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The Daqu of Songs and Dances (221 BC-AD 960 )

This historical period covers nearly 1,2oo years, and can be conveniently divided into two parts. The first part includes the Qin and Han dynasties, the Three Kingdoms Period and the jin Dynasty (221 BC- AD 420), and the second part extends through the Southern and Northern, Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties (42o-96o) periods. The common characteristic of the two periods is that the mainstream musical form was the Daqu of songs and dances; what distinguished them was the fact that in the earlier period, the music of the Han nationality was dominant, whereas in the later period, owing to unprecedented exchanges between China and the utside world, the musical traditions of other nationalities overwhelmingly affected Chinese songs, dances and music.

The Qin dynasty lasted only 14 years. But this was not a transition period, for the Han Dynasty inherited the governmental system founded by Qin, including the official Music Conservatory. Under the Qin, there were two offices for regulating music: one was in charpge of ritual music, known as Fengchang, and the other was the Music Conservatory, which came under the administration of the Shaofu. The Shaofu was in charge of scouring the country for articles to be offered for the emperor's amusement, and so the Music Conservatory had the task of searching out local songs and dances t0 be presented for the emperor's appreciation.

In the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (140-87 BC), the Music Conservatory was given a great deal of attention, and its work flourished. It collected folk songs from a wide area of China, including Zhao, Dai, Qin and Chu (corresponding to the modern Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Anhui and JiangSu provinces). It also recruited dozens 0f the empire-s leading literary figures, including Sima Xiangru, to create poems and fu verses, as well as songs, set to music by Li Yannian. The latter came from a musical family in the Zhongshan region, and he was well versed in China's musical tradition. His younger sister, who was an accomplished dancer, became a favorite of Emperor Wu, and through her influence Li Yannian received the title Xielu Duwei. Although this was only a temporary promotion to a routine position, Li Yannian was able to exercise his musical talent to the full. Xielu meant the creation and performance of music Li Yannian was adept at composing music and revising new compositions. His works were referred t as "new sounds", '-new sound tunes" or "new changed sounds".

From the time of Emperor Wu, the Music Conservatory grew by leaps and bounds. In its early days, it provided 7o boy and girl entertainers for imperial banquets, accompanied by an orchestra. But it was not long be f0re it had a contingent of over 800. In 7 BC, the Music Conservatory was abolished, most of the personnel dismissed being singers and musicians from the regions, with the others allocated to ya yue duties. The influence of the Music Conservatory was great for 200 years, especially in the 1 00 years which followed the reign of Emperor Wu, and although the name of the Music Conservatory was not preserved, later generations had corresponding institutions, and called the types of songs which resembled those that the Music C0nservatory had collected "Music Conservatory" songs.

The most famous form of songs collected by the Music Conservatory was called Xianghe ge. These were songs originally unaccompanied by music, and usually Sung by one person, with others joining in as the song progressed. On this basis, string and reed instrument accompaniment was added. As these instruments often alternated with one another, the songs came to be known as We ge, signifying this fact. At that time, the orchestra consisted of zithers (pin, se and zheng, lutes (pipa, whistles(d4, pan pipes (sheng) and flute (chi). To complete the ensemble, the singer would beat time on a drum. Some Xisnghege woujd keep the same tune through0ut; others were divided into two or more sections, called jie. As he structure of the Xianghc ge was comparatively grand, they were called Daqu, or "bjg tunes-'. Sometimes, there was an introductory part, called yan, and a concluding part, called qu or luan. This type of structure enabled the music t0 express fairly complex contents and emotions. The Xisnghe ge had several different kinds of clearly defined

keys, and it was indicated which key the music should be in. Although we know from pre-Qin instruments and written records that different tones were recognized in Chinese music in ancient times, we do not know what they were called until the Xianghe appeared. The names of the five basic tones of the Xtanghc ge were ptw qing, qing, se, chu and ce. The first three were exclusively used in the Qingshang music of the Jin Dynasty (265-420), being known as the "Three Qingshang Tones".

The level note (pingdiao) has huanghong as the first tone (gong) on the ancient Chinese ive-tone scale, so this is the basic tone. The se and qty notes represented the upper four and lower four measures of the Le vel note, respectively They are the easiest measures to interchange for musical instruments. For whistles, however, these three have different names: The level note is called the Zhengsheng note: the se note is called the lower Zhi (N0.5) note; and the qing note is called the qingjiaoZhi no e. With the Zhengsheng note as the standard, the above chart gives the names of the other notes.

