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Zhejiang Folk Instrumental Music
2012-05-27 20:59:46

Zhejiang Folk Instrumental Music

Zhejiang Folk Instrumental Music in Ancient Times

Zhejiang folk instrumental music can date back to ancient times. In Eastern Zhou Dynasty, Huiji (the present Shaoxing) used to be the capital of Yue State, so place around Zhejiang was of great strategic importance in the war between Wu State and Yue State. Judging from the cultural relics unearthed in past years, music and culture of the Middle Plain had begun to spread in Zhejiang at the time. Among the important pieces of the cultural relics, the Yong Bell with cloud-and-thunder decorative patterns of the Western Zhou Dynasty unearthed in 1969 around Caolou Village of Changxing, the bronze cymbal of Western Zhou Dynasty unearthed in 1986 in Pan'an. The serial bells (a set of 7 pieces) unearthed in 1969 from Jiangshan Mountains and the bronze Zheng (bell-shaped gong used in march) unearthed in 1977 in Shaoxing belong to the Spring and Autumn Period or the Warring States Period. What's more, a Warring State tomb in Mt. Huangjia of Changchuanba, Haiyan excavated primitive porcelain Yong bells (13 items), Gou Diao (12 pieces), and Zhun Yu (2 pieces), and Chongxian of Yuhang excavated some primitive pseudo-bronze serial bells. In March of 1982, a Warring State tomb in Mt. Lion of Shaoxing excavated a 170*130*115 mm. copper model house. In the house were 6 musicians, with 4 instrument players and 2 singing girls kneeling on the ground. The vivid and lifelike figures displayed a singing-and-dancing scene with a band.

Bone Whistles

From Qin Dynasty to Han Dynasty, the Middle Plain was the political, economic as well as cultural center of China. But in the last years of Western Jin Dynasty, a great many northern people moved southward. They not only opened up new eras for Zhejiang economy, but also enhanced Zhejiang culture in that music began to thrive with instrumental accompaniment. In recent years, Shaoxing, Yuhang, Wuyi and other places alike unearthed in bulks celadon burial furnishings of Jin Dynasty, on which there were figures of people beating drums, playing instruments, dancing and doing vaudeville. We can infer from the carefully playing musicians that this is a scene of "Bai Xi (variety shows)" with rich content which was fully developed in Han Dynasty.

Two-holed Bone Whistle


Single-holed Pottery Xun  

In Eastern Jin Dynasty, the celebrated calligrapher Wang Xizhi wrotePreface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion (Langtingji Xu)in Shanyin (the present Shaoxing). It could be inferred from it that instrumental music had already been flourishing among Zhejiang folks by then. According to Deqing County Annals written during Emperor Kang Xi's Reign, there were Qian Xi (Front Stream) Workshop and Hou Xi (Back Stream) Workshop in the south of the county. It was the home to many famous performers of the Southern Dynasty. The number of the workshops still reached to several hundreds in Tang Dynasty. (note: Qian Xi is called Yuying Stream today and now lies in the south of the town of Wukang). So this area used to be an important training place to foster music talents. Besides, the General Anthology of Yuefu Poems (compiled by Guo Maoqian of the Song Dynasty) listed 7 Qian Xi Songs written by Shen Wan (or Shen Liu) of Jin Dyansty. They specified the 15 musical instruments as bell, Qing (chime stone), Qin (a seven-stringed plucked instrument), Se (a twenty-five-stringed plucked instrument), Konghou (harp, an ancient plucked stringed instrument), Zhu (an ancient stringed instrument), Zheng (flat stringed instrument with anc. five and later thirteen strings), Ji Qin (a ancient plucked instrument), pi-pa (a plucked string instrument with a fretted fingerboard), Jie Gu (an ancient drum), Sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument), flute, Xiao (a vertical bamboo flute), Chi (an ancient eight-holed pipe instrument), and Xun (an egg-shaped, holed wind instrument). So they amounted to quite a medium sized band for accompaniment.

Burial furnishing made by Yue's kiln

Primitive porcelain Yong bells

In 610, the Great Canal became open for transportation. It contributed to more frequent economic and cultural communication between the north and the south. Zhejiang became more important to the country day by day. Hangzhou, as the terminal of the Great Canal, had become the renowned city in the southeast for the precious, the rare and the rich. Bai Juyi described such pomp in his poem Moon of the Lantern Festival: lamplights light up every fair and every household flows with songs and music; the forgotten moon misses its home back, but still is reluctant to leave the glamorous Hangzhou. At the time, songs with musical accompaniment was quite commonplace.

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