You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Music & Dance >

Emergence of New Musical Genres (960 - 1911 )

This historical period spans the Song (including the Liao and jin), Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, and the characteristic of this period is that not only did the song and dance music which had occupied the leading positi0n in the previous era continue to develop, but many new musical genres appeared, which spurred all-round progress in music and musical instruments, laying the foundation for the music of modem China.

As recounted above, before the Sui and Tang era, Chinese music had been restricted within the confines of the salons of the aristocracy. The comm0n People, although they were creators of music and the providers of new musical genres, were not allowed to enjoy it. This situation came to an end in the Sui and Tang dynasties, when fairs held at Buddhist temples and shrines became venues for the musical activities of the ordinary folk. Taverns also sometimes held poetry and song recitals. From the Song Dynasty on, another fundamental development took place, when, with theexpansion of industry and commerce, China's cities started to flourish. The common people, represented by the urban dwellers, set up their own places of entertainment, known as washi or goulan. In these places, the ordinary citizens engaged in both trade and artistic pursuits, both of which were of a commercial nature. WE can say that, prior to the Song Dynasty, music was almost exclusively represented by that perf rmed in the imperial court; and after that period, it was represented by that performed in theweshi and gouian, and later in the theaters And tea houses. In Summary, we can say that the history of Chinese music is the history of court music before the Song Dynasty, and the history of the music 0f the common people after it.

Washi, also called washe or wazi were open spaces within cities (usually strewn with broken tiles, or 'wa", or other types of rubble) where fairs were held. Temporary booths and stalls were set upthere, surrounded with straw ropes, as venues for crude entertainment. A low rail separated the performers from the audience. In the Song Dynasty, entertainers who were called ',crossroads people" had already made their appearance, doing gymnastics, reciting stories interspersed with singing and putting on Zaju plays (poetic drama set to music) by the roadsides. Sometimes they also performed in the bo0ths and stalls. They did not sell tickets for their shows, but passed the hat around at the conclusion of the performance, or when the per f0rmance was halted at a crucial moment. of the many types of entertainment offered in these booths, the ones connected with music included pi30ch3ng changzhu8n and Zhugongdiao as well as Zaju. These were all musical genres which sprang up during the Song Dynasty.

Piaochang and changZhuan were both forms of vocal music. The former featured variations in tempo and tune of existing lyric songs; the latter took popular songs, arranged them in the same scale, and added an introduction and an epilogue. The lines rhymed all the way through. The tunes used for changZhuan were Daqu (The Daqu songs of the Song Dynasty had long and short lines, unlike the Daqu songs of the Tang Dynasty, which were either five or seven lines long; the melodies must have been changed too to make them different from those of the Tang Daqu), Qupo (The Qupo of the T3ng Dynasty was part of Daqu; in the Song Dynasty, Daqu and Qupo were separate forms), piaochang and fanqu (musical forms introduced from foreign peoples). These were what constituted qu tunes. The instruments used to accompany Cham pn were horizontal flutes, drums and clappers.ChangZuan was the creation of a new musical Structure out of a rearrangement of the qu unes.

Guz ci and zhugong diao both grew from combinations of recitation with singing, centered on a story. The music of the former was simpler than that of the latter. The same tunes were repeated over and over again, although the monotony was relieved somewhat by vocal accompaniment. Zhugong diao was much more sophisticated than guzi Ci It was created by Kong Sanzhuan, a native of Zezhou (near Pingquan, in present-day Hebei Province) who used to perform at the fairs in Bianjing (Kaifeng, in present-day Henan Province). What was speciaI about zhugong diso was that it combined qu tunes all in the Gong, or first, scale into one group, but the gongtunes of different groups varied (hence comes the name zhugong or "all the gong'). The qutunes originated in ChangZhuan (including Song Daqu), citunes and current folk songs. Clearly, Zhug0ng diao was a new creation on the basis of chang7huan. It was also accompanied on the same instruments: flutes, drums and clappers. The zhugOng diso version of the drama The Westem Chamber (appearing about a century after Kong Sanzhuan) used 14 gong tunes and 151 basic qu tunes. Even more worthy of notice is the fact that the qu tunes were not fixed and immutable, but the rhythms and the patterns f the lines could be altered t0 fit the needs of the performance; there were 293 changes of form in the 1 51 basic qutunes used in The Westem Chamber For its amalgamation of qu tunes, and its multifaceted changes in the gong tunes and musical forms, ZhugOng diao is a milestone in the history of Chinese music.

