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!

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!

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.

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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!

Chinese Music 101: Bayin(八音) – Silk Musical Instruments 3 – The Struck String Family

By Sari Xu

Silk musical instruments, or nowadays more referred as string instruments, form the biggest category among the Chinese Bayin categories (8 tones), including – silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and skin. In our previous blogs, we’ve discussed about two large groups of instruments under this category: bowed string family and plucked string family. Other than these two groups, struck string instruments family also plays a very important role here.

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A Chinese Modern Yangqin with Hand-Carved Patterns

 

The most famous struck string is Yangqin (扬琴), which is sometimes known as Chinese hammered dulcimer. It used to be written as the characters 洋琴, which literally means “foreign zithers”, this is because it was derived from Iranian Santur. Overtime, the first character was changed to “扬”, which means “acclaimed”. Just like other string instruments Pipa, Guzheng, and Erhu, Yangqin and hammered dulcimers of various types are not only famous in China, but also very popular among Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India, Iran, and Pakistan.

In terms of elements of construction, Yangqin also shares a lot of common points with other hammered dulcimers. As a member of the string musical instruments family, the strings are definitely the most significant element. Modern yangqin usually have 144 strings in total, with each pitch running in courses, with up to 5 strings per course, in order to boost the volume. The strings come in various thicknesses, and are tied at one end by screws, and at the other with tuning pegs. The pegs and screws are covered during playing by a hinged panel/board. This panel is opened up during tuning to access the tuning pegs.

Interestingly, though older Chinese string musical instruments used silk strings, which later formed the category as “silk instruments”, Yangqin, as one of the representative of Jiangnan Sizhu (江南丝竹, Silk and bamboo genre in Shanghai region), was traditionally fitted with bronze strings!

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The design of bridges on a yangqin is also a piece of art and more complicated than the bridges on a modern guitar from my opinion. There are usually four to five bridges on a yangqin called bass bridge, “right bridge”, tenor bridge, “left bridge”, and the chromatic bridge, respectively from right to left. During playing, one is supposed to strike the strings on the left side of the bridges. However, the strings on the “chromatic bridge” are struck on the right, and strings on the “left bridge” can be struck on both sides of the bridge.

Hammers are the most unique element of a yangqin and what form the “struck instrument” category. They are mostly made of another commonly used material in traditional Chinese music – bamboo! One end of the hammers is half covered by rubber. This brings two ways of playing the yangqin: with the rubber side for a softer sound, and with the bamboo side for a crisper, more percussive sound. This technique, known as 反竹(Fan Zhu), is best utilized in the higher ranges of the yangqin.Additionally, the ends of the sticks can be used to pluck the strings, producing a sharp, clear sound. Glissandos can also be achieved in this way by running the ends of the sticks up or down the strings! This means, once the player reaches the professional level of playing the yangqin, he or she could play this instrument as a yangqin, a guzheng, and a pipa at the same time!

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A Pair of Hammers

Other than the yangqin, Zhu (筑)was also a famous struck string instrument back at the ancient time though it’s no longer used. The instrument remained popular through the Sui and Tang dynasties (581 – 907), and was lost during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1276).

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Ancient Zhu Found by Archeologists

Now, let’s enjoy one of the traditional music pieces played by a yangqin soloist!

 

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(八音) – Silk Musical Instruments 2 – The Plucked String Family

By Sari Xu

Silk musical instruments form the biggest category among the Bayin (8 tones), including – silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, andskin. In our previous blogs, we’ve discussed one thirds of the silk tone – The bowed string family. Now let’s have a look at another well-known silk category – the plucked string family!

(A Uygur Bowed Instrument vs. A Uygur Plucked Instrument)

Other than the Xinjiang Uyghur musical instruments that we’ve introduced long time ago, some widely-used plucked string 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.

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A Guzheng (古筝)

The Zheng, or Guzheng (古筝), is known as a Chinese zither with a history of more than 2,500 years. The oldest specimen yet discovered held 13 strings and was dated to around 500 B.C, possibly during the Warring States period (475 – 221 B.C). Guzheng became prominent during the Qin dynasty (221 – 206 B.C). By the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) the guzheng may have been the most commonly played instrument in China.

During its long history, Guzheng has gone through many changes. The modern guzheng commonly has 21 strings, is 64 inches (1.6 m) long, and is tuned in a major pentatonic scale. It has a large, resonant soundboard made from Paulownia. Other components are often made from other woods for structural or decorative reasons. Guzheng players often wear fingerpicks made from materials such as plastic, resin, tortoiseshell, or ivory on one or both hands.

XieZiqiao_guzheng

Playing styles and Schools of Guzheng vary a lot and were first divided between Northern and Southern before being further subdivided into specific regional schools. Regional schools that are part of the Northern style include Henan, Shaanxi, Shandong, and Zhejiang. Regional schools included in the Southern style include Chaozhou, Hakka, and Fujian.

Examples of Northern pieces include High Mountain and Running River(高山流水) and Autumn Moon over the Han Palace(汉宫秋月) from the Shandong school. Southern style can be represented by Jackdaw Plays with Water (寒鸦戏水) from the Chaozhou school and Lotus Emerging from Water (出水莲) from the Hakka school.

Check out the famous Guzheng solo piece High Mountain and Running Riverby artist Xiang Si-Hua here!

The Pipa(琵琶), sometimes referred as the Chinese Lute, is another widely played 4-stringed Chinese plucked instrument. Ithas a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12 to 26. It also has a smaller version called Liuqin (柳琴). Similar as Guzheng, Pipa also has a long history of around 2,000 years and existed in China as early as the Han dynasty (206 B.C – 220 A.D). Although historically the term “Pipa” was once used to refer to a variety of plucked chordophones, its usage since the Song dynasty (960 – 1279) refers exclusively to the pear-shaped instrument.

