Jane Slaughter – Jane in China,China,9

Here’s more about our trip to Yunnan. This was written by Dianne, who tooknotes: We saw two Naxi orchestras in Lijian, in Yunnan Province.The Naxis migrated from northeastern Tibeta thousand years ago. Their “dongba” religion is a mixture of animismand Buddhism; their manuscripts written in a pictographic script. They playfolk music that is at least 800 years old (33 generations). Each orchestra had10 musicians, some of whom played more than one instrument. The most centralinstrument had one or two strings and a bow, but with differently sized bodies.Other instruments included flutes, lutes, piccolos, and a stringed instrumentmounted on a box (like a xylophone). One orchestra had two different kinds of drums,cymbals and a couple of hand held small drum-like instruments with bellsattached to strike the surface. In both, women plunked the two lutes and thexylophone-like instrument.

 image42.jpg fictions.co.uk image28.jpg fictions.co.uk   musician on break. His pipe has 2 openings for tobacco. image29.jpg fictions.co.uk image31.jpg fictions.co.uk

The first orchestra played in Yuquan Park,near Black Dragon Pool. Both men and women sang solo; they closed the concertwith what seemed to be a call-and-response song where the women sang one partand the men another. The small Naxi audience joined in the singing. The womanplaying the xylophone-type box used her hands to pluck the strings butsometimes she hit them with a wooden stick. In fact, the announcer was a woman;she played several instruments and also sang solo. There was also a verydramatic musical dance where one man danced and leapt while wearing a5-sectioned headgear that a dongba leader would wear.  He is on the left in the last picture above, in red; his headgear is gold.

 The male musicians wore a simple long-sleevedcranberry-colored dress. One man wore a fur hat; another wore a RobinHood-type hat with a feather. Thewomen wore a traditional Naxi dresses: black tops and accordion-pleated whiteskirts with a light blue apron that had seven circles on the back side, at thewaist, to represent the Big Dipper stars. There were also three women whodanced. Each wore a hat consisting of a skein of black yarn decorated withflowers and ornaments; they did not wear aprons. (Situated in a mountain plain,Lijiang was in the 40s at night when we were there in November. The women worejeans under their costumes, and tennis shoes.)

 The second orchestra played in a square in Old Lijiang. Themen wore long-sleeved shirts edged with a thick cranberry strip and tied thickred sashes around their waists. Their pants were white; their high boots black.Most wore Robin Hood type-caps with feathers and sleeveless fur coats, eitherwhite or brown. The women wore the traditional Naxi costume.

 The announcer in the square spoke in both Mandarin andEnglish. He introduced us to his wife, brother and sister-in-law as well as tothe oldest player, a man of 76. He also introduced the audience to some of the instruments.These included a flute made from bamboo [“baba”] and one of theviolin-type instruments. It had a long neck with a very small body. He said itwas similar to a Mongolian instrument, but played lower tones. He also showedus a stem with leaves and explained that Naxi women use it as a musicalinstrument. He then had one of the women play it–it sounded like a flute.

 I noticed that the musicians who played the stringedinstruments with boxes of differing sizes played the bow just above the box,and moved their fingers across the one string.

 image23.jpg fictions.co.uk Happy  birthday in Naxi pictographs. The dongba would make such a greeting, on  homemade paper, and  it would  be kept as a family record. Similar for weddings, etc. image24.jpg fictions.co.uk Schoolroom where some Naxi  young people are taught the old traditions.image25.jpg fictions.co.uk Shao Can explained  Naxi culture to us image26.jpg fictions.co.uk Naxi women playing cards. Notice that the Mao cap has become part of the costume.image27.jpg fictions.co.uk Temple in Black Dragon Pool  Park.image30.jpg fictions.co.uk In Lijiang. The Chinese like their food explicit. On menus, you see pictures of whole cooked chickens with heads and all.

image32.jpg fictions.co.uk In a relatively unspoiled village near Lijiang called Yu Hu. An oft-used vehicle.image33.jpg fictions.co.uk A house in Yu Hu with a death notice on the door. image34.jpg fictions.co.uk Naxi  woman with load of carrots. We’ve heard the women  do most of the work and the  men devote themselves to cultural   pursuits. image35.jpg fictions.co.uk House in Yu Hu.image36.jpg fictions.co.uk In Yu Hu. He made this pipe himself 50 years ago and said they couldn’t be bought anywhere.image37.jpg fictions.co.uk Police station in Yu Hu, with pix of the officers. I’d seen such displays elsewhere.

Posted from China:

posted Friday November 2007

Leave a Reply