ZajU first appeared in the Tang Dynasty The term is similar in meaning to the BaiXi of the Han Dynasty, and both refer to all types of performances apart from singing and dancing. "Za' means a variety, and bai means a lot. Xiandju mean something like vaudeville different from their modern meaning of the theater During the Song Dynasty, Z4U or just Za gradually became a special term for a new kind of performance. It included singing, dancing, music, comedy routines and acrobatics. Each performance was divided int0 three parts: The first, a prelude to the main part, was called yanduan and it dealt with hot topics of everyday life; the second, the main part, was probably a story, expressed by means of singing and reciting or dancing; and the third, called sandan, zaban, zawang or jthe consisted of comic acts sometimes interspersed with acrobatics. The three parts were completely distinct from each other in content.

Some of the music used in the Z4u was taken directly from the Song Daqu, and some originated in popular folk tunes. The Song Daqu tunes, however, were generally selected from the part 0f T8ng Daqu, and were much simpler in structure than the Tang Daqu. After the fall of Northern Song, ZijU moved south with the Southern Song Dynasty (11 27-1 279). The Jin Dynasty (111 5-1 234), inherited this artistic form, calling it yuanbcn. There is no difference between yuanbenand Around the time of the fall of Northern Song and the rise of Southern Song, i.e. in the 12th century, a form of opera different from the SongZajU arose in south China. It was called Southern Opera, or xiwen, and sometimes Wenzhou or Yongjia Ziju, after its birthplace in WenzhOu, Zhejiang Province. All Southern Opera works told stories, and their structure could be changed to fit the changes in the plots. They were not divided up into three parts, like the Song ZajU. Southern Opera music consisted mainly of popular folksongs and ballads. Later probably influenced by Song Zaiu it borrowed tunes from changZhuan ciand Daqu. Although Southern Opera did not pay much attention to gong diao, in the course of time, rules for putting tunes together were formulated. The performers on the Southern opera stage usually had singing parts: solos, uets and choruses and so there was wide scope for the development of th music.

The parallel paths of development of Southern Song's Southern Opera and the yuanben (zaju) of the jin Dynasty, was eventually replaced by those of the former and the Yuan Dynasty's Zaju after the northern regime was overthrown by the Mongols in 1 234. The Yuan Z8ju arose on the basis of the northern Zaju and the Zhugong diao; it differed from both the Song Z4U and the Southern Opera. The music used in the Yuan Zaju had the set (tao) as the unit (The dramas used the Zhe as the unit, with each Zhe having a particular set). The set was similar to a group of Zhugong diao, with many different tunes combined in the same g0ng diao. Each libretto had one rhyme scheme throughout, and alm0st every line had a certain rhythm. ln the Yuan Ziju a complete play generally consisted of four Zhe and one Xhezi (prologe or interlude). The four Zhe presented a total of four sets 0f music, and the xiezi inserted between the first and second sets or between the third and fourth sets. It could also precede a set. The Xiezi did use a long set tune, but usually a Xianlu (belonging to the gong diao) or Shanghuashi (belonging to the qu tunes.Many qu tune names were taken from the first few characters of their songs in order to distinguish them from each other, unlike program music). The Xiezi could also have a moPian added. Some people think that the mo in moPian is an abbreviation of hou meaning after; so moPian would mean "closing verse". But, as far as musical conten is concerned, moPian was an innovation. The qu tunes of the Yuan Zaju had many sources: T ng and Song Citunes, Zhugong diao and foreign musical influences. In contrast to the music used in Southern opera, which was called nanqu the music of the Yuan Zaju was called beiqu. As mentioned above, the Zhugong dtao version of The Westem Chamber used as many as 14 gong tunes. The Discussion of Song writtCn in the Yuan Dynasty, lists 17 gong tunes, while the Phonology of the Central Planss, also by a Yuan author, lists 12. In fact, only nine were used in the Yuan Zaju, and of these only seven were common- Because these nine could be Sung at different pitches by different performers, the range of the nine gong tunes which have been handed down to the present day is as follows:

The gong tunes of Yan music must have had distinctions of pitch and tone series, but by the time Yuan Zaju came on the scene these distinctions were largely l0st. The reas0n for this is probably connected with changes in the major accompanying instruments from the Tang pto8 and the Songbili the flutes used in the Yuan Zaju (which also used flutes, clappers and drums) and the need for the music of the Yuan Zaju to adapt to thevocal music 0f solo singing.

The differences between the Yuan Zaju and Southern Opera lay not only in the fact that the former had the pattern "four Zhe and one xiezi; while the unit of the latter was the Chu of which 0ne play could contain 20 to 30, and the musical genre of the former was northern music", while that of the latter was "Southern music"; in the Yuan Zaju the four Zhe were all Sung either by the male lead (Zhengmo) or the female lead (Zhengdan). The other characters only spoke; they did not sing, except for short pieces unconnected with the musical sequence. In Southern opera, on the other hand, all the characters sang, and the music was not restricted to the gong tunes. Clearly, Southern opera was much more flexible than Yuan Zaju, and so it had more potential for development. But after the southern and northern halves of the country were united, following the destruction of the Southern Song by the Yuan Dynasty, Yuan Zaju followed Yuan governmental and military power into the south, and Southern Opera was temporarily eclipsed. But in the middle part o f the Yuan Dynasty, the freer form 0f Southern opera enabled it to Amalgamate northern and southern tunes into a structure called taoshu (that is, sets of tunes), and the resulting "north-south package" combined the strengths of the sical traditions of both regions. Generally speaking, the northern music was robust and vigorous, while the southern music was soft, and gentle. In fact, the most striking characteristics of the style of Chinese music stem from this north-south dichotomy. This can be seen in the earliest works, Such as the Songs of the South, right up to the Xianghe Songs. However, the eXtant pieces of ancient music which show this divergence between the stiff northern style and pliant southern style only gradually began to take shape after the Southem and Northern Dynasties, and by the time Yuan Z4u started to use the north-south package, the Zaju had already started its process of decline.

The above-mentioned changhuan, Zhugong diao and north-south music Survived to a certain extent in Kunqu Opera.

The most notable development of a new musical genre among the common people after the Song Dynasty was that of "scholars' music". This was chiefly played on the zither (qin). Famous zither tunes dating from the end of the Han Dynasty are still extant today. They include Guangingsan, jiukuang and Youlan. By the time of the Tang Dynasty, fledgling schools of zither music had appeared, differing in regional style or the styles of the various master players; they included the Wu, Shu, Shenjia and Zhujia schools. ln the Song Dynasty, owing to Emperor aizong's special fondness for the zither and the ruan, (Fig 1 -17) these two instruments received special favor at court. Nevertheless, among commoners there was no stopping the zither from becoming the favorite instrument of educated people. In the Song Dynasty, different schools of the zither emerged, Such as the jingshi (from Kaifeng),jiangXi and LiangZhe schools. By the end of the Song, the latter was the most prominent, and its most Outstanding proponent was Guo Mian (11 90-1 260). He compiled a collection of scores for the zither, and composed tunes of great historical significance, such as XisoXiang Shutyun, Qiuhong and F8ncangtong XiaoXiang Shuiyun is still considered a masterpiece today. lt brings to life the vast green scenic expanse of the place where the Xiso and xiang rivers meet. It describes the feelings of a lonely wanderer amid the crashing of mountain torrents. The melody is expansive, and rises and falls in an unfettered manner From the Song Dynasty on, scholars never tired of the zither, and in the Ming Dynasty, a laarge number of scores for the zither (including an introduction to the instrument, playing techniques and esthetic theory) were printed, signifying that the heritage of zither usic had created a special page in the history of Chinese music.

