In this week’s Omeida Chinese Academy culture class, we talked about traditional Chinese instruments and the different types of Chinese music. Peking Opera is the first thing that comes into mind when people talks about Chinese traditional music. In China, the art form has been known by many other names in different times and places. . As it increased in popularity, its name became Jingju or Jingxi, which reflected its start in the capital city, Jing, and the form of the performance, Xi. From 1927 to 1949, Beijing was known as Beiping, and Peking opera was known as Pingxi or Pingju (Traditional 平劇, Simplified 平剧) to reflect this change. Finally, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
Chinese Music: Peking Opera
It has features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera’s characteristically sparse stage.
In class, teacher introduced the roles on the Peking Opera stage fall into four major roles-Sheng (生), Dan (旦), Jing (净), Chou (丑).
Sheng (生): refer to men, divided into Laosheng (老生) (also referred to as Mo (末)), Xiaosheng (小生), Wusheng (武生)
Dan (旦): refer to women, divided into Zhengdan (正旦), Laodan (老旦), Huadan (花旦), Wudan (武旦), Daomadan (刀马旦)
Jing (净): refer to painted-face role, know popularly as Hualian, divided into Zhengjing (正净), Fujing (副净), Wujing (武净), Maojing (毛净)
Chou (丑): refer to painted-face role, know popularly as Xiao hualian, divided into Wenchou (文丑), Wuchou (武丑), Nüchou (女丑)
Hulusi: Chinese Woodwind Instrument
A free-reed aerophone, the hulusi is usually played by Dai and Yi minority tribes in Yunnan, China.Many appreciate the hulusi for its warm tone and haunting timbre, but owing to its limited volume, teacher Twelve gave us a vivid demonstration on how to play hulusi, which is very eye opening and inspiring for our students. Faris is observing the new instrument, i am wondering what is in his mind right now, haha.
Dizi: Chinese Flutes
While very ancient, single-tube Chinese flutes with finger holes have been found—made from the bones of birds or animals, stone, and jade—it seems that the earliest depictions of flutes in China show panpipes (now called paixiao). Pottery figurines of players of end-blown flutes (today called xiao, also spelled hsiao) survive from the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). Transverse flutes (today called di or dizi) became common later, though some sources state that they, along with the xiao, arrived in China from the western regions during the Han Dynasty.
Closing your eyes while enjoying the music, the beautiful melody can take you out of the classroom and flying to the paradise in your mind.
Erhu: Chinese Fiddle
The erhu (Chinese: 二胡; pinyin: èrhú;) is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a Southern Fiddle, and sometimes known in the Western world as the Chinese violin or a Chinese two-stringed fiddle.
It is used as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. A very versatile instrument, the erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock and jazz.
In ancient China, playing erhu only been used as a way to make money on the street, just like what you can see in the picture, with an empty bowl in front of you for people to put money in. Nowadays, it evolved into an instrument only for pleasure and leisure activities.