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The Music of Bells And Drums (16th Century - 221 BC)

This period of history spans the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties the Spring and Autumn and Warring States peri0ds and up until the time the Qin Dynasty united China - about 1,300ears. lt can be roughly divided into two phases: the first comprising the Shang Dynasty, and the other from the beginning of Western Zhou onward. There is a fairly clear distinction between the two, although they had something in common in that bells and drums were the dominant musical instruments. The Shang Dynasty was active over a wider territory than Xia, but they were both based on the same central area, the present Henan region. Shang directly inherited the musical tradition of Xia, and developed it to a remarkably high degree.

An outstanding feature of Shang society was its awe of Supernatural beings. Despite what the on Politics of AnalectS of Confucius says: "The Yin (Shang) Dynasty inherited the system of rites from the Xia Dynasty." sacrificial ceremonies and witchcraft were much more prevalent in the Shang than in the Xia Dynasty, so much so that historians have dubbed Shang a "Culture of sorcery". Ceremonial rites were inevitably accompanied by singing and dancing, which had been a tradition since primitive times. lndeed, there was an ancient saying that "rites cannot be performed without music". As late as the middle of the Western Han Dynasty (second century BC), even in the poorest regions, when sacrifices were offered to the local deities, songs would be Sung in chorus, accompanied by tapping on ceramic jars and plates. So it goes without saying that sacrifices and other superstitious activities were occasions for grand performances of music and dancing. Another characteristic of Shang society was its veneration for music and dancing. The people of Shang used to communicate with the gods by mean of music, and sing fervently to make the gods hear them. Music and dancing were important means of offering tribute, serving and entertaining the gods, as well as a channel linking the gods and men.

Ancient history books mention Sang Lin and Huo. Sang Lin was originally a large-scale national cerem0nial sacrifice, similar in nature to the sacrifice to the god of the earth. lt remained a major ceremony right down to the time of Mozi in the Spring and Autumn period (fifth century BC). The music and dancing that accompanied the ceremony were also called Sang LiO. Zhuangzi, in his book, vividly describes the Sang Linmusic and dancing when the sacrifcial ox was being butChered. lndirectly, from his descriPtion, we have no difficulty imagining how vigorous, nimble and stirring the Sang Lin music and dancing were.

The Huo was a sacrifice to the ancestral mother of the Zhou Dynasty, jiang Yuan, so its form must have been connected with the nature of this sacrifice. WC know that the Shang Dynasty also had an ancestral mother, jian Di. Legend has it that she was bathing in a stream one day, when she saw a black bird lay an egg. jian Di swallowed the egg, and gave birth to Qi, the ancestor of Shang. ln the ode to Shang of Book of Songs, it says "Heaven produced a black bird / lt came down to Earth and produced Shang." lt seems that the black bird was the Shang totem. The oracle bone inscription form of the character Huo shows a short-tailed bird with drops of water on each side of it, so that it looks just like a black bird skimming over water. We can therefore Surmise that Huo is connected with the story ofjian Di and the black bird, and because of this, it was used by the Zhou rulers also to worship their ancestral mother.

Among the ancient records, the oracle bones carry some information on ancient ritual music and dancing, but it yields very little material for study. For instance, the character 云(yU) stood for a form of singing and dancing in a ceremony to pray for rain. We can deducefrom the rules for the formation of ancient characters that it was a large-scale performance, because characters which had the phonetic yu(于) all had the ideaof bigness The level of development of Shang music can be estimated from the musical instruments dating from that period. Although the music of the Xia period was clearly more advanced than that of the primitive era which preceded it, Xia musical instruments (judging by the ones which have been excavated so far, and hoping that we are not misjudging on the basis of unrepresentative examples) are not much more advanced than the primitive ones they were based on. Shang musical instruments, on the other hand, are much more sophisticated and impressive.