jiang Baishi (11 55-1 221 ) was the most Outstanding creator of ci music, which was another genre favored by the literati of the Song Dynasty jiang was a pure intellectual, who never to0k an official post. He was among the several representative writers of ci of the dynasty. He was well versed in music, and an accomplished composer of his works, still extant are 1 4 Ci tunes and one song for the zither His Ci express his own genuine feelkings, and are very m0ving. One of these is yanghoum3n, which he wrote after witnessing the tragic aftermath of the looting of the city of Yangzhou by)in troops. The scores of all jiang's extant works have now been deciphered, after a great deal of effort by specialists.

Following the Song Dynasty, old instruments such as the bili pipa, Zheng di sheng and Xiso developed to the tage at which they were used to give solo performances. The bili had occupied the same central position in the Song Daqu as the pipa had done in the Tang Daqu, and so it was called in Song times the "leading flute". Several new instruments appeared during the Song Dynasty. of them, those which had the most influence on later music was the Xiqin, the ancestor of the huqin type of zithers. Chen Yang in the early 1 2th century wrote a book called The Book of Music in which the Xtqin was described as a Hu (northern nd western tribes) instrument popular among the Xi tribe. So, the Xtqin was a foreign import. ccording to an illustration in this book,the Xtqin was similar in shape to the modern huqih. It was not played with a bow, but with bambo0 plectrums. At the same time, there was an instrument in the northwest called a "horse's tail huqin". This now-extinct instrument was different from the Xtqin, and was probably the huqio referred to in the History of the Yuan Dynasty The Xtqin was introduced into the court orchestra during the Song Dynasty, there being as many as 11 players of this instrument, more than for the Pipa There is an 11 th century account of a court musician, who, during a jiqin(It was taboo to use tribal names at court, so the name of the xiqin was changed to jiqin). recital, broke a string, and went on to finish the piece using only the other string, no mean feat of skill!

The Ming and Qing dynasties saw an increasingly rich crop of dramatic recital and singing, and music, these being the two main f0oms of theatrical technique. The recital and singing part mainly consisted of southern tanci (storytelling to the accompaniment of stringed instruments) and northern guci (later called dagu), together with PaiZi tunes fashi0nable in both the north and the south. Tanci can be traced back to the "taozhen" of the Song Dynasty (This was a kind of recital and singing performance to the accompaniment of the piP8, popular in the south). It was recorded as tanci in the Ming Dynasty, but was still called taozhen in some places. During the Qing Dynasty, t3nCiwas accompanied on the pop and on a three-stringed instrument simply called "three-string",which had appeared for the first time during the Song Dynasty There also sprang up the Custom of naming tunes after the skilled musicians who had created them. It is highly likely that guci was a continuation of the ci Sung to drum accompaniment of Song times, but the extant guci scores were printed on the 1 6th or 17th century, during the Ming Dynasty. Later, guci came to be known as dagu, but the forms of dagu popular in localities differed, and different instruments were used as accompaniment, so dagu went under various names, such as jinyun dagu in the Beijing and Tianjin area, and Lihua dop, which used the clashing of plowshares. The main

Instrumen s used to accompany dagu were drums, clappers and the three- string.

