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Red Flower with Fragrant Dews

The counterpart of Yayue (Elegant Music) was jiyue (Women Music). The two were like both wings of the Chinese dance art. The jiyue dance is a broad concept that included any ancient dance forms other than the Yayue dance. Such dances were mostly performed by professional dancers for entertainment. For instance, the wrestling dance and folk dance of the Qin and Han dynasties, the Nine Parts and Ten Parts dances, the Sitting and Standing Parts dances of the Sui and Tang dynasties, as well as the team dance of the Song Dynasty can all be put into the sphere of Jiyue.

Performed by professional musicians and dancers, Jiyue dances were all entertaining. jiyue contributed greatly to the development of music and dance, representing the artistic level reached by ancient Chinese dancers. It actually formed the mainstream of Chinese dance in a long period. Nevertheless, it was always despised and looked down upon by the society The performers (called "Jigong") of such dances were regarded as the lower class and even enslaved by the upper class.

Jiyue originated from the Nuyue (women Music) of the slave society The women dancers were slaves who had become real professional musicians and dancers from their predecessors, the witches. It was said that Qi, first emperor of the Xia Dynasty, had enjoyed in his palace thousands of dancing sleeves. jie, last ruler of the Xia Dynasty, had 30,000 women dancers. By the end of the Shang Dynasty, the scale of music and dance was even bigger, with women musicians and dancers filling all palaces. It was just these professional women dancers who created the splendid dance art of the slave society and perfected the dance form. But these women were at the lowest social level just like all other slaves. Slave owners could sell them, send them as gifts, kill them, or bury them alive with their dead masters. From major tombs of slave owners excavated so far, refined music instrument, dance props and skeletons of dance slaves are often discovered.

By the Zhou Dynasty, Women Music was even more popular The major reason for the collapse of rites and the disappearance of Elegant Music in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty was of course the declining power of the Zhou rulers. But in the aesthetic field, the prosperity of Women Music as the contrary of the Elegant Music (the Women Music was also called the "New Music" as in contrast to the ancient music) was actually an important element. According to historical records, women musicians and dancers were welcomed throughout the royal and the dukes' palaces and had taken over the stage center The great thinker Mencius disclosed that the nobles of the time were all after more music and dance entertainment and increased the taxes and other exploitation on the people "to make the music of bells, drums, qin and se, yu and sheng". In their palaces lived huge numbers of women musicians and dancers who did not wear shabby clothes or eat harsh food. This reflects the prosperity of Women Music at that time.

On the cover of a painted bronze pot from the Warring States Period is carved a women dancer With her hair worn in a bun and long sleeves, she seems gentle and ready to fly away in the wind. on another bronze pot with patterns of fishing and poaching, a woman musician is striking the stone instrument qin. Raising her long sleeves, the girl looks charming and alive. These Fig.s bring us the wonderful dance scenes over 3,000 years ago.

The Han Dynasty brought great development to jiyue, which secured the Han Dynasty's position as a major peak in the Chinese dance history. Some new forms of performances appeared in this period, such as the famous wrestling dance, "xiang" and "daqu". Also debuted were important dance shows like "the Dance of Pangu (plate drum)", "the Dance of Kerchief", and "the Dance of Bayu". Some musicians and dancers of this time are still remembered today. All these symbolized the arrival of the prosperity of the Chinese music and dance culture.

The most famous dancer of this time was perhaps Zhao Feiyan. Originally a dancer in the family of Princess Yang'e, she was favored by Emperor Cheng of the Han Dynasty, who made her an imperial concubine and later the empress. Legends say that the reason she won so much favor from the emperor was her Superb dancing skills. Historical records say she "was light as a swallow and could dance on another one's palm". This might be exaggerated but all historical records acknowledged that she had a light and enchanting dancing gift.

On a Han Dynasty brick excavated from ZhengZhou, Henan Province, a woman dancer has both sleeves floating in the wind. Standing on one foot, she has raised another foot as if she were rising up. What's even more wonderful is that on the left top of the brick is carved a flying swallow The painter was no doubt telling the audience that this dancer was highly skilled and light as the swallow It seems that being "light" was the common aspiration of the Han people for dancers.