The major Shang instruments, which also had a widespread influence on the musical instruments of later generations, were bells and st0ne chimes. Made of bronze (an alloy of copper and tin mixed in certain proportions), the bells were,, oval-shaped, not round or cone-shaped, in cross-section, with both tips pointed. The main b0dy was Curved like a Chinese roof tile, and so they are called tile-shaped, although this might be a misleading term for Westerners. Another special feature of these bells is that they produce two different sounds when struck in two different places. This tile-shaped structure h3s never been discovered so far in excavations of pre-Shang sites, so it could have been a major Shang inventi0n. Shang bells were seldom used singly; they were mostly used in gro ps of three. Also, they were threaded on upright poles, and not hung from a frame, as in later times. if a Shang bell is struck near the mouth, either in the middle (1 /2) or to right or left (1/4), two different notes are produced. ln the early part of the period, the difference between the two notes was two octaves; later, it was three octaves. The regularity of this phenomenon leads us to believe that it was by no means accidental, but that the makers and players of Shang bronze musical instruments consciously cast them in such a way as to produce the extra n0te. Phonological measurements show that some of the groups of three bells had all five notes of the pentatonic scale.

Chimes were made of stone. Each one had a hole drilled on the top so that it could be hung up and struck. Stone chimes have been excavated from Neolithic sites, but they mostly occur singly, and are crudely made. Their sound is clear and has a high degree of penetration (it is not easily drowned Out by other sounds, and it travels a long distance). These chimes are not easy to damage. lt was probably for these qualities that they were esteemed in those days. The character for "sound', found on the oracle bones of the Shang period shows a Suspended chime with an ear next to it (or sometimes a hand holding a striker). This meant "a chime produces sound". As time passed, Shang chimes became more exquisite. For example, in 195O a large tomb was excavated in the Wuguan Village in Henan Province, in which was found a magnificent stone chime engraved with the design of a crouching tiger 84cm wide by 42cm high, and 2.5cm thick, it had been meticulously carved fr0m a piece of white and green marble. The gracefully postured tiger had been well composed using fine double lines, and completely blends in with the shape of the chime. Even from the modern esthetic viewpoint, this chime is a first-class work of art. Phonological measurements find that its pitch is a little higher th8n #C1. lt gives off a simple and sonorous note, like copper, with a lingering cadence. Such single chimes, not meant to be hung in groups, are called special chime. As part of an orchestra, such a chime could only reinforce the rhythm and emit a strong steady note. This constituted a definite pitch defect. But as the serials chimes in the Shang period were not developed to the maturity, we have to wait until the succeeding Zhou Dynasty.

Shang Dynasty drums also had their unique features. There are only two Shang drums Surviving today Both are made of bronze, in imitation of wooden drums. One of them has been handed down since ancient times, and the pattern of eelskin is very clearly marked on the surface. The other was unearthed in 1977 at Chongyang in Hubei Province. (Fig 1 -2) The surface has no pattern, and so it seems to be in imitation of oxhide. These drums are both very close imitations of wooden drums, but because they were cast in bronze they are much smaller than the original wooden drums would have been. Nevertheless, they give us a good idea of how exquisite the craftsman ship of the wooden drums must have been, and how beautiful their decoration. Moreover, in profile they are very reminiscent of the oracle bones character for drum.

Specialists have identified some 0ther oracle bone characters which denote musical instruments. One of them is a representation of an ancient reed pipe instrument called yu, and another is an instrument consisting of a bundle of reed pipes, called yUe However, because these instruments were made of bamb0o, and bamboo decays easily, no actual examples have yet been found.

The high level of development that music reached in the Shang Dynasty laid a good foundation for its further progress in the Zhou Dynasty. The Zhou tribe was not as culturally advanced as the Shang people, and so it took both its culture and technology from the Shang. When the Zhou people overthrew the Shang, they did not move their center of government t0 the central Shang domain; instead, they created there the State of Wei. The music of Zhou was that of their native place,QiszhOu (the Guanzhong region of present-day Shaanxi Province). The Zhou people often called themselves Xia people, probably in an effort at reconciliation between the different tribes. Later, because of the similarity in pronunciation at that time between the to characters 夏(xia)and雅 ya, the name Xia came to be written ya (This at least had the advantage of distinguishing the two Xias, which were separated by a space of several hundred years). Thus, Y3 yan was the speech of the Zhou area, and the ,'Da Ya" and "Xiao ya' poems in the Book of Songs refer to poems of the Zhou area. Ya Yue was Zhou music (including dance).