Tanci and dagu no longer used the qu tunes format of linked sets, but one consisting of accented beats. This meant that the changes in the rhythm formed the main part of the music structure as the means of developing the thrust of the music. This form resulted from the accumulation and articulation of the rules of changes applied in the qu tunes. It also emphasized the structure of the lines formed under the influence of the parallelism in literary compositions which is charactCristic of the Chinese language. The basic form of both tanCiand dopwas pairs of antithetical lines (or four lines) which were freely repeated. The form of the lines and their number foll0wed a basic rule in all qutunes, which was unsuitable for the system of accented beats, which produced a format of lines containing seven or ten characters each. The number 0f lines aried, depending on how the plot of the story developed. It was a free and lively arrangement; at the same time, the changes and evelopments f the clapper rhythm gave the music a more colorful dimension and increased the dramatic quality of the performance.

PaiZi qu, or folk tunes, had their historical origin chiefly in the folksongS of the south. They bear different names, depending on the region they were popular in, such as qingyin, qingqu and wenchang They were accompanied chiefly on the pipa, three-string and clappers. At different times and in different places zheng-type instruments were added. PaiZi qu broke out of the mold of the northern and southern music, which was limited to sets of gong diao music, by frequently inserting int0 the sets qu tunes 0f different gong diso, creating musical contrast and development through tonaI interchanges. Many of the performances using mixed recitation and singing which were pr0duced in the Ming and Qing dynasties are still extant, and in fact are still performed. In the process of being handed down for several hundred years, there have been changes to various extents to the music, but as they were transmitted orally and there were no scores, there is no documentary evidence to show what the concrete changes were.

From the Ming Dynasty on, southern drama reached its zenith, being called chuanqi, or verse dramas. The types 0f southern drama popular in Zhejiang were Xuyao Opera and Haiyan Opera; in jiangsu, Kunshan opera; and in jiangxi, Yiyang Opera. The only ones of these to have survived are Kunshan Opera and yiyang Opera. originally, Kunshan Opera

hrived only in Suzhou City But with the reforms of Wei Liangfu in the middle of the Ming Dynasty, a new musical genre called shuimo diso appeared as a form of music for opera arias. Later, shuimo diao emerged on the stage when a friend of Wei Liangfu, the playwright Liang Bolong, used it for his opera The Stoly ot Washting the Gauze. The new music quickly became the dominant opera mode, and spread all over the country Thus was Kunqu Opera born. The name shuim o was adopted to refer to the exquisite softness of the music. South of the Yangtze River, rice was often milled in a water mill, which gave it a delicate and polished texture, and so the designation "water-milled" was a very appropriate way to hint that the music had undergone several stages of refinement to achieve its Superb delicacy. Kunqu opera in fact was a great achievement in the blending of northern and southern styles of music, which, after going through the "water-mill" process, became a completely new type of mus c, in which neither northern nor southern elements could be properly identified. Studies have shown that the "water-mill-' process merely involved adding flourishes to the melody to make its expression more indirect and extending the rhythm to make it more leisurely. As a result, the relation between southern and northern music on the one hand and Kunqu on the other was like that between rice grains and milled rice flour The most famous ancient Chinese music scores extant are Kunqu scores.

By the late part of the Ming Dynasty, Kunqu began to show signs of decline, and in the period surrounding the end of the Ming and the early years of the Qing Dynasty (in the middle 0f the 17 century), many new forms of drama and singing sprang up all over the country. Eventually, bangZ (clapper) operas and the pihung(XiPi and erhuang) types if music proved to be the most influential. The musical structures of these new forms relied on clappers, and thus were different from that of Kunqu and its cluster of qu tunes, not to mention the previous northern and southern music, Zhugong diao and changZhuan. Clappers accompanied both singing and recitation performances and dramas, and it is difficult to decide which genre adopted them first. It was probably because the music had to directly express the dramatic plot in the clapper-type operas that the clapper techniques reached a much higher level of maturity than they did in the recital-and-song performances. Most of the other drama forms (usually called "local dramas"), which were of comparatively minor importance, had qu tunes as their main musical structure. These qu tunes originated in local folksongs of the period, and were also the dominant music of both recital-and-song and song-and-dance performances. Kunqu, bangh pihuang and many other types of dramatic per performances which arose at different times in this period have all survived to the present day.

