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Across China: Ethnic instrument playing preserved in S China

English.news.cn   2014-07-30 15:18:11

NANNING, July 30 (Xinhua) -- It's amazing that such music could come from a single-stringed instrument. As Su Chunfa and his two granddaughters pluck duxianqins, a smooth rhythm spreads through Dongxing.

The city in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is home to a high concentration of Jing ethnic people, with whom the unique duxianqin zither is associated. In an example of China working to preserve such ethnic artistic traditions, Su is one of nine duxianqin masters given a subsidy to promote playing of the instrument.

The duxianqin itself is formally recognized by the government as a vehicle of "intangible cultural heritage," which can be defined as song, music, dance, drama, crafts and similar prized skills that can be recorded but not touched or interacted with.

Su and the younger members of his family wear traditional Jing clothing for their show.

He notes that duxianqins are an indispensable part of life for the ethnic group, who largely live in coastal areas and earn a living from fishing.

"When fishermen return home, they create the instrument and songs during their leisure time," says the 56-year-old.

According to local officials, the ancestors of the present Jing people migrated from Vietnam about 500 years ago and settled on the three islands off the coast of Dongxing City.

The ethnic group currently has around 22,000 members and they mainly live on Wanwei, Wutou and Shanxin islands, near the Sino-Vietnamese border.

Su plucks the duxianqin's string with his right hand and simultaneously controls the pitch with his left hand by moving the instrument's spout to adjust the tension on the string. The manipulation creates a sound which Su characterizes as like that of sea waves -- appropriate given that the Jing are considered China's only maritime ethnic group.

Hundreds of them play the duxianqin together at their traditional annual Ha Festival.

The skills of playing the instrument have been handed down through the generations. Su learned how to play from his uncle when he was five years old, and his granddaughters have become accomplished musicians under his tutelage.

One has played the duxianqin on Guangxi TV. She spends two hours practicing every day.

Su says he started to teach people how to play in 1993 for free. He now spends the 3,000-yuan monthly subsidy given to him by the autonomous region on purchasing or fixing instruments for his students.

They number more than 300, range in age from three to 80 and come from various places including Hong Kong and Macao.

"I always bear in mind the responsibility of passing down our Jing culture and I am delighted to see so many people, especially young people, learning to play the instrument," says Su.

Editor: Yang Yi
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