The Zhou Dynasty was the first dynasty to lay down rules of "rites" (sacrificial ceremonies, court protocol, etc.) and "music', (music and dancing which accompanied ceremony). Tradition has it that these rules were promulgated by the first great ruler of the dynasty, the Duke of Zhou. The system of rites and music endured for the following 2,O00 years and more, until it was abolished with the end 0f the Qing Dynasty, China's last feudal dynasty. Each era made its own modifications to the system, but it lasted essentially intact as to its rationale just as it had been formed in Zhou times. lf we say that the Shang Dynasty worshipped deities, then we can say that the Zhou Dynasty worshipped ritual. As far as th supernatural was concerned, the people 0f Zhou held I in awe, but at a distance. There were two basic features of the system of rites and music in Zhou times: one is that it was strictly graded, and the other is that the music and dancing designated to accompany the rites was Ya yue.

Because activities involving the system of rites and music was restricted to the upper echelons of society, in order to understand the system it is first necessary to understand the structure of that upper class. Historical studies show that the phenomenon of dividing the domain up int0 feudal fiefdoms first appeared during the Shang Dynasty, as this was the most convenient way of ruling Such a large stretch of territory. Unlike the Shang, which did not bestow the fiefdoms exclusively on members 0f the ruling clan (Who all had the same surname), the Zhou Dynasty, which followed the Shang practice of ruling through fiefdoms, made sure that most of the feudal lords were of the ruling clan. For instance, at the beginning of the Zhou period, the ruler of the State of Wei, which was located in what had been the heartland of Shang, was Kang Shu, the younger brother of the Duke of Zhou, and toward the end of the dynasty, You, the half-brother of Emperor Xuan, was made ruler of the State of Zheng. S0 a strict hierarchy grew up among the feudal lords 0f the ZhOu Dynasty, based on the patriarchal clan system and involving clans to which Principal wives and concubines belonged. The feudal lords themselves stood in a positi0on of being either major or minor descendants of the Zhou emperor, as did the grandees who ruled the various districts of a feudal state with regard to the ruler of the state, and the nobles under them vis a vis the grandees.

The system of rites and music reinforced and stabilized this strict patriarchal clan hierarchy. Every person of each grade in the hierarchy enjoyed the type 0f rites and music assigned to his particular grade. The items 0f music and dance, the types and number of musical instruments, and the number of musicians for each grade were strictly limited, and to exceed the limits was considered a grave offense. The adoption of Ya yue, or the music of the Qizhou district, for the activities of each grade or among grades of people no doubt within a certain period of time came to strengthen clan consciousness and brought about the formation of the idea of "All under Heaven is one family".

That the system 0f rites and music was normally upheld in Western Zhou times (11th century ~ 771 BC) can be seen from the patterns of serials bells dating from this period which have been excavated. The method of making bells was inherited from the Shang Dynasty, but, unlike the Shang practice of standing the serials bells upright, the Zhou suspended their bells upside down(According t0 regular pre- Shang practice, the mouths of the bells face upward when they were played). As the bodies of the bells were enlarged, this doubtIless made them more stable and it also allowed them to be elongated (ln fact, the bodies of Western Zhou bells were l0nger than those of Shangl. ln the early years 0f Western Zh0u, the bells were grouped in threes, as in Shang times, but the piteh range was different from that of Shang which had varied forms. lt took the uniformity of la-do-mi- sol Even when the number of bells in a cluster expanded to eight, the pitch range remained the same. According to the ancient book The Rites of Zhou the pitch range of the classical yawe was identical to that described above. So it is obvious that over this long period of time bells were used solely to perform the Ya yue of zhou.

Instrumental music, dancing and singing often followed separate lines of development within the ya We tradition, and were never completely integrated: Dancing was accompanied by whistle-like flutes and singing; singing was accompanied by a plucked instrument called se or a reed pipe called shcng. Orchestral music, although it was known as "performance of metals", was played 0n arrangements of bells, drums and stone chimes. This orchestral music was very elaborate, and was for the entertainment of the emperor and the feudal lords only Lesser nobility had to be content with drums. The sonorous volume of bells and chimes combined to form majestic sound, and when drums were added, they had an incomparable effect of honoring the exalted positions and authority of the emperor and the feudal lords. The fact that these musical instruments underwent rapid development must have been the deliberate choice of aristocratic society.

A comprehensive analysis of the materials in ancient documents shows that some of the songs used in the Ya yue of Western ZhOu come from the Daya and Xisoya of the "Odes t0 Zhou" in the Book 0f Songs, and originate in Qizhou.

