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Instrumental Music
Updated:2018-02-02 15:57:00
Zhejiang Folk Instrumental Music in Ancient Times
Zhejiang folk instrumental music can date back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256BC) when Huiji (the present Shaoxing) was the capital of Yue State. Judging from the unearthed cultural relics including the Yong Bell, bronze cymbal, bronze Zheng (bell-shaped gong used in march), music and culture of the Central Plain had begun to spread in Zhejiang since then.
During the Qin and Han dynasties, the Central Plain was the political, economic and cultural hub of China. But in the last years   of the Western Jin Dynasty (AD265-316), a great many northern people moved southward. They not only opened a new era for Zhejiang’s economic development, but also boost the instrumental music development in the area which is evidenced by a large amount of celadon burial furnishings of the Jin Dynasty unearthed in the cities of Shaoxing, Yuhang, Wuyi in Zhejiang in the recent years.
In the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD317-420), the celebrated calligrapher Wang Xizhi wrote Preface 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 Kangxi's Reign, workshops to foster music talents emerged in the south of the county.
In the Sui Dynasty (AD581-618), the Grand Canal was opened for transportation, which contributed to more frequent economic and cultural communications between the north and the south. Hangzhou, as the terminal of the Grand Canal, had become the renowned city in the southeast China. Songs with musical accompaniment was quite common at the time.
Ci (a poetry form), which shaped in the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) and prevailed in the Song Dynasty (986-1279), used to be called Qu Zi Ci (tuned Ci) or Za Qu. This type of folk songs was a great appeal to the scholars of the time. They would be invited to compose a poem to a ready tune or even write new songs, thus providing rich singing materials for the city and the palace. The popularity of singing also pushed the growth of instrumental music. During the Song Dynasty, many celebrated Ci writers and musical talents resided and worked in Zhejiang and left behind tons of lyrics and music.
Lin'an (today’s Hangzhou), the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty, witnessed a further economic and cultural development. In order to satisfy people's increasing needs of culture life, various entertainment venues including 23 Wa She and 13 Gou Lan were established in Hangzhou for folk artists to perform in. The programs included singing-and-dancing, singing-and-talking, local operas, acrobatics and martial arts. The instruments could either be played for accompaniment or solo.
Category of the Instruments employed in Zhejiang Instrumental Music
Guqin is a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favored by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement. Guo Chuwang, born in Yongjia, was the most influential guqin player in the Song Dynasty. He was also the founder of Zhejiang School and composer of the piece Xiaoxiang Shuiyun. His students all turned to be excellent players of the generation and contributed to the traditional instrumental music. Zhejiang School became the most important one among all schools across the country since the Song Dynasty.
The suona is a Chinese double-reed horn. It has a distinctively loud and high-pitched sound, and is used frequently in Chinese traditional music ensembles, particularly those that perform outdoors. Suona, an important music instrument of the "blow-and-beat" music, was played extensively on ceremonial occasions or important holidays in Zhejiang since the Ming and Qing Dynasty. During the reign of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the folk painter of Pujiang, Li Weixian (1825~1907) painted a colored drawing of people playing instruments, vividly reproducing the real scene of the folk "blow-and-beat" music.
The pipa is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments. Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12 to 26. It has been played solo, or as part of a large ensemble or small group since the early times. During the Qing Dynasty, there were two major schools of pipa— the Northern (Zhili, 直隸派) and Southern (Zhejiang, 浙江派) schools. Chen Zijing, born in Nanhui County, was known as the pipa master of Zhejiang School. Another famous pipa players in Zhejiang is Li Fangyuan of Pinghu School who came from a family of many generations of pipa players.
The guzheng, also known as Chinese zither, is a Chinese traditional plucked musical string instrument with over 2500 years of history. When it comes to the guzheng, Wang Yuncheng and his son enjoyed great reputation in Zhejiang, according to another player Wang Xun. Around 1900, their students like Jiang Yinchun rose to fame and were especially good at playing Da Qu. In 1920, Jiang taught Wang Xun several Da Qu music such as Hai Qing Na He (Hai Qing Catching the Crane), Jiang Jun Ling (General) and Yue Er Gao (Moon Hanging High).Zhejiang Folk Instrumental Music in Different Styles
According to ways of performing, Zhejiang folk instrumental music can be classified as solo and concert. Solo can be further divided into pipe wind instrument, stringed instrument and plucked instrument while concert can be further divided into Si Zhu (featuring the combination of stringed instruments and pipe instruments), Chui Da (blow-and-beat music) and Luo Gu (gongs and drums).
1. Solo
A large number of talented players and excellent music came forth in Zhejiang’s history. Judging from the collected material, xiao (a vertical bamboo flute) is the most important instrument for the pipe wind kind, erhu for the stringed instruments, pipa and sanxian (Chinese tri-chord) for the plucked instruments respectively, each having their master players and magnum opus.
2. Concert
Concert includes Si Zhu (featuring the combination of stringed instruments and pipe instruments), Chui Da (blow-and-beat music) and Luo Gu (gongs and drums).
(1) Si Zhu
Si Zhu is the music that combines the use of stringed instruments and pipe instruments like flute, sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument) and guan (a wind instrument), bangu (a small drum), muyu (a percussion instrument). Occasionally, gongs and drums are used to make several sounds for certain artistic conception. Si Zhu is an important breed of Zhejiang folk instrumental music, with different subgroups for different areas. Single music is most common as its structure and variation is often added in its repetition part.
(2) Chui Da
Chui Da, also called "Gu Chui" (drum and blow), is a most popular music genre among Zhejiang folks. It features a combination of pipe wind instruments and percussion instruments such as gongs and drums. Stringed instruments are also often added into the music. Music featuring suona is called Cu Chui Luo Gu (roughly blowing with gongs and drums); music featuring flutes is known as Xi Chui Luo Gu (delicately blowing with gongs and drums). If necessary, xianfeng (trombone) and haotong (copper clarion) can also be integrated into the band. Chui Da is so closely related to life that people cannot do without it on ceremonial occasions and holidays. In the old times, a Chui Da band was always an indispensable component in the rituals when people prayed to god, worshiped ancestors and conducted office duties.
(3) Luogu
Luogu (literally "gongs and drums") is a Chinese percussion ensemble. It typically comprises several types of drum and several types of metal idiophone (including gongs and cymbals) and wooden idiophone (including temple blocks and Chinese claves). It is commonly used around Zhejiang. Luogu music composed of many singles is very long, which is usually performed in accordance to the characteristics of each single, the overall arrangement and the directions of the conductor. In ancient times, it was often used on ceremonial occasions and festivals such as Lantern Festival, or used as an accompaniment in some local operas.
Qing Luogu, a performing form of Luogu music in Eastern Zhejiang, uses more than 30 different kinds of instruments. The players could produce sounds in different pitches and rhythms by varied forces, thus creating the wanted atmosphere to express their feelings.
The Luogu music in different areas of Zhejiang features different combinations of instruments. The most common one comprises four drum, a small gong, a big gong and a cymbal.


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