Qingshang music was the development of the Xisnghe ge in new historical circumstances. Following the transfer of the government of the Eastern jin Dynasty to the south at the beginning of the fourth century, the status of southern music was enhanced. Already during the Warring States Period, the songs and music of the State of WU, south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, were fam0us as 'Wu ballads'; now they became known as Wusheng Meanwhile, the songs of the area once known as the State of Chu, which had been located on the middle reaches of the Yangtze, became known as "Western melody". These types of music developed on their native soil, and cannot be seen as offshoots of the old court music. Wusheng and Western melody mingled with the Xianghe ge which was based mainly on northern folk songs and brought south by Eastern jin, and a new term was coined to describe the music which resulted: Qingshang music, or Qing music. Wusheng and Western melody were short songs, generally only four lines long. Sometimes a song would have an introduction, called he or an epilogue, called song Different from the yan and the qu (huan) of the Xianghe gC they were not sung (They were probably instrumental phrases); all the parts of Wusheng and Western melody were sung, and, moreover, were mostly sung in chorus. After the Qin and Han period, yu and se grad ally replaced bells and chimes as the leading instruments in orchestras. In addition, the double-note bell did not Survive. Fairly rapid pieces of music could be played on the yu and the se Western Han writings describe a musician's hands on the strings of a se as flitting up and down and round about like gnats. This gjves us a good idea of how fast the tunes played on the se could be. Bells and chimes, which were eminentl suitable for highlighting a solemn and stately atmosphere, of course could not match the se or yu for playing speedy melodies. B0th the manufacture and erformance of the sc reached new heights during the Han Dynasty For instance, the hui(flourishing) method of playing the instrument, by which the fingers moved swiftly backwards and fonwards on the strings, became a universal technique, until it became sy onymous with "playing the plucked instruments" This technique died ut, and is only used when playing the Zhcng zither in modern times (The related Zheng technique is called yaozhi, or shaking the fingers).

Likewise, the double-handed and alternate-handed technique of playing the sc is nowadays only used when playing the Zheng The qin zither also developed rapidly after the Han Dynasty. Han-era qin which have been unearthed have only half of their bodies hollowed out as sound boxes, while the other half is solid wood. These qin are much cruder than the contemporary se but they were popular because of the fact that they were small and convenient to carry and use, and were easy to modify It is likely that the qin achieved its modern shape around the time of the Wei and Jin dynasties (22o-420). The Zheng zither was also an instrumen which underwent changes at the end 0f the Eastern Han Dynasty. Its origin can be traced back to the State of Qin, during the Warring States Period. At that time, it was referred t0 as a rough and cacophonous instrument, and seemed to have remained equally unexalted during the Western Han period. But in the closing years of the Eastern Han, instead of being half hollow and half solid wood, the whole body of the instrument was hollowed Out, as took place with the qin (Chinese stringed instruments seem to have been of two kinds originally: The se always had their whole bodies hollowed out to serve as the sound box; the others, such as the qin, Zhu and Zheng were half hollow, half solid wood. But by the Wei and jin dynasties at the latest, all these stringed instruments had completely hollow bodies). The new type of Zheng immediately became an important instrument, because it was smaller than the se, had a higher range, produced clearer notes and was easier to play. It gradually replaced the se (After the Eastern jin period, the se became obsolete, evolving into something like the Zheng called a "large Zheng'. It was no longer valued as a member of the orchestra, and ended up as a Curio). In the meantime, reed flutes, whistles and Zheng took over from yu and se as the leading orchestral instruments. It is worth noting that in this period too, the pipa and konghou (a plucked instrument) were introduced from outside China. Although some ancient records ctaim that they were invented by the Han nationality, this is doubttul. There were two kinds of konghou: one was played lying flat and the other was played upright. They were originally different kinds of instruments. The former were small, like the se, had seven strings and were played with a plectrum; the latter resembled the upright qin, but were much smaller, and were played with both hands. The Pipa had a straight neck, with no frets, attached to a round resonating chamber, and four strings. The Book of jin says, "Ruan Xian is skilled in music. He is good at playing the pipa". There is a portrait of Ruan Xian playing an instrument on the painted brick wall of a Southern Dynasty tomb. This instrument was the forerunner of the pipa Following the Southern and Northern dynasties, a type of pipa with a Pear-shaped sounding box and Curved neck became popular, and the straight-necked pipa disappeared. An example of the latter type of pipa was unearthed from an ancient tomb during the Tang Dynasty. Nobody knew what it was until specialists identified it as the type of pipa that Ruan Xian was good at playing.

