Make Xianning Known to the World Bring the World to Xianning Set as Homepage | Add to Favorites | Simplified Chinese
Home >> Culture >> Folk art >> text
Located in the south of Hubei, known as "the South Gate of Hubei", Xianning has great renown for “Chibi old haunt of the Three Kingdoms, inland nuclear power city”, which has great advantages of its "mountain", "water" "geography","location","culture","scenery","energy"and the trend of development. Xianning is a suitable place to do ...[more]
Xianning City, attached to Hubei Province, known as “the southern gateway to Hubei”, is famous for sweet-scented os... [more]
Administrative divisions
Lying in the southeast of Hubei Province, along the south bank of the Yangtze River, and at the junction of Hunan, Hu... [more]
 Despite the late administrative construction of Xianning (prefecture-level city), the counties and urban districts under its administration all have a long history. The territory of today’s Xianning belonged to Jing Chu in the Xia and Shang Dynasties ( about 2200-1100 BC), Nan County in the Qin Dynasty(221-206 BC ), [more]
Tongcheng County Daluo Tune -- “Living Fossil” of the Central China Operas 10-12-08

  Look! There were three people sitting together, with a drum, a gong and a wooden clapper in their hands, beating and singing. That was exactly the old singing way which didn’t need any musical instrument, only depending on people joining in the singing. Listen! They were singing Visiting Friends, which is a part of the Butterfly Lovers. The voice of the lean actor who performed Liang Shanbo was clear and high, his singing went up and down, and he expressed to the acme degree of the grief that Liang Shanbo had felt when he was parting his beloved woman. Then, you would realize the beauty of the voice which was cappella, clean, and coming from the bottom of one’s inner heart. When his feeling came to the peak, the singers at the backstage sang together with him and the singing was intense, echoing around the Junshui River bank of Tongcheng County.

  This was a local opera which revealed the folk flavor of Tongcheng County--the Daluo Tune. The lean actor, Zhang Liwu, was the sixth-generation inheritor of Tongcheng County Daluo Tune. On December 3, Zuo Xinquan, the Secretary of Tongcheng County Cultural Center, told the reporter that the Daluo Tune had been sung in Tongcheng for nearly 200 years and the local people loved it very much. Now they were making efforts to declare the provincial non-material cultural heritage protection projects. Two hundred years ago, the artist Wang Shua’er who came from Tianmen (in Hubei Province) or Mianyang (now Xiantao City, Hubei Province) spread it to Tongcheng County.

  The Daluo Tune was almost known to all in Tongcheng County. The old can even sing a few parts, because it accompanied the people through sections of good time in the ages when there were few leisure activities. The singers were happy because the listeners admired them. Therefore, the Daluo Tune was passed to the seventh generation of inheritor along with the singers’ singing and listeners’ interest.

  Speaking of the “originator” of the Tongcheng County Daluo Tune, it is necessary to mention Wang Shua’er. According to the material, the Daluo Tune was spread to Tongcheng County during the Jiaqing Period (1796-1820AD) or Daoguang Period (1821-1850AD) of the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911AD), or maybe even earlier. At that time, when floods came, the people of Tianmen and Mianyang walked up along the Junshui River. They sold their children, played vaudeville, sang for begging, and performed with snakes and monkeys. Among them, there were usually many Tianmian Huagu Opera artists. According to legend, the Tongcheng County Daluo Tune was spread to Tongcheng County when Wang Shua’er was fleeing from famine-stricken areas and came to Tongcheng. At that time, many people loved this kind of opera after Wang Shua’er finished singing, so people like Wang Ruicheng, Chen Guanbao and so on employed Wang to teach others to learn the singing. When the people were learning, they combined the local folk opera elements with it. Since then, the Daluo Tune which had the characteristics of the rich local elements started to spread rapidly in Tongcheng region, and became popular in the areas adjacent to Tongcheng, including Chongyang County of Xianning City, Linxiang City, Yueyang City, Pingjiang County of Hunan Province and other border places. 