Western Zhou lasted 300 years, but long before this time was up, the original meaning of Qizhou music from which Y8We sprang was gradually forgotten. As Qizhou was the center of government of the whole country, ya came to mean "orthodox" "ya speech" came to mean standard speech, and ya yue came t0 mean "proper music'- or music used for ceremonies. QizhOu music lost its ability to function as a means for stimulating and unifying clan consciousness, as the rules governing it according to the system of rites and music became ossified. Even the aristocracy became estranged from it, regarding it simply as -'old music', its historical fate was to wither away as insipid "old music."

The Spring and Autumn Period (eighth-fifth centuries BC) saw the emergence of the "overthrow of the rites and deterioration of music',. lt was in this era that the patriarchal clan system crumbled; different clans formed alliances, and there was internecine strife within clans themselves. The notion of loyalty to clan or blood relatives was gradually replaced by the idea of loyalty to a territorially-based feudal state. It followed that the music which had originally been the property only of the lower classes of society became the characteristic music of each geographical area. The -'Gu0feng" section of the Book of Songs is a collection of songs and poems fr0m the individual feudal states, and the ovetwhelming majority of them date from the Spring and Autumn Period, which was when the music of the vari0us regions began to be revived. The State of Zheng was the forerunner in this regard, and this phenomenon so alarmed Confucius, who had taken it upon himself t0 preserve the system of rites and music, to protest, "l hate the way that the music of heng is causing havoc with Ya yue!" He also said, '-The music of Zheng is polluting yayue", and advocated expelling its influence from the areas where Ya yue" held sway. But not even Confucius c0uld change the course of history. After his death, the influence of regional music, called "new music", spread ever wider The most prominent varieties were those from heng, Wei, Song and Qi. The "new music" was so called in the sense of revived music, for some of it was older than the y8Wc of Western Zhou, which had come t0 be called ',old music'-. For instance, Zheng was located within the territory of the deceased Shang Dynasty, Wei was on the site of the seat of the Shang capital, and Song was a state set up by escendants of the Shang ruling house. Their musical traditions owed much to the music of Shang, and were older and more highly developed than that of Western Zhou. Even more important is the fact that none ofthe varieties of,"new music', were stifled, like the "old music", by the system of rites and music, but developed in accordance with their own musical rules. So the "new music'- wasfresh and lively, assumed a variety of styles, and was graceful and moving. Even the nobility, which in theory revered the "old music", c ould n0t help acknowledging aliking for the modern works.

Bells which have been found at Spring and Autumn sites no longer have the gong jiao, Zhi and yu (do-mi- sol-la) pitch range of the Ya yue; they very vividly preserved for later generations the different styles of pitch formations of regional music. For instance, the Xinzheng (capital of the State of Z eng) bells could have the pitch range of seven notes which later became consecrated historically as '-orthodox", and they could also h8ve the natural seven-note scale or the five-note scale with three kinds of adjustment. The Houma bell from the State 0f Jin has a six-note scale which lacks mi, which is characteristic of scale of the folk music of this region even today.

As the "new music" flourished, it was not confined to its local areas; with growing political and economic exchanges, and warfare between states, there was an unprecedented mingling f influences. a set of 1 3 bells from the State of Chu and dating from the middle-to-late part of the Spring and Autumn Period has a complete range of 1 2 notes. The fact that these bells could be used to play all the local varieties of music is testament t0 the intensity of musical exchanges that must have taken place at that time. The Zeng Houyi set of bells from the State of Zeng in the early part of the Warring States Period are further evidence of Such exchanges, not only from their pitch ranges, but especially from the inscriptions on them.

The Warring States Period (475-221 BC) is so called because it was a period of constant strife beween the feudal states. The Zhou royal house withered and died, and the multitude of small states was gobbled up by a handful of powerful ones. The most notable achievements in "new music" at this time were made in the State of Zhao, and even more so in the State of Chu. But because the earliest historical records of this period were written by scholars of the later Han Dynasty, "new music" was described in the official accounts as degenerate music in opposition to the "old music". However, Liu Bang, the first emperor of Han, liked Chu music, and so the historians did not dare to enter it in the category of degenerate music. The State of Chu was located in the remote south of China. It absorbed the culture of Zhou, but was much less restrained by the system of rites and music than the states of the Central Plain; during the Spring and Autumn Period its musicians had performed the local music, which was very different from that of the Central Plain, as a comparison of the Songs of the South with the Book of Songs easily shows. Chu was also the place where northern and southern styles of music intermingled, with the songs and dances of Zheng, Wu, Cai and Yue all being known there.

