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Tune of picking tea-leaves:fantastic both in voice and affection
http://English.xianning.gov.cn 09-04-21
 

  Tongshan County abounds with tea-leaves, it’s said that there will be no songs without tea. Here in Tongshan, tea songs, tea tunes and tea-picking operas are age-old as well as plenty. The tune of picking tea-leaves belongs to folk songs, it’s the product of tea songs. Long time ago, females from tea families sang while picking tea-leaves, so the tea-picking tune began to form. The graceful tune was only used to sing the tea, once being accepted by the public, it was used naturally to sing everything of peasant families, so the good tune spread like wildfire, and became wider and wider. In the ancient time of Tongshan, there was a grand occasion that “hear the tune once enter the mountains” and “songs and smile fill the city”. In recent years, picking tea-leaves operas have been almost lost in many places of Tongshan except in some places such as Dafan, Xiapu, Yanxia, etc.

  The tea-picking tune is a kind of small ditty chanted extemporaneously, it can be sung in various ceremonies like festive lantern, saint songs, night song horns, etc. It has inverse board tune, flat tune, sad tune, double tune, etc. Its singing style has countless changes because of the dialects of different people and different places in Tongshan, it usually changes the tune as different rhymes, or drags the tune and changes the sound as different feelings. Folk songs are songs that express people’s feelings freely, the words and phrases are from mind to mouth with large arbitrariness, so as to the tea-picking tune, we should not rigidly adhere to one singing style. For instance, the famous Digging Mountain Drum tea tune Pick Tea-leaves in December in the areas of Dafan and Cikou sings: No tea flowers blow in January, so heartless is Cai Bojie, abandoning former wife coming from Zhao. Carrying soil with skirt to make tomb, exasperates neighbour Zhang Guangcai…The tune has twelve sections, singing from picking tea-leaves in January to picking tea-leaves in December, every section is started with picking tea-leaves, and the tune can sing the things about tea, farm work, love or classical stories.

  Another example is Sister-in-law Picks Tea-leaves, which is famous in the area of Yanxia. It sings like “New Year is in January, colored gauze lanterns hang in front of the hall, what people pick is green tea, what is green is peony, ten pointed fingers pick the fine tea……” This ditty is very graceful, and has been brought to the performance of picking tea-leaves operas for many times, its melody has some flavor of Huangmei tea-picking opera, so it is widespread. This ditty has a pattern of five sentences, and the word number is seven-seven-five-five-seven, while the last three sentences are shared by every section. The third example is the tea-picking tune that is popular in the areas of Fanni, Xiapu and Yangfang, it sings like “……Mid-Autumn is in August, Guests for black tea lose feelings. The tea is happy, and sister tears in the room……” This tea-picking tune is sung most through the verbal way, it’s a kind of love song that expresses the tea sisters’ feelings to the tea brothers, tea packmen and tea guests. It sounds sad, beautiful and moving. The words of the tune have a pattern of three sentences and half, the head sentence is broken read by every three words, the second sentence has seven words, the half sentence is “the tea is happy” or “sister is happy”, the last sentence again has seven words, the melody will have a small difference as different dialects.

  There is a wide range of tea-picking tunes in Tongshan. The complicated and long tunes are usually stable, and won’t change for a long time; while the popular tunes are flexible and diversified. The formation of tea-picking tune has undergone a long way, from the wordless tea to ditties sung freely by tea-pickers, second to tea-picking tunes that have certain tune-pattern and local flavor, third to tea-picking lanterns that dance with music, and finally the complete tea-picking opera. Tea tunes have become an indispensable part to the spiritual life of Tongshan People for a long time.

  “Taoist who drinks tea can be an immortal, monk who drinks tea can be a Buddha, lover who drinks tea can get love, elegant person who drinks tea can get fun, doctor who drinks tea can get medicine, earthling who drinks tea can quench thirst, farmer who drinks tea can get happiness.” It is the mediumistic tea flavor and the graceful melody that makes Tongshan tea-picking tune have wide dissemination, flexible artistic expression and transcendent and free aestheticism. Every tea-picking tune makes people become enamoured when hearing the song, and grasp its temperament and interest, and its cultural meaning, thus forms a big characteristic in of the folk culture in Tongshan.

  (by Xia Fawang) Published in Supplement, Nan’e Evening Paper on April 21st)


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