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Guangdong Ballad Singing

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Guangdong ballad singing is the general term for ballad chanting, story telling, comic dialogues, clapper talks, cross talks; specifically it includes several forms of talk and singing in Guangdong dialect, muyu, longzhou, nanyin, Yue-ou, and banyan. Muyu (wooden clapper) was formed by Buddhists chanting “Sacred Sutra” integrated with local folk songs. The masterpieces are “Longjian Story”, “History of the Lotus”; Longzhou is of the style of ballad of the boat folk. The tone and voice is low, with small gong and drum for interlude; nanyin came from muyu and longzhou as the base, absorbing the music of Yangzhou tanci (storytelling to the accompaniment of string instruments) and nanci. The masterpieces are “Autumn Melancholy on the Journey”, etc. Yue-ou is a form of talking and singing, developing from myuy and nanyin as a base, just simply chanting or singing with string and blowing accompaniment. The existing works is “Yue-ou” by Zhao Ziyong. Banyan, similar to nanyin, is sung in seven words with narrow segment, almost like talking. The master works is “Watch Lanterns”. Yuequ is the main form of Guangdong ballad and singing. Yuequ is of strong musical nature, the singing is devoted to the art of voice tone, and the art of singing.

Edit by: Dorothy

Lingnan's Modern Figure Painting

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Fang Rending (1901-1975) was a leading member of the Lingnan School of Chinese painting. During his three score years of art life, most of Fang's talent was spent on figure painting, because his philosophy indicates that “We need figure painting in order to advocate new and civilized life styles and help people lead a new life themselves. In a word, we need to paint modern figures with new inspirations and in a new perspective, in stead of the old figures and the outdated, corrupted styles.”

Fang was the pupil of Gao Jianfu, the founding father of the Lingnan School of Chinese painting, also called Lingnan Huapai. He studied Chinese painting from Gao between 1923-1929 before he moved his base to Tokyo, Japan to study modern painting. During his years in Japan (1929-1931, 1933-1935), Fang was an enthusiastic student of the form, color, lines, idea and composition of the Japanese style of modern painting in comparison to the Chinese ones. The rejuvenation of Chinese painting, said Fang, depends on whether it could find itself a new path in which the traditional painting styles must be renovated in order to fit in with the time.

Fang thus advocated the “modern figure painting” as a new breakthrough for Chinese paintings. He combined the eastern and western painting styles to reflect the new life and the new sense of life. His paintings, as you can see on this page, reflect strongly his understanding of modern figure painting.

Edit by: Dorothy

Lion Dance

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In China, besides dragon dance, the lion dance is another popular recreation for the Chinese during their new year season. However, the lion dances of Northern China and Southern China have great differences in that of their appearance and the art of demonstration.

The “Lion” which popularly exists in the Chinese culture and custom, is seemingly incredible because China does not have lions and the description of lions by the Chinese nobles derived from their imaginations. Chinese temples all over China and overseas had these imaginative lion sculptures placed in the frontages. These lions were far from the true likeness of a real lion because the real ones have no horns. The traditions of the lion dance had a long history in China. These were recorded over thousands of years ago. In the Tang Dynasty, the lion dance was performed in a group of five lions of different colours. Each lion was followed by twelve men dressed in colourful costumes, with a red band round the forehead and a red coloured brush in hand. These people were called “lion-men” and they danced in tempo to the musical pieces called “Tai-pin” melody.

This “Tai-pin” melody was composed as early as (951-960 A.D.) during the Chow Dynasty. it was recorded that the lion dance was accompanied by 140 people singing the melody and 64 dancers. Lion dance at the time was a grand occasion and it was of course different from the lion dance now.

Lion dance was initially a noble entertainment which gradually spread to the army and finally to the civilians.

There are many different sayings about the origin of the lion dance but none with any real historical records. One saying quoted that Many years ago there was a lion which appeared in a small village and it caused harm to the people and domestic animals.  There was a Kung-Fu expert who learnt of this and went into the forested mountain to figh t with the lion. He fought with the lion on three occasions but was unable to capture it. So he called up some of the villagers and trained them in Kung-Fu with the intention to kill the lion. A few months later, they went up to the mountain again and finally they killed the lion. The villagers, in order to celebrate this occasion, followed the steps of those who fought with the lion and thus the “lion dance” was composed. Another saying was that the emperor of China of the Ching of the Ching Dynasty had seen a lion dance in one of his dreams and he ordered the guards of the palace to dance in accordance with what he had seen after he woke up. Of course the above two sayings were just legends.

In China, the lion dance differed in various places, especially the appearance. In Northern China, the body of the lion was full of hair except the head. It looked more like the real lion and they usually dance in pairs.

In Southern China, the lion looked far removed from the real lion because it was made of multi-coloured pieces of linen. They definitely dance individually and never in pairs.

Lion dance is so much preferred in Guangzhou that every holiday or joyous occasion witnesses lion dance demonstrations for the sake of celebration, especially during the Spring Festival. The dance is performed by two people, one holding the head while the other holding the back part of the lion. Running after a person with a mask, the lion dances to the rhythm of drums, gongs and cymbals. The arrival to a household or business of the lion makes the residents and the businessman beam with joy. They express their thanks by giving some li shi (lucky money).

Edit by: Dorothy

Cantonese Opera

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With a history of over 300 years, Cantonese Opera is one of the major local operas rooted in Guangdong, part of Guangxi, Hongkong and Macau areas, also popular in some areas of Southeast Asia and among overseas Chinese throughout the world.

Cantonese Opera in Guangdong came into being on the basis of local aboriginal theatre combined with vocal melody from other regions and folk singing and storytelling skills. Present day Cantonese opera centers on Bangzi and Erhuang tunes (Two of major Chinese opera tunes) supplemented with local Ballads and rich varieties of local vocal system.

There are three major vocal tunes in Cantonese opera: Pinghou, Dahou and Zihou. Six major roles: Wenwusheng (man of both letters and martial arts), Xiaosheng (Personated young man), Wu sheng (cavalier), Chousheng (clown), Zhengyinhuadan (female characters) and Erbanghuadan (young woman). Five most influential schools: the Xue Juexian, the Ma Shizeng, the Liao Xiahuai, the Gui Mingyang, and the Bai Jurong as well as Hong Xiannu and Luo Jiabao.

Cantonese Opera has experienced several development phases, which are theatrical troupe of out-province, local troupe, mixed troupe, voluntary troupe and Guangdong and Hong King troupe. Finally the Cantonese Opera was transformed into the present style after ages of development.

Famous Cantonese Opera repertoire includes “The Legend of White Snake”, “Hu bugui”, “Dinuha”, “Soushuyuan”, “Vicissitudes of the Country”, and “Returning Home on a Snowy Night”. Guangdong provincial and Guangzhou Municipal Cantonese Opera Houses enjoy highest reputation in this field. Once praised by late Premier Zhou Enlai as the “Red pea of Southern China”, Cantonese opera keeps its attraction in the new historical period.

Edit by: Dorothy
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