Shot in 2021 July
Qing Xi village in Na Xi
Before the Reformation and Opening in 1978, women of Na Xi minority were not allowed to play instruments or join music ensembles. This year, I revisited Lijiang, Naxi and shot an ethnomusicology documentary "Women in Na Xi Ancient Music". I interviewed four Na Xi female musician from Bai Sha village and Qing Xi village, and recorded their daily life as housewife and musician. The documentary explored the role of female musicians in Na Xi ancient music, and reflected the special perspective of women in music inheritance.
Documentary + Interview
"Women in NaXi ancient music"
“Women were not allowed to learn Na Xi ancient music, because women had a really low social status at that time. To study ancient music as a woman would be starve to death. A woman should learn to do housework.”
-- XiuQiong He
XiuQiong He lives in Qing Xi village in LiJiang. She was passionated in Na Xi music, but her parents and husband thought that she should stay at home and be a good housewife. However, after the Reformation and Opening, she still joined the Qing Xi village ensemble to study music and instruments. Now she can play guzheng, sanxian, and pipa. Now she is selected as one of the few female inheritor of intangible cultural heritage in LiJiang. As a grandmother, she also starts to teach her granddaughter pipa and NaXi ancient music pieces.
XiuQiong He interview
XiuQiong He at the performance
XiuQiong He and her granddaugther
XiuQiong He and ZiyueYang
“Bai Sha Xi music (a branch of Na Xi music) reflects the complicated feelings of the dragon princess, her anxiety, stress, and sadness as her father attacked her husband's territory. As a woman, a wife, and a daughter, I can relate to such complex feeling too.”
-- ChunJuan Yang
ChunJuan Yang was greatly influenced by her mother who was passionated in singing and dance. Unlike other Na Xi minority girls, she was fortunately supported by her parents. At the age of 17, she became one of the few female disciples of MaoGen He, who was the only inheritor of Bai Sha Xi music at that time. As one of the few female inheritor, she had a unique interpretation of Bai Sha Xi music. As the wife of the Bai Sha village head, she encouraged more female singers to join Bai Sha village music ensemble, and also teaches her son and daughter Bai Sha Xi music too.
ChunJuan Yang interview
ChunJuan Yang's family and Ziyue Yang
ChunJuan Yang singing
Bai Sha village music ensemble, ChunJuan Yang, and Ziyue Yang
“Shan Zhang is the 'conductor' of the music ensemble. They are usually experienced musician who are familiar with both music pieces and traditional instruments. There were only male Shan Zhang in the past. However, I believe in the future there will be female Shan Zhang in the ensemble too.”
-- ChunJuan Yang
QiuHong Zhou was born in a musical family. Her father used to host Na Xi musical event in the village. However, during the Cultural Revolution, her father was being persecuted. After the Reformation and the Opening in 1973, she became the first group of female musician who joined the Dayan Na Xi ancient music ensemble. In the past 30 years, she learnt pipa and and all the Na Xi ancient music pieces from other male musicians in the ensemble. Now she is also one of the few female inheritor of intangible cultural heritage in LiJiang.
Ziyue Yang interviewing QiuHong Zhou
QiuHong Zhou introduce us the meaning of NaXi female fur stole
QiuHong Zhou at the backstage
Arrange and organize Na Xi ancient music classes for Na Xi minority girls
invited QiuHong Zhou to teach Na Xi minority girls and boys Na Xi music pieces, and provided Na Xi girls opportunities to perform with Dayan Naxi ancient music ensembles.
NaXi girls and boys roster:
杨堪麟 Kanlin Yang
杨晴 Qing Yang
和松慧 SongHui He
和子瑶 ZiYao He
杨裔清 YiQing Yang
Na Xi children, QiuHong Zhou, and Ziyue Yang
QiuHong Zhou teaching NaXi girls and boys "Eight Trigrams"
QiuHong Zhou and Na Xi girls and boys at backstage
preparing at backstage
NaXi girls performing with Dayan Naxi ancient music ensemble
digitalize the handwritten GongChe notation score
ZhaoLin He's GongChe notation handwritten music
During the Cultural Revolution, most of the Na Xi ancient music score were destroyed. Fortunately, there were a group of elderly musicians carefully preserving the music score. Mr. Zhao Lin He was one of the rural musician in Lijiang, Na Xi. He had handwritten all the Na Xi music pieces he had learnt before the Cultural Revolution using the most traditional Gong Che notation. We digitalized his handwritten music score, and transcribed the Gong Che notation into staff notation.
organize Gong Che notation classes for Na Xi minority children
Gong Che notation was one of the most traditional music notation in Ancient China. Most of the Na Xi ancient music pieces were notated in Gong Che notation. However, almost no musician is now still studying or using Gong Che notation, and are using simplified numbered musical notation instead. Na Xi music lost its originality during the transcription process.
2021 summer, I contacted indigenous schools and organized Gong Che notation class for 14 Na Xi minority children (12 girls + 2 boys). I invited ZhaoLin He, who handwritten as the teacher of Gong Che notation class.
record instruments and instrument making process
recording instruments made by ZhaoLin He
recording instruments made by Dayan Na Xi ancient music ensemble
ZhaoLin He making pipa
2020 summer, I visited Li Jiang for the first time. I interviewed Xuan Ke, the founder of the Dayan Na Xi ancient music ensemble, Mr. ZeMing Zhang from the Chinese local government, and LinZhao He from the LiJiang village. I started learning Gong Che notation, digitalizing Gong Che notation Na Xi music pieces, and filmed the documentary "Chinese Living fossil: Na Xi ancient music".
inspired by Na Xi ancient music, compose an electrical acoustic piece "Buried Civilization"
Buried Civilization is dedicated to Naxi minority musicians in Lijiang, China. by intertwining both sound samples of Naxi musicians from my ethnomusicology documentary Chinese living fossil: Naxi ancient music and modern city sounds, including sirens and excavators, the piece reflects how Naxi minorities fight for the preservation of their music and culture, and also how modernization and globalization accelerate the lose of their culture. Through this piece, I hope to start the conversation about the challenge of balancing modernization and preservation of our culture.