Chinese long history is rich in calligraphy, music, poetry, and painting

May 13, 2015

UNESCO says the Guqin represents China’s foremost solo musical instrument tradition. Legend says that the Guqin has a 5,000 year history compared to Chinese writing that dates back nearly 3,000 years.

The body of the Guqin is a long and narrow sound box made of Catalpa wood with two holes, one large and one small. The large hole is called the “phoenix pool” and the small one the “dragon pond”.

This seven-stringed instrument was played by noblemen and scholars and was not intended for public performances. Twenty years of training were often required to become proficient.

Since it is known that Confucius played the Guqin, the instrument is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music” or “the instrument of the sages”.

For millennia, the strings of the Guqin were made of various thicknesses of silk.

However, in recent times, the silk has been replaced with nylon wound around steel strings. Some say without silk, the Guqin doesn’t sound as rich.

The Guqin was one of four subjects the ancient scholars perfected. The other three were chess, calligraphy and painting. For centuries many Chinese felt China was so civilized due to these practices that no other country would bother them. Why bother to study how to fight wars? Why spend what it would take to keep the military modern and strong?

Then in 1794 came the White Lotus Rebellion (100,000 rebels killed), followed by the Opium Wars (50,000 killed), the Taiping Rebellion (20 million killed), The Nian Rebellion (75 thousand killed), Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (500 thousand killed), Miao Rebellion (75,000 killed), Hui Rebellion (millions killed), the Du Wenxiu Rebellion (1 million killed), the Dungan Revolts (8 to 12 million killed), the Boxer Rebellion (more than 100 thousand killed), the Sino-Japanese War (10 thousand killed), the Xinhai Revolution (almost 200 thousand killed), China’s Civil War between the Communists and Nationalists (8 million killed), and Japan’s invasion of China during World War II (15 to 20 million killed).

Compared to what China suffered, during the 8-year long American Revolution, total casualties were less than 60 thousand, and in the 4-year long American Civil War there were 620 thousand casualties.

That explains why—when the gunpowder settled in 1949, after 155 years of revolution, civil war and war—after Mao came to power, he launched a series of reforms with the goal to make China strong again to stop the revolutions and invasions. These reforms ended with the Cultural Revolution—1965 – 1976, with about 1.5 million killed and millions of others suffering imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.

During this period, the Guqin fell out of favor as the literati were persecuted as the scape goats of China’s long suffering.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

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The Pipa and Wu Man Wu

July 1, 2014

The Chinese pipa is a four stringed lute—or Chinese guitar—with a pear-shaped body. Historical records reveal that the pipa first appeared during the Qin Dynasty (222 – 206 BCE), and become one of the most popular stringed instruments in China surviving more than two-thousand years.

Traditional Chinese music has been traced back 7,000 to 8,000 years. For centuries this music was heard primarily by the royalty and high government officials.

But by the Tang Dynasty, records indicate this music had spread to the common people.

Traditional Chinese musical instruments can be divided into four categories: stringed instruments, percussion instruments, plucked instruments, and wind instruments.

Wu Man Wu is recognized as the world’s most famous pipa player and the leading ambassador of Chinese music. She was born 1963 in Hangzhou, China and moved to the United States in 1990. She has been nominated for a Grammy Award and in 2009 was asked to curate two concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Wu has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s major orchestras, including the Austrian ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Moscow Soloists, Nashville Symphony, German NDR and RSO Radio Symphony Orchestras, New Music Group, New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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Chinese flutes with more than two-thousand years of history

September 10, 2013

The most popular flutes in China are the Dizi and the Hsiao (Xiao), which rhymes with “cow”. I wrote about the Dizi—which is a transverse flute—in a previous post.

The Hsiao is longer than the Dizi and is used to play classical Chinese music and solo music. The Hsiao has eight holes for fingers.  The other two Hsiao flutes are the Dong Hsiao from Southern China with six holes for the fingers and the Qin Hsiao, which is used mainly to accompany the ancient seven-string Chinese zither.


Xiao Solo by Zeng Gege – Mooring by the Autumn River at Night

Chinese flutes with finger holes have been traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).  These flutes have been made from the bones of birds or animals, from stone and jade. the Dizi became common later in the western region of the Han Dynasty.

If you enjoy listening to Chinese music, you may also enjoy the Chinese opera.

Discover Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The Ancient Yue – 9,000 Years Old

October 3, 2010

Music in China is traditionally associated with ritual observances and government affairs.

In 1999, Chinese archeologists unearthed what is believed to be the oldest know playable instrument – a seven-holed flute fashioned 9,000 years ago from the hollow wing bone of a large bird.

To establish the age, a U.S. chemist at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory analyzed data from carbon-14 dating done in China on materials taken from the site.

The 9,000-year-old flutes were “exquisitely-crafted” from the wing bone of a red-crowned crane.


Music from the Book of Songs

In the Book of Songs, an ancient collection of Chinese poetry from the 6th century BC, the three-hole Yue is the most frequently mentioned wind instrument.

By the Tang Dynasty, the Yue had all but vanished.  Source: China Daily

Discover more with The Hsiao (Xiao) – Chinese Flute

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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China’s Ancient Chimes

September 9, 2010

In 1977, a discovery was made in China—a complete set of chime bells were unearthed from the tomb of Marquis Yi, who lived during the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC). These chimes were older than the Qin Dynasty’s famous Terra Cotta warriors (221 to 206 B.C.) were.

When the chimes were discovered in Hubei Province, a plot of land was being leveled to build a factory.  The Red Army officer in charge of the work had an interest in archeology.

The officer discovered that the workers were selling the ancient bronze and iron artifacts they were digging up. He convinced local authorities there might be an ancient tomb buried below the site.

When the tomb was unearthed, a set of chime bells was found.  These musical instruments were an important part of ritual and court music going back to ancient times. An American professor in New York City even called these chimes the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

The sixty-five chime bells weighed about 5 tons.

No other set of chimes like this had been discovered in China before and this set was in excellent condition.

A project was launched in 1979 to duplicate four sets of these chimes. More than a 100 scientists and technicians were recruited.  In 1998, twenty years after the discovery, the project was completed. One of the sets was sent to Taiwan as a gift.

See The Sheng, one of China’s Oldest Musical Instruments

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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The Hsiao (Xiao) – Chinese flute music

July 15, 2010

The most popular flues in China are the Dizi and the Hsiao (Xiao), which rhymes with “cow”. I wrote about the Dizi, which is a transverse flute, in March.

The Hsiao is longer than the Dizi and is used to play classical Chinese music and solo music. The Hsiao has eight holes for fingers.  The other two Hsiao flutes are the Dong Hsiao from Southern China with six holes for the fingers and the Qin Hsiao, which is used mainly to accompany the ancient seven-string Chinese zither.


Xiao Solo by Zeng Gege – Mooring by the Autumn River at Night

Chinese flutes with finger holes have been traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).  These flutes have been made from the bones of birds or animals, from stone and jade. the Dizi became common later in the western region of the Han Dynasty.

If you enjoy listening to Chinese music, you may also enjoy the Chinese opera. See Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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