Nevertheless, the major concerns of the Warring States Period were war and statecraft. As a result, economic and ultural creation suffered severe blows. So while Yayuee basically ceased to exist, "new music-' too stagnated.

From Western Zhou on, the organization of groups of musicians steadily improved. Until by the beginning of the Warring States period, there were many more types of musical instruments, with remarkable progress made in musical volume and tone color. Moreover, these instruments were of more elaborate craftsmanship, and the demands on acoustics and intonation had been greatly raised. At the beginning 0f the Zhou Dynasty, musical instruments had been classified into the "eight sounds", depending on the quality 0f the sounds produced(From the modern viewpoint, these classifications are not very scientific, since most of them are closely connected with the different makers of the instruments. But at that time, they were also connected with the orchestras, so they are still useful. Even today, we still call the folk instruments popular in the southern jiangsu, Shanghai and Zhejiang area 'jiangnan string and woodwind'-, which is a remnant of the ancient system of classification). The eight categories were metal (in ancient times, copper was called "metal". These instruments were made of bronze; bells are one example), stone (stone chimes), earthenware (made of fired clay, for instance, ocarinas), leather (drums were beaten on the hide part, although the frames were made of wood), string (stringed instruments dating from antiquity included lutes, zithers and Zheng) wood (chu and yu, gourds (reed pipes Such as the sheng and yu,) and bamboo (Whistles and flutes). These eight types of instruments were Sufficient to form big orchestras with bells and chimes as the leading instruments. The booming of bells and the clear clinking of chimes helped produce a grandiose effect, utilized by the aristocracy to express their exalted social standing.

The set of bells, set of chimes and other instruments excavated from the Warring States Period tomb of Zeng Houyi in Sui County (now Suizhou City in Hubei Province) are the largest-scale ancient percussion instruments found so far There were f0ur chambers in the tomb. The musical instruments were discovered in the central chamber, which was the biggest, and the sec0nd-biggest, the eastern chamber The main chamber was made in imitation of a palace hall, and the eastern chamber was where the coffin lay. Together with the main coffin were the c0ffins of eight palace ladies who had been sacrificed to accomPany the deceased. Among the musical instruments found was a bell used for tuning other instruments, a ten-stringed plucked instrument, five sc (8 zither-like instrument) with 25 strings each, two yu (or sheng and one hanging drum. This light orchestra, with the yu and se as the central instruments, would have produced dignified and refined melodies when it performed in the coffin chamber The "palace hall" was laid out as if for a banquet. 0n the south side were arranged ritual vessels and food dishes. In front of them was a three-tiered set of bells. At the eastern end of the bell stand was a large jian drum (90cm in diameter, the drum was Suspended from a framework in Such a way that the drum head faced the striker). The main body 0f the three-tiered set of bells filled the entire western wail of the "palace hall", and a short section stuck Out at a right angle along the south wall . Against the north wall was a two-tiered set of 32 chimes. the jian drum, the set of bells and the set of chimes formed the three sides 0f a rectangle. The 0ther instruments found in this chamber were two yu (or sheng), three Xiao (a reed instrument consisting of a bundle of 1 3 flutes, each of different thickness), two chi (a flute with a closed tube, blown transversely, with the air exit on top, and the five finger holes open "forward"' toward the player The method of playing the chi' by opening and closing holes, bespeaks a close relationship with the ocarina), seven 35-stringed se and a small drum. When these instruments were played together they would have been arranged on the eastern side of the "palace" hall in a rectangular formation, known as g0mpan and reserved for the emperor according to the system of rites and music of Western Zhou. From their arrangement we can figure out the distinction between the high and low notes, and which were the instruments carrying the main melody. The musical range of the Zeng Houyi bells was more than five octaves, and of these three distinct groups have 1 2 complete notes each. All the musical instruments excavated from the Zeng Houyi tomb show Superb craftsmanship and function Surprisingly well. lndeed, some could not be Surpassed even today.

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