After the Qin and Han period, compared with previous times, music and dancing declined in importance as components of rituals and ceremonies, and the dances which accompanied feasts and Suchlike became much more lively Such dances were known as zawu or "intricate dances". Some of the more prominent ones had names which explained the props which went with them, for instance, the Dish Dance, the Scabbard Dance, the Bell Dance, the Whisk Dance and the White Hemp Dance. In the Dish Dance,the dancers stepped on an arrangement of upturned dishes (as many as seven) and drums (one or wo) to accentuate the rhythm. The main instruments in the orchestras accompanying the zawu dances were Jian drums, yu, se Xis0 (Vertical bamboo flutes), ocarinas, and sometimes bells and chimes. Most modern scholars are of the opinion that dancing accompanied the Daqu music of the Han and Wei periods. This conjecture is based solely on a passage in an old document, which reads, "When the Daqu finished, Huang Laodan offered to do a solo dance, and was given permission." This is not sufficient evidence that all Daqu performances featured dancing, only that dancing followed the recital. A definite conclusion awaits further study.

A new type of music, known as "percussion and wind music" emerged following the Han Dynasty. The Huangmen percussion and wind music belonged to this genre. lt was used as "food-offering music" at banquets attended by the emperor and his ministers, and also as dance music. Sometimes, "percussion and wind" referred specifically to orchestras including vertical bamboo flutes and jia (a defunct reed instrument used by the ancient tribes of China's northwest), and which formed part of the guard of honor accompanying visitors to the court' Such orchestras would als0 have people who played the jiao (an extinct type of bugle used by the army, also borrowed from the tribes of the northwest and sometimes known as a hengchui or "sideways blower"). This instrument would be played on horseback. Li Yannian, the senior music master at the court of Emperor WU of Han, wrote 28 tunes for these instruments, based on melodies from the northwest, called the ,'Twenty-eight airs in the new mode".

The Yongjia Rebellion at the beginning of the fourth century brought more turmoil to northern China, the center of politics, economics and Culture, even than it had Suffered at the end of the Han Dynasty. The following 300 years of division and strife gave severely destructive blows to Cultural pursuits. Nevertheless, this was offset to a certain extent by the fact that cultural interchanges between the various nationalities took place on an unprecedented scale. In this historical period, as mentioned above, the se disappeared. This instrument, which was a typical product of an agricultural society, was delicate but bulky, and easily damaged. It was replaced by lighter instruments, which could be played on horseback.

The ones which had a fairly great influence on later generations were the crooked-necked pipa and the bili and the percussion instruments clappers, gongs and cymbals. As far as musical influences are concerned, the music of Koryo in the east, of the kingdoms of Qiuci, Shule and An in the west and of lndia in the south first flowed into northern China. When L0guang conquered LiangZhou (Zhangye, in present-day Gansu Province), the music of Qiuci mingled with that of the regions which are now Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, coming to be known as "Qin and Han music-'. The name changed to ',Xiliang music" at the time of the Northern Wei Dynasty, and later was called simply "national music", as by that time it was regarded as the indigenous music of the area. This influx of musical influences from outside peoples resulted in the flourishing of nine or ten types of musical tr0upes at the time of the Sui and T3ng dynasties (581 -907), a phenomenon rarely seen in Chinese history.

Worthy of special mention is the production of musical scores. Extant records show that the writing down of musical scores began at an early period. The Book of Rites,which dates from about the second century BC, includes sets of symbols, cal1ed touhu and yanshe guiding the playing of large and small drums at ceremonies; squares and circles represent the beats. It records that the states of Lu and Xue had different methods of drumming, so this system must have been handed down since the Spring and Autumn Period. The drum is the most ancient musical instrument, and, as it is comparatively easy to record drumbeats, it is reasonable to suppose that drum scores were the first to be Produced. The writing down of song tunes also started early. There are records of Such scores in library catalogues dating from the first century BC, one being titled, Seven ComPilations of Zhou Songs trom South ofthe Yellow River' and another, Seven ComPilations of Melodles of Zhou Songs from South of the Yellow River This latter volume doubtless contained the scores of the music. Unfortunately, these books have been lost, so we have no way of knowing what method was used to record the scores. The oldest musical score still eXtant is one for the qin. They use Chinese characters to represent the positions of the fingers of the right and left hands, and from this we can work Out the music. Alth0ugh this score was written in the T3ng Dynasty, it originated in the State of Liang, one of the Southem Dynasties (the sixth century). The tune is called Stone Tablet Ai f' Youlan It was originally a folksong, called A Trip tO West of Gansu, but later was adapted for the singing of Cao Cao-s Stone Tablet Lines, and so was called Stone Tablet Air Later, the poem "Youlan'- was added to it, giving it its present name. This work is in four sections, known as pai, which correspond to the original four stanzas of Stone Tablet Air The tune expresses the path0s feft by ancient scholars.