The orchestras accompanying Yuan zaju, Southern Opera and Kunqu Opera were very simple, consisting of flutcs as the lead instruments, and with the addition of drums and clappers.Later, the Kunqu Opera orchestra was augmented, the most important change being the addition of large and small gongs, cymbals, and drums in the categories of bangu and tanggu, the ensemble being known as a drum-and-gong percussion orchestra.This type of orchestra, using only a few simple instruments, could be said to have reached the acme of artistic perfection in excellently expressing, through changes in tone and rhythm, the whole gamut of moods, from excitement, jubilation and tension to leisureliness and relaxation. From this time on, percussion played a decisive and irreplaceable role in opera music. In opera orchestras, the instruments which played melodies came to be called wenchang or "civil", instruments, and percussion instruments came to be called wuchang or -'military", instruments. The percussion instruments took up half of the musical duties in the orchestra, and the clapper and drum players conducted th whole orchestra. Later, all types of 0pera music followed the suit of Kunqu Opera by giving full play to the function of percussion instruments.

With the advent of the Qing Dynasty, flutes lost their leading position to stringed instruments of the huqin type, which were the Successors to the Xtqin of the Song Dynasty.

The bangzi operas all started to use the b8nhu, Peking Opera used The jinghu and the various types of local operas used the erhu. In fact, stringed instruments became more and more prominent as the Qing Dynasty progressed.

lnstrumental music, however, developed tardily, only reaching maturity in the Qing Dynasty. Already in the Song Dynasty there had been a form of ensemble consisting of plucked stringed instruments and wind instruments, playing a kind of music called Xiyue. Percussion-and- wind bands had been extant continuously since the Han Dynasty, and specially flourished from S0ng times on.Later, ensembles formed of wind instruments Such as the sheng or just percussion instruments sprang up among the common people 3s offshoots of the percussi0n-and-wind bands. In the period which marked the end of the Ming and the opening of the Qing Dynasty, groups of musicians called Xansuo were popular A manuscript of scores of this type of music survives from 1 814,which records 13 sets of tunes to be played on four varieties of stringed instruments pipa, three-string, Zhengand huqiO.

The relations between the notes of the scale and the rules governing them were understood very early in China. Musical tones of a fixed pitch were called lu and these tones had been investigated as early as in the Spring and Autumn period. The study of musical tones of course sprang from actual practice of the playing of music, but it was not long be fore it became separated from musical practice. In the Warring States period there was thought to be some internal harmony between music and the calendar, simply because there were 1 2 Io and the year had 1 2 months. The calendar was regarded as the divine guideline for the ruler, its manifestations signs that the ruler was following the will of Heaven (For this reason, the first thing every new dynasty did was readjusting the alendar). So, just as the calendar was studied minutely and calculated meticulously, so were musical notes. China is probably unique in the world for having such a large number of musical scholars in ancient times who were also experts in the calendar and astronomy. This is also the basic reason why he study of music developed continuously in China. However, advances in musical theory did not have any obvious widespread impact, except in the sphere of Ya yue and only huanghong had definite pitch standards (These often changed with the change of dynasty, until they became basically fixed during the Song Dynasty). Nevertheless, the progress made in the efforts to measure minutely and methodologically the specific reIati0nships within music did bring advantages. In the Ming Dynasty, the scholar Zhu Zaiyu worked Out from the changes in methods of calculation the perfect balance of the pitch relationships between the 1 2 lo and the precise ratio between each one. He published his discovery which was made about a century before similar discoveries in the West in 1 584, in a book called A New Treatise on MUiC0tw But, because of the limitations of the techniques of making musical instruments at that time, his discovery could not be applied in practice, its revolutionary implications were not grasped, and it gradually sank into oblivion. From the point of view 0f musical theory, this discovery should have marked the transition from ancient to modern music, but Chinese music only entered the modern era 300 years after Zhu Zaiyu's time.

Quick Navigation

New Article