Another woman dancer who won the favor of the emperor in the Han Dynasty was Madame Li in the time of Emperor Hanwu. She was born to a home of musicjans and dancers, and her brother Li Yannian was a famous musician. Legends say that once Li Yannian was performing on a banquet given by Emperor Hanwu, and he sang this song, "There is a beauty in the north whose charm finds no match in the world. At one glance back, she draws out the entire city; at the second glance, she empties a whole country. Even though the people of the entire city and the whole country come out, they can't find another beauty like her again. "Hearing this Emperor Hanwu asked, "Is there really such a beautiful woman in the world?" Princess Pingyang told him that the younger sister of Li Yannian was just a girl "beautiful and charming in dancing". That was how the daughter of a humble musician leaped onto the seat of the imperial concubine and left her name and story in history of course, these women were just the few "fortune's favorites". There were numerous dancers who had Superior skills and made more contributions to the Han Dynasty dance culture but didn't make their names known.

Although the society had entered the feudal times by the Han Dynasty, the Jiyue performers were still treated as slaves; they had no control over their life or freedom. Such a humble position was to accompany the Jiyue professionals for the whole of the feudal society. The nobles of the Han Dynasty used no more living people to accompany the dead. As an replacement, they used the yong, pottery or wooden figurines. Huge numbers of figurines and painted bricks or stones with Fig.s of dancers have been excavated. These Fig.s show directly the spirit of Han dancers, at the same time, reveal their tragic fate.

At the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Cao Cao, a famous politician, constructed the Tongquetai (Bronze Sparrow Terrace) at Yecheng (to the southwest of today's Linzhang County, Hebei Province), and Supported a group of musicians and dancers at the terrace to entertain his banquets. Upon Cao Cao's death, he left word that these performers should be kept at the terrace and perform to his spirit at the 1st and 15th days of each lunar month. just in their prime of life, the girls had to lose their youth and life with a death. The high terrace was grim and the wind was cold; the tragic life of these jiyue performers was beyond imagination. In the Tang Dynasty, numerous poems were devoted to these girls of the Bronze Sparrow Terrace. One of them read like this:

The whimpering songs couldn't express all the regrets and hatred,

The heavy long sleeves were leaden with the deep sadness.

When dusk shrouded the Western Tomb,

The heartbreak time for the dancers would come.

This poem was the accusation mixed with blood and tears of the numerous Jiyue performers.

The climax of the Tang Dynasty was a golden period in the development of Chinese dance, and it was also the prime time of the jiyue dance. At that time, the jiyue performers with high singing and dancing skills could be found in all strata of society. The imperial court had the imperial performers, the army camp had the camp performers, the local governments had official performers, and private homes had family performers. It was the genre to keep the jiyue performers, who could range from just a few to a dozen, and even to thousands. The famous poet Bai Juyi led a quiet life at home when he was old. He also kept family performers who were called Xiao Man, Fan Su, Hong E, Zi Fang and others.

In the Sui and Tang dynasties, the "Yanyue" (referring generally to all music and dances entertaining banquets) which marked a peak of the Tang Dynasty music and dance Culture was mainly performed by Jiyue professionals. The varied content, Superb skills, vast teams, and the popularity in the society were both unprecedented and unrivaled in later times.

The New Tang Annals: History of Rites and Music recorded that when the Tang Dynasty was at its pinnacle, the number of the Jiyue performers had been tens of thousands. These musicians, singers, dancers and their students were administered by the court music and dance offices called Taichang Temple and the Guchui Bureau. In the second year of Kaiyuan reign, Emperor Xuanzong separated the Yanyue performers from the Taichang Temple and reorganized them in the Inner jiaofang (learning school). He also set up four other Outer jiaofang in Chang'an (now Xi'an) and Luoyang. Meanwhile, there were 300 best performers in the court, where the emperor himself often attended to their training and rehearsals. These favored performers were called "Liyuan Dizi (students of the pear garden)" or "students of the Emperor". From here came the Customary title of the Chinese opera circle, "The Pear Garden"; and the opera performers are still called "students of the pear garden" today.

The repertoire of the court Yanyue mainly consisted of the Nine and Ten Parts jiyue. Except for the Yanyue and "Qingshangyue" which carried on the traditions of central China, most performances came from other regions and other nationalities. For example, the "Xiliang Yue" came from Xiliang (today's Dunhuang in Gansu Province); the "Tianzhu Yue" was from Tianzhu (today's India); the "GaoLi Yue" was from Korea; the "Qiuci Yue", the most popular dance in the Tang Dynasty, was from the ancient Qiuci Kingdom in today's Kuqa of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; the "Anguo Yue" was a folk dance in Bukhara of Uzbekistan today; the "Shule Yue" came from Kashi of Xinjiang; the "Kangguo Yue" originated from Samarkand of Uzbekistan; the "Gaochang Yue" was from the Turpan of Xinjiang. The homes of these dances were mostly located in the ancient Xiyu (western regions). This was closely related to the prosperity of the Silk Road in the Tang Dynasty. These dances were not only for entertainment of the banquets, but also functioned as ceremonies to demonstrate the national power.