Following several hundred years of mingling of the musical traditions of the different nationalities, the tranquillity of the Sui and Tang dynasties ushered in a period in which these influences were absorbed and digested. The Sui and T8ng dynasties both had special court troupes which played the most influential schools of foreign music. There were seven under the Sui, later expanded t0 nine, and nine, and later ten under the Tang. In the fo mer case, to the original seven were added troupes playing music from the Shule and Kang kingdoms; in the latter case the Siging troupe was added to the original nine. Allthese influences had been eXtant in Chinese music for some 1 00 years before they were officially recognized; they did not simply emerge when the troupes were set up. The music of one of the ten, Qingshang or Qing music, was a descendant of the music of the Han and Wei dynasties. yan music, which was played at the beginning of banquets, was of a laudatory nature; yanhou, or libi m sic was played to wind up song-and-dance performances. The other troupes, aPart from those which played Xiliang music and Koryo music, which kept some traditional Han nationality musical instruments, Such as the shcng Xtao and Zheng used bili horizontal flutes, crooked-necked pipa and five-stringed pipa as their major instruments. They also used a wide variety of drums, and some added bronze cymbals. of these typical foreign instruments, only the five- stringed pipa and the crooked-necked pipa failed to Survive; the others, along with the growing popularity of the ten troupes, became the representative instruments of the new historical era. For instance, the pipa became the leading instrument during the Tang Dynasty, which produced some famous performers. At that time, four plectrums were used to play the pipa, while the other stringed instruments of the central parts of China, like the se, qin and Zheng were plucked with the fingers; the Han pipa, the crooked-necked pipa and the five-stringed pipa were played with bows. The qin did not have bridges, while the se and the Zheng had a bridge for each string, and the Han Pipa, recumbent zither, crooked-necked piP8 and five-stringed piP8 had one bridge for all the strings. This clearly reflects the differences in two cultural traditions at that time.

A general term for the music of the ten troupes was "Yan music", but that term was in actual not confined to the music of the ten troupes. There were some types of music which fell into the category of Yan music, but were not included in that played by the ten troupes, for instance "Nanzha0 music' The tunes of Yan music owed much to the theory and

practice of foreign music. But, unlike the "Three Qingshang TUnes" or "Three Tunes on the Whistle", which have come down to us from Han and Wei times, all we know of the tunes of Yan music are the names of 28 which appear in ancient records. For 1,000 years, scholars have been trying to discover the exact nature of these tunes, but to no avail.

The most important pieces of music played by the Tcn Troupes were Qing, Xiliang and Qiuci music. The first was the old music of the Huaxi8 kingdom. Xiliang music contained elements of Qiuci music, and s0 the latter could be said to be the most influential of the types of foreign music introduced to China. After the Sui Dynasty, it became Customary to wind up a tune with a piece called a jic or jiequ. This was normally played very rapidly, forming the crescendo of the piece. Previously, concluding secti0ns 0f melodies had generally been slow and lingering, such as the qu section of the Han and Wei Daqu.

This was due to the influence of the jicequ characteristic of the music of the kingdoms of Qiuci, Shule and An, which were neighboring states. The fairly long and complex winding-up section (po) of the Daqu of Yan music was similar in nature t0 the jicqu. This artistic technique of finishing a musical piece with a rapid flourish was to have far-reaching effects on later instrumental music.