  Zhong Qingming, aged 68, has been committed to the collection, collation and study of folk music, and he once worked in the Tongcheng County cultural department in the 1980s. According to him, in the past, the Hanchu Opera, the Tiqin Opera and the Daluo Tune were popular in Tongcheng County and Chongyang County at the same time, so it was normal to see 2-integrated or 3-integrated troupes, namely, an artist who can sing Daluo Tune as well as Hanchu Opera or Tiqin Opera, or a troupe which can perform X kinds of operas and then it was called a X-integrated theatrical troupe. Hanchu Opera was also referred as “Big Drama” or “Silk String Opera”, the Tiqin Opera was also known as “Lute Tune Opera”, and the Daluo Tune was also called “Huagu Opera” or “Gong Opera”. The three operas were compatible with elegant and vulgar taste, and learned the merits of each other, which had a great impact on the development of its types of meter, the percussion accompaniment and the enriching of the performance patterns. At the same time, the content of the Daluo Tune was mainly based on and closely connected with people’s life, and it was humorous, vivid and preferred by the people.

  Due to its strong mass foundation, the Daluo Tune is gradually bearing flowers and fruits in Tongcheng County.

  Go through difficulties and rebirth thanks to the reform and opening up

  On December 3, the reporter saw the 47-year-old Zhang Liwu and one of his masters Du Shenyin in Tongcheng County. According to the 70-year-old Du Shenyin, in1954, despite knowing that the actors’ social position was humble, he followed Zheng Guanhua Lu Honghai and Fu Haitang, his three masters who belonged to the same troupe, learned and performed on the stage. He remembered that at his premiere, he played the role of the young male character in the opera Sling Flowers and Delivering Fans won bursts of cheers. Speaking of this, he began to sing. Maybe the sound was not as clear as it was in the past, however, his movements and actions showed this old artist’s profound knowledge and skills.

  Du Shenyin went on and said, in the past, learning opera relied on teaching orally. In order to facilitate the learning and spreading, he began to learn opera from his masters while at the same time wrote it in the scripts according to his memory. Unfortunately, about 30 to 40 hand-written scripts and all the costumes were burned or destructed in a turmoil started in the mid 1960s.

  All the artists who liked the Daluo Tune as much as Du Shenyin were heartbroken and sorrowful, and they did not dare to sing loudly the tune and lines that they once often sang. They could only sing in their hearts silently. After singing for a while, they felt a sense of intolerable pain.

  The reform and opening up came, bringing the new birth to Daluo Tune. One day in 1987, in Youfang Village of Jinshan County, the villagers were busy doing various kinds of things after finishing doing farm work and coming back from the field. Some removed the door planks to build a simplified stage, some began to practice singing, and some brought their own kerosene lamps and so on. When the night fell, the people gathered around the simplified stage, expecting the exciting moment. When the gongs and drums sounded, and the “leading role” appeared, all the audience couldn’t stop laughing, because the bed sheets and the audience’s relatively new coats were used as the costumes. However, this did not affect the effect of the singing. Instead it aroused the enthusiasm of the audience, because they loved the Daluo Tune from the bottom of their hearts. They were reluctant to go back home after the end of the singing until late at night. At that night, many people were sleepless, many people could not have a good sleep, and these were all due to the Daluo Tune.  

  The Youfang Village of Jinshan County was no longer quiet at night. The performance of Daluo Tune continued, and hundreds of people came here to watch the performance, which ignited the enthusiasm of the people of the nearby villages. 

  Prepared and organized the opera troupe by himself, the old artist opened up new markets.

  In 1978, Zhang Liwu started learning Daluo Tune. Since he often saw and heard it when he was a little child, Zhang Liwu soon embarked on a theater stage. According to Zhang Liwu, after 1980, people's lives started to change. When holidays, weddings and funerals came, villagers often called in the artists to sing as they did in the past. In this way, a group of Daluo Tune artists who loved the opera very much were active among the villages in Tongcheng County. In the1980s and 1990s, the number of Daluo Tune troupes reached more than 30, and that showed the opera was in full flourish at that time.

