Cultural Connotations of Traditional Chinese Folk Music
(Clearwisdom.net) Chinese folk music has a long and historical tradition. It has faded and revived many times over the course of history, and it is an important part of traditional Chinese culture. Its impact has been reflected in the areas of cultivation, morality and the pursuit of excellence.
Traditional Chinese culture includes music, chess, painting, poetry, and calligraphy. In particular, the zither (Chinese harp) is a highly valued musical instrument because it can produce music that transcends the everyday world and serves to improve people's moral character. In the old days, people used this kind of music to cultivate their character.
In traditional Chinese culture, music was said to be able to support orderly society as discussed in the Lushi Chunqiu, where it was stated that "Harmonious sound leads to harmony, and harmony generates an orderly society." In the Confucian texts, the Classic of Rites and the Classic of Music, it was stated that "the application of rites and music will lead to a peaceful society." In fact, this was practiced in ancient society and it did generate stability. This idea was