The form of Daqu which developed during the Tang Dynasty, combining instrumental music, singing and dancing, was a comparatively sophisticated artistic achievement which was clearly inseparably linked to musical exchanges with other nationalities, and was certainly not a result of the natural development of Han and Wei Daqu. The structure of Tang Daqu was eXtensive, consisting of 20, 30 or even 50 sections. The classic form of this Daqu was divided into three major parts, and each part consisted of a certain number of sections. The first part was the sanxu which utilized a rhythm of free accented beats. XU means sequence. The arrangement of this section was in random accented beats, and s0 t was known as sanxu, or random sequence. Sanxu was purely instrumental, either solo, alternating or ensemble. The next part, Zhongxu (middle sequence), had a fixed rhythm which could be dictated by clappers, and so it was also called p3ho, or "clapper sequence". It was lso known as the first song, as singing (sometimes accompanied by dancing)was the centerpiece of this part. Most of the middle sequence consisted of slow accented beats. The final part was the po, or "breakup". The centerpiece of this was dancing (sometimes accompanied by singing), and it was also called wubian, or "dance piece". The rhythm got steadily faster in this part, until it reached a crescendo. Because of its extensive structure, Daqu music took a long time to perform. For instance, the famous Daqu melody raiment otR8iflbowe and Feathers must have taken over one h0ur to perform, as a famous poet of the time comments, "Our boat traveled 15 li from the city, accompanied all that way by the strains of 'Raiment"'. The names of some 40 or 50 Tang Daqu works are known; besides Raiment 0f Rainbows and Feathers, other famous ones include[ianghou, yizhou and The King of Qin Breaks Through the Battle Line.

According to the records, there were three different scales of seven notes in the music popular in Sui and Tang times: One was the "orthodox" ascending four-octave seven-note scale; another was a natural seven- note scale; and the third was a descending seven-octave seven-note scale. Many scholars claim that these three scales exist in Chinese music even today.

In this period, almost all instrumental music was rooted in Daqu. On a scroll discovered at Dunhuang early in this century there was a musical score dating from the year 933. The score was written using an early form of the gonpchi notation, which is thought by some people to be connected with reed instruments like the sheng with characters合 一(乙)' 四、五、六、representing the sequence of notes on the sheng How this T3ng Dynasty score should be interpreted, however, is still a matter of dispute among both Chinese and foreign scholars. No Chinese system of notation has a satisfactory way of representing rhythm. Up until Qing music emerged, drums measured the rhythm, and from Sui and Tang times on, paiban, or clappers (For this reason, later generations called rhythm either pai or ban). Clappers existed before this period. A Tang Dynasty work contains the story of how Emperor Xuanzong once commanded the musician Huang Fancha0 t0 write a score for the clappers. Huang simply drew an ear on a piece of paper, and submitted it to the emperor, explaining that so long as the ear was properly perceptive, it was impossible to strike the clappers wrongly So the rhythm of the Dunhuang score is extremely difficult to figure Out, and we can only get a rough understanding of this very imprecise system of notation.

A new type of folksong which flourished in Sui and Tang times is called "quzi" It included songs from other nationalities as well as the Han. Latcr musicians created works based on this genre. over 500 such songs have been excavated from Dunhuang alone, and the titles of 70 or 80 others have been found there. The lines of most of the quz are not fixed at the usual five or seven words, but are of uneven length. some of the songs, for instance, The Bamboo Sprgi do have fixed lines of seven characters each, but in the middle and at the end of each line are inserted extra words, which were sung in chorus, while the main body of the song was sung solo. Such songs were much more lively than the ordinary songs of four lines of seven words each. The use of an arrangement of 5 geng and 12 shito express a variety of subject matter, which is typical of folksongs, appeared in the quzi This format, voluminous in subject matter and easy to remember and transmit, spread far and wide in later ages - and was transmitted even down to modern times. Although quzi had a creative component to them, most consisted of fixed melodies with new words written to them. This peculiarity had a long history, and was common enough after the establishment of the Han Music Conservatory However, it was a random form, and never attained the status of a specialization After the Sui and Tang era, the changes that took place in the political, economic and social spheres also helped to shift music fr m being the exclusive preserve of the court and the mansions of the nobility to the humble cottages of the ordinary people. The folksong form, in which new words were added to traditional tunes, was ideal for meeting the demands of the common people for music which they could enjoy. s it had sprung from the people, the folksong genre was easy to learn and remember, and the masses took it to their hearts In addition, the technique of writing new words enabled the folksong to absorb a large range of fresh Subject matter, and improved its flexibility and liveliness. Before long, this genre became the fashion, as the large number of folksong-type compositions found at Dunhuang well attests. While new folksongs continued to be produced, old ones, through a process of social sifting, becameestablished in the culture; these included tunes which had been handed down from previous dynasties, Such as some parts of Daqu music, which were called qu tunes (Scholars also call them Citunes or ci patterns). The birth of qu tunes heralded the birth of a new type of musical system- The significance of the qu tunes lies not merely in their musical material, but more importantly in the fact that they represent d a new method of musical development, a new musical structure and an integrated system. This system, which has persisted right up until the present time, affected the entire course of the historical development of the music of the common people.

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