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Pipa (琵琶)

Several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the pipa, which include the Japanese biwa, the Vietnamese đàn tỳ bà, and the Korean bipa. Interestingly, based on the Chinese, as well as records of these countries, we can easily deduce the evolution of Pipa during its long history! For example, the Tang-style Pipa (from Tang Dynasty 618 – 907) has a comparatively shorter neck, while the Ming-Style (1368 – 1644) has a longer neck and more frets. It also omitted the plectrum and could be played directly with fingers.

 

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The Ming Style Pipa on Record

 

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The Tang Style Pipa on Record

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowadays, thanks to the efforts of contemporary musicians and performers worldwide, Chinese and Western composers are both creating new works using Pipa and Guzheng.Undeniably, these two are always the best companion of each other, and I personally still love the traditional piece the most!

Check out this duo performance of Pipa and Guzheng! And this opus was originally created by Yi ethnic group called Dance of the Yi People!

 

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(八音) – Silk Musical Instruments – The Bowed String Family

By Sari Xu

Silk musical instruments form the biggest category among the Bayin (8 tones), including – silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, andskin. In our previous blogs, we’ve discussed a lot about the percussion instruments fall into the stone and skin categories. Today, we will look into the most common and well-known silk category and have a deeper understanding of the bowed string family!

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The Huqin Family

The bowed string family, nowadays, is more often referred as “Huqin” (胡琴) family, could be simply described as spike fiddles (vertical). The instruments consist of a round, hexagonal, or octagonal sound box at the bottom with a neck attached that protrudes upwards. They usually have two strings, and their sound boxes are typically covered with either snakeskin (most often the skin of python) or thin wood. Huqin instruments generally have two tuning pegs, one peg for each string. The pegs are attached horizontally through holes drilled in the instrument’s neck. Most huqin have the bow hair pass in between the strings. Exceptions having two strings and pegs include variations of huqin with three, four, and sometimes even more than five. These include the Zhuihu, a three stringed Huqin, the Sihu, a Huqin of Mongolian origin, and the Sanhu, a lesser-known three-stringed variation.

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The 3 Most Common Huqins

 

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The Typical Huqin Family

These may sound very new to you, no worries, let’s name some names of spike fiddles that you may be familiar with: 1. Erhu (二胡)– tuned to a middle range; 2. Zhonghu (中胡/中音二胡) –  tuned to a lower register; 3. Gaohu (高胡) – tuned to a higher pitch. 4. Dahu, Gehu – tuned to the lowest pitch; 5. Jinghu – tuned to the highest pitch for use in the Beijing Opera. To rank this typical spike fiddles by their pitches from low to high, the order should be Dahu, Gehu, Zhonghu, Erhu, Gaohu, Jinghu.

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The Beijing Opera Instruments Family

Though spike fiddles are dominating the main stream of Chinese traditional musical instruments (along with Guzheng, Dizi and Pipa) and modern Chinese orchestras nowadays, it actually has an ethnic minority background! Huqins are believed to have come from the nomadic Hu people, who lived on the extremities of ancient Chinese kingdoms, possibly descending from an instrument called the Xiqin (奚琴), originally played by the Mongolic Xi tribe. Nowadays, the Mongolian people also have a very similar version of modern Xiqin called Khuuchir, and so do other neighboring countries such as Thailand, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, etc.

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The Original Xiqin Painted by Artist Chen Yang back in Song Dynasty

Coming back to our most familiar Erhu, it also has several variations such as Jing Erhu (京二胡) and Erquanhu(二泉胡). Erhu, sometimes also called Urheen, Nanhu (Southern Fiddle, 南胡), is the most common form of a “Chinese violin” and two-stringed fiddle. It could be used either for a solo or in a concert (both small ensembles and large orchestras).

To be more specific, The Erhu consists of a long vertical stick-like neck, at the top of which are two big tuning pegs, and at the bottom is a small resonator body (sound box) which is covered with python skin (or other snake skin) on the front (playing) end. Two strings are attached from the pegs to the base, and a small loop of string (Qian Jin前襟) placed around the neck and strings acting as a nut pulls the strings towards the skin, holding a minute wooden bridge in place. Some fun facts about Erhu’s features including 1. its characteristic sound is produced through the vibration of the python skin by bowing; 2. there is no fingerboard; the player stops the strings by pressing their fingertips onto the strings without the strings touching the neck; 3. the horse hair bow is never separated from the strings (which were formerly of twisted silk but which today are usually made of metal)!

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The Construction of an Erhu

Jing Erhu, as you may tell, is the version of Erhu that designed for Beijing Opera (Jing Xi). It is lower in pitch than Jinghu (京胡), which is the leading melodic instrument in the Beijing opera orchestra, and is considered a supporting instrument to Jinghu. Erquanhu, is a slightly larger version of Erhu, and is used to specifically to play the most famous Erhu opus by Chinese folk blind artist A-bing called Erquan Yingyue (Moon Reflected on Second Spring).

Check out this Erhu performance of Erquan Yingyue below and try to feel the hopelessness and depression written in the melody:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDSXrP-WVlM

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The Typical Image of A-bing, the Blind Erhu Artist Who Composed Erquan Yinyue

In general, the Huqin family, especially Erhu, is a group of versatile instruments. Erhu is commonly used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, for example, in pop, jazz, and even rock music.

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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!