  According to Zhong Qingming, the main tunes of Daluo Tune include Qishui Tune, Siping Tune, Daobanjiang Tune, Kupi Tune, Huanhun Tune and so on. Regardless of the length and urgency of the tune, at the end of the last word of each libretto, it is certainly that singers at the backstage would sing together with the performer. According to the mining and collation in the early years, there are over 100 existing repertoires, most of which are based on the life of young men and women and clowns, and reflects the most primitive and simple stories happened in the rural areas. The repertoires can be divided into three kinds, namely, large-, medium- and small-size opera. The large-size opera is also called “Zhengben Opera” and it can last for an evening (or half a day). The medium-size opera is also named “Jiechang Opera”, because it can be performed during the interval of two large-size operas. The small-size opera is often called “Zhao Opera”, because it was often added to perform when the operas were finished.

  In 1989, after carefully studying opera and singing for more than ten years, Zhang Liwu made a bold decision that using his own money to establish the Tongcheng County Flowers Troup, and openly recruiting apprentices. Among the 45 candidates, 7 people stood out and became his apprentices. His hard work paid off. With Zhang Liwu's painstaking efforts, the troupe’s influence grew in the local area, and the 10 repertoires that he had arranged, including the "Mother's Tears", "Meeting Mother in the Counting House” and “Pi Guiying launched four suits”, have become the classical. They are often performed by the troupes in Tongcheng and Chongyang County. Zhang Liwu was named the “Best Young Male Role Player” by the audience for his excellent performance.

  Zhang Liwu has become a "star" and more and more people come and want to be his apprentices. So far the total number is more than 50, and even some of his apprentices have set up their own small troupes. Speaking of his youngest apprentice, Li Xiuli, Zhang Liwu is extremely proud of her. Born in 1989, she originally worked in a supermarket in Tongcheng County. In 2008, she accidently heard him sing the Daluo Tune, and then she resolutely resigned and followed Zhang to learn the opera. Now together with his husband who is also an opera artist, she has set up her own small troupe. 

  The fund is inadequate, and the Daluo Tune performances need “packaging”. 

  Zhang Liwu said, in recent years, he led the troupe to give more than 300 performances every year averagely. In 2007, he performed 286 days and gave 570 performances. According to the figures that Zhang Liwu said, it seemed to the reporter that the Daluo Tune was still prosperous and at its peak time.  However, Zhang Liwu did not think so, and he said the Daluo Tune is struggling for survival. A series of problems like the various kinds of repertoires and the high demand of the tunes consist threat to the folk art opera.

  According to Zhong Qingming, with the development of the time, many people who know how to sing Daluo Tune have changed their jobs and become migrant workers, and now the total number of inheritors is not more than 100. Moreover, young people are rarely interested in Daluo Tune.

  Zuo Xinquan told the reporter that the traditional Daluo Tune Magic Bench which was specially designed by the Tongcheng County Culture and Sports Bureau has won the titles like “Second Prize in Performing” and “Excellent Demonstration Award” as a group in 2008. However, due to the long-term shortage of fund and the limited teaching condition, most of the performing repertoires of the Daluo Tune are rough, and there is huge potential to be tapped.

  Zhong Qingming said that the Daluo Tune was the picture and epitome of the ancient people’s life, and it is also the initial stage from production life to the stage drama, therefore, it has very important reference value for the study of the emergence and formation of many local operas in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and it is the “living fossil” in the operas’ process. It is close to life and has demonstrated its infinite potential in the opera reform and in the operas which focus on the modern life.

  As a local opera, the Daluo Tune itself has strong vitality and is loved by the mass folks.  However, in the time when cultural diverse and art forms develop rapidly, if people don’t take it seriously, it will not be able to survive among today’s wide range of popular art forms. Therefore, the best way to continue to carry forward the Daluo Tune is to pay attention to its protection, development and heritage.

咸宁市人民政府主办 咸宁日报社承办
——————咸宁日报社网络传媒创意制作& 技术支持——————
联系电话:0715-8128121 鄂ICP备05011845号 政府网QQ群:5491814