is “花” (huā) and visually represents the magic of a flower in bloom. In fact, the character is a compound, growing from the radical for grass “艹” under which the magic joyful metamorphosis of a plant when producing flowers is represented by a cheerful character.

On the twelfth day of the second month of each lunar year, as soon as nature awakens, a Spring Festival is held in honour of百花深 (Bǎihuā shēn), the White Goddess of Flowers, to celebrate fertility. As in other cultures, Chinese people too associate flowers with women and beauty very frequently, although the symbology related to flowers is much richer and varied, as evidenced by traditional and tribal art and poetry production.

Pink peonies

King of Flowers

Among the many flowers linked to Chinese culture, peony is certainly the most treasured by Chinese people. The equivalent of the Westerners’ beloved rose, the peony is also known as the king of flowers (花王, Huāwáng), existing in two main varieties, the tree and herbaceous peony. The original Chinese word for the herbaceous peony was 芍药 (sháo yào) to refer to the medical properties of the flower. Shao (芍) means in fact a spoonful (勺) of plant (艹), whereas yao (药) means medicine. After a while, both the tree and herbaceous varieties were known as 牡丹 (mudan). This word consists of two characters. The character 牡 (mu) is composed of the radicals for ox (牛) and and earth (土). The character 丹 (dan) means either pill, probably referring to the healing properties ascribed to the peony in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or the typical colour red, as a typical variety of the flower.

An ancient passion

Up until the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912 A.D.), the peony was renowned as the official national flower of China, as per appointment by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1903. As a matter of fact, Chinese passion for this flower sprang around 1,400 years ago. During the Tang Dynasty (around 600 A.D.) peonies started to be employed to decorate the imperial gardens and soon began to spread everywhere else in China. An imperial emblem of opulence and beauty, peonies were featured in paintings and textiles, as well as used in poetical allegories to celebrate the prosperity of the nation. Among the most valuable, the red ones represent wealth, while white peonies symbolize the beauty and cheerfulness of Chinese young girl.

Cultivating national pride

After the Cultural Revolution, the Peony is not recognised the official status of national flower anymore, though its fame and glorious reputation is unvaried in the heart of the Chinese people as it embodies the national hope for an ever-growing prosperity. Over the last twenty years people already expressed their willing twice by casting a ballot (one in 1994 and one 2003) for a renovated official acknowledgment by the Government of the peony as a national emblem. The proposal is still pending.

Although Chinese peonies can be found almost everywhere in the country, Luoyang (Henan Province, Eastern China) is certainly the best place to admire their beautiful blossoms. Renowned as the city of peonies, Luoyang offers a spectacular Peony garden showcasing over 500 varieties in full bloom. The garden is famous for hosting a peony high over 3 metres and as old as 1,600 years.

A view of Luoyang Peony Garden

Flowers in Chinese traditional fashion: take your pick!

The passion for flowers is vividly featured in the traditional apparel of Chinese people.

Back in the 60s Scott McKenzie used to sing “if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair”. If you insteadwant to wear flowers everywhere, check out our exclusive florid collection of handmade Qipaos!

Amongst the 56 minorities in China, Miao people hold pomegranate blossoms 石榴花 (Shíliú huā) particularly at heart. A national cultural heritage as enlisted by UNESCO, Miao embroidery features pomegranate flowers to symbolise the wish for prosperity. If you want a taste of this true textile rarity, check out these handmade bags that our Miao artisan partners have created exclusively for our costumers!

If you smell a nice deal… Discover these and more products on InteractChina.com!


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! 

Chinese Music 101: Wood Musical Instruments – Ancient and Modern Percussions

By Sari Xu

So far, we’ve discussed about silk, bamboo, stone, clay and skin musical instruments under the Bayin – 8 tones of Chinese traditional musical instruments. Wood, as one of the most common materials used in Western musical instruments, surprisingly, is not that widely used in China for its traditional tones. Most Chinese instruments under the wood category are of the ancient variety. I guess this is because in China, Silk and Bamboo are easier to access by the royal family, and the softer timbre they bring are more favored by the ancient literati and artists.

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Rather than being used in wind instrument like flutes, piccolos, and clarinets in Western music instruments, wood is mostly used in percussions in China. Muyu (木鱼), literally wooden fish, is also known as a Chinese temple block and could be struck with a wooden stick. It’s used by monks and lay people in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, usually during rituals when chanting, involving the recitation of sutras, mantras, or other Buddhist texts. It’s used not only in China, but also East Asian countries like Korea, Japan where the practice of Mahayana is prevalent.

Shofukuji_Nagasaki_January_2012_04
The Original Muyu

 

More interestingly, the original type of wooden fish is literally in the shape of a fish! Along with a large temple bell and drum, it is found suspended in front of Buddhist monasteries. When proceeding with various duties (such as eating, lectures, or chores), a monk and a supervisor utilize the instrument to call all monastics to go to their tasks. Historically, this was the first wooden fish developed, which gradually evolved into the round wooden fish used by Buddhists today.

Other than Muyu (Wooden fish), another block is also widely used till nowadays. Bangzi (梆子, or sometimes Bangban),a wood block smaller than a Muyu with a higher pitch, is very popular in use of the Chinese traditional Bangzi Opera as an accompaniment. Bangzi Opera, or Bangzi Xi, Bangzi Qiang, is one of the Top 4 kinds of Chinese Opera, originated from the ancient Western Qin Qiang (西秦腔, Opera of the Qin Dynasty, 221 – 207 B.C). The common point of various types of Bangzi Opera, is that they all use Bangzi – the wood block, to give the beat. A Bangzi is usually made of Jujube wood, red sandalwood, or rosewood. it’s also worth mentioning that, the two wooden sticks used to strike the bangzi are of various thicknesses and lengths in order to get different pitches.

Back at the ancient time, the wood instruments were also mainly used during rituals. Remember there is a struck string musical instrument called Zhu that we discussed about previously? Actually, there is another percussion instrument also called Zhu () under the wood category! It was used in the Confucian court ritual music in ancient China. It consisted of a wooden box (which was often painted red or otherwise decorated) that tapered from the top to the bottom and was played by grasping a vertical wooden stick and striking it on the bottom face. The instrument was used to mark the beginning of music in the ancient ritual music of China, called Yayue (雅乐). The instrument is rarely used today, with specimens appearing mainly in Chinese museums, an exception is that, in Taiwan it is still used in Confucian ritual music by the Taiwan Confucian Temple.

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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!