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Zhejiang Ballads


Zhejiang Ballads
     Materials about Zhejiang ballads in Pre-Qing Dynasty Times are scarce. We can only refer to those fragmentary records like Zuo Tan Ge (Singing While Plucking) in History of Wu and Yue State written by Zhao Ye of Eastern Han Dynasty, and Yue Ren Yong Ji Ge (Songs of Oars in Yue) in Shuo Yuan (Talks of the Garden) written by Liu Xiang of Western Han Dynasty.
     From the Three Kingdoms Period, the songs in Wu dialects began to spring up in the south of Jiangsu and north of Zhejiang. The General Anthology of Yuefu Poems, compiled by Guo Maoqian of the Song Dynasty, listed two kinds of authentic songs in Wu dialect: Qian Xi Qu (Front Stream Tunes) and A Zi Ge. Qian Xi, now called Yuying Stream, is located to the south of Wukang Town of Deqing County, Zhejiang. In Southern Dynasties, some workshops in the area, which taught singing and dancing, were named after the stream. According to Deqing County Annals written during Emperor Kang Xi's Reign, there were Qian Xi Workshop and Hou Xi (Back Stream) Workshop in the south of the county. It was the home to many famous performers of the Southern Dynasty. The number of the workshops still reached to several hundreds in Tang Dynasty. Cui Hao of Tang Dynasty wrote in his poem, "I love the wonderful Qian Xi dance and sing whole night long, hoping the dawn never to come." From these, the Qian Xi Qu was probably the songs and tunes going round in this area.
     In Eastern Jin Dynasty and the Southern Dynasty, Zhejiang ballads developed quickly in south Qiantang River. According to Life of Xun Li - History of the Southern Dynasty, one was sure to find singing and dancing in every county with more than hundred households and in every city with fairs. Tai Ping Yu Lan (Imperial Review) cited from Pei Ziye's Song Lue (Outline of Song Dynasty) a similar description that singers and dancers crowded the mansion of every nobility and rich merchant. The eastern Zhejiang was no exception with nobilities indulged in the beautiful sceneries and feasts with singings and dancing. Zuo Si of Jin Dynasty compared the ballads of Wu and Yue State in his work To the Capital of Wu, so did Geng Xin of the Northern Dynasty in his Mourn for the River South. This mentioning in the same breath of Wu and Yue ballads indicated that the two enjoyed same popularity in eastern and western Zhejiang. In the coastal areas like Shaoxing, Ningbo, Wenzhou and Yuhang, many pieces of celadon burial furnishings of Jin Dynasty were unearthed, on which there were figures of people beating drums, playing instruments, dancing and doing vaudeville. Another profile of the musical world of the time reflected by these cultural relics was that the figures were all foreigners with Roman noses, sunken eyes, and dressed in Hu costumes and accessories. This showed that the powerful Hu (the non-Han nationalities living in the north and west of China in ancient times) brought with them the culture of the Middle Plain and of the Western Regions as they moved southward.
A set of five small gongs

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