The more entertaining dances in this period were the Sitting and Standing Part jiyue and the Singing and Dancing Daqu .

The Sitting Part jiyue performers played in the front of the court and there were just six parts of them. The Standing Part Jiyue performers had eight parts and played beyond the sitting performers. The major shows included "Pozhen Yue", "Qingshan Yue", "Shengshou Yue", "Niaoge WanSui Yue", and "Longchi Yue". The New Tang Annals: History of Rites and Music recorded that Taichang (the minister in charge of music and dances) gave regular exams to the Sitting Part Jiyue performers, those unqualified were turned to the Standing Part. If they were still incompetent, the performers would be sent to learn the Yayue (Elegant Music). This showed that the artistic level was the highest with the Sitting Part jiyue performers.

The Singing and Dancing Daqu was a big-scale performance formed in the Tang Dynasty combining instrumental music, dance and singing. Among the shows, the traditional instruments from central China were used to play "Faqu", or pieces with a more gentle and elegant style. The number of Tang Dynasty Daqu was big and there were over 60 of them passed down the history. The most famous ones are "Liangzhou", "Ganzhou", 'jianqi", "Zhezhi", "Luyao", "Bomei", "Chunyingzhuan", "Yulinling", etc. The representative work was "Nishangyuyi" (The Dance in Feathery Clothing) which belonged to the Faqu category There were many beautiful stories about its origin. one of them says the work was secretly learned by the Emperor Tangminghuang from the palace in the Moon. This manifested the love and praise of the people who had seen it. The great Tang poet Bai Juyi gave it a more detailed description in his famous article "Song to the Dance in Feathery Clothing", which read: The light rotation resembfes the flying snowflakes, and rapid advance was like a startled dragon.

The drooping hands were frail and subtle like budding poplar twigs, and the tilting dancing dresses rise up like white clouds.

Beneath misty eyebrows the wandering eyes carry forth enchanting charms, and the long sleeves dancing up and down in the wind are full of feelings.

It must be Madame Shangyuan (a Taoist goddess) who called over the fairy E Luhua, and the Xiwangmu (another goddess) bade farewell to the fairy Xu Feiqiong.

The rapid music of the twelfth chapter is varied and splendid, and like jumping pearls and striking jade pieces it is most pleasant to the ear.

The end of the dance is like a flying phoenix gathering her wings, and the last note of the music sounds like a moving song of the crane.

Through such vivid description, we can well imagine the elegant spirits of the Dance in Feathery Clothing and the superb skills of the performers.

The jianwu (vigorous dance) and Ruanwu (soft dance) were the other two major types of the jiyue dances popular in the Tang Dynasty. These two also had quite a number of excellent works that were passed down through generations: the "Huxuan", "Huteng", "Jianqi", and "Zhezhi" of jianwu, and the "Wuyeti" and "Lanlingwang (King of Lanling) "of Ruanwu.

The jiyue of the Tang Dynasty had a profound influence on the social life with its amazing creativity and left vivid images in various literary and art works -- poem, tales of marvels, painting, sculpture, etc. These images still draw the appreciation and imagination of today's people.

Among the numerous poems on dances written in the Tang Dynasty, the best known is the great poet Du Fu's work, "Beholding the jianqi (Sword) Dance by Madame Gongsun", in which he gave the dance a fine description:

There used to be a beautiful woman named Madame GongSun whose sword jianqi would always make a stir The audience gathered in a vast group, and each of them was shocked by her dance. Both the heaven and the earth changed colors while she was dancing. The dazzling flash of the sword was like the nine suns shot down from heaven by the ancient hero Hou Yi. Her vigorous and brisk steps were those of the gods riding across the sky on dragons. She began like the thunders controlling their rage; she ended like the peaceful oceans gathering their waves.

The poet used wild imaginations through a series of moving comparisons to catch the dazzling spirit of Madame Gongsun's sword dance. Vigorous as flying dragons, shining like nine suns, the dance forced the mountains to bow, the wind and clouds to turn color. This poem and the above-quoted "Song to the Dance in Feathery Clothing" by Bai Juyi were the two priceless jade pieces in the dance poems of the Tang Dynasty.

By the end of the Tang Dynasty, the blossom of the Jiyue dance also came to an end. Although it had some development in the Song Dynasty, such as the dances of "Women Dance Team" and "Children Dance Team" in the imperial court, its scale was never the same as in the Tang Dynasty There were still official, camp and family Jiyue performers, but their influence and scale were far below those in the Tang Dynasty.

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