Mu­sic that re­ver­ber­ates through the ages

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | CULTURE - By LIN QI

China’s an­cient mu­sic may no longer be heard, but its in­stru­ments can be seen at an on­go­ing show at Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity.

The exhibition Re­main­ing Mu­sic Charms of Huaxia at the Arthur M. Sack­ler Mu­seum of Art and Ar­chae­ol­ogy dis­plays dozens of un­earthed in­stru­ments and items re­lated to danc­ing.

The pieces are on loan from the He­nan Mu­seum in Zhengzhou, where decades of ex­ca­va­tions have shown the rich­ness and longevity of China’s musical tra­di­tions.

The show runs through Dec 15 as part of the 34th World Congress of ArtHis­tory held at Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity and Bei­jing’s Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts that ends on Sept 20.

Ex­hibits in­clude sev­eral iconic items that trace mu­sic’s evo­lu­tion from pre­his­tory through the pros­per­ous Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (9601279) dy­nas­ties, says the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor, Hang Kan.

One of the ear­li­est dis­cov­er­ies dis­played — dat­ing to about seven mil­len­nia ago— is a Ne­olithic flute fash­ioned from a crane’s leg bone. 9 am-4: 30 pm. ArthurM. Sack­lerMu­se­u­mof Art and Ar­chae­ol­ogy, 5 Yi­heyuan Road, Haid­ian dis­trict, Bei­jing. 01062759784.

It can pro­duce a di­a­tonic (seven-note) scale and flies in the face of pre­vi­ous per­cep­tions that an­cient Chi­nese mu­sic re­lied on five notes. The flute un­earthed in 1986 is con­se­quently hailed as “the ori­gin of Chi­nese mu­sic”.

Mu­sic evolved over the cen­turies into yayue (el­e­gant mu­sic) — rit­u­al­is­tic clas­si­cal gen­res per­formed at im­pe­rial courts. Yayue was es­tab­lished in the Western Zhou Dy­nasty (c. 11th cen­tury-771 BC) — along with laws and rit­u­als — to form the aris­to­cratic or­der’s foun­da­tion.

Bronze chimes are per­haps the best-known rep­re­sen­ta­tive of high-class cer­e­mo­nial in­stru­men­ta­tion.

The show fea­tures one en­graved with dragon pat­terns dis­cov­ered in a royal tomb be­long­ing to the Spring and Au­tumn Pe­riod BC).

Many dis­plays go be­yond court mu­sic to show how mu­sic was en­joyed by masses.

One such piece is a col­or­ful porce­lain pil­low from the Song Dy­nasty that fea­tures a vivid paint­ing of chil­dren ma­nip­u­lat­ing a mar­i­onette, strik­ing a drum and play­ing a flute while danc­ing.

A par­al­lel exhibition at the mu­seum also of­fers in­sights into the de­vel­op­ment of China’s song and dance.

Dun­huang of a Thou­sand Years cel­e­brates Dun­huang’s cave art through about 40 (770-476

9 am-4:30 pm. Arthur M. Sack­ler Mu­seum of Art and Ar­chae­ol­ogy, 5 Yi­heyuan Road, Haid­ian dis­trict, Bei­jing. 010-6275-9784.

high-def­i­ni­tion dig­i­tal prints of the city’s frag­ile and im­mov­able mu­rals.

The exhibition through Dec 18 is also part of the congress.

Dun­huang Academy of China’s hon­orary pres­i­dent Fan Jin­shi says musical mo­tifs adorn over 200 caves in Dun­huang. They de­pict dancers per­form­ing for courts or or­di­nary peo­ple, as well as in oth­er­worlds.


TheCap­i­talCi­tiesoft­heYuanDy­nasty re­traces Bei­jing’s de­vel­op­ment to the present day.


The showRe­main­ing Mu­sicCharm­sofHuaxia sheds new light on the evo­lu­tion of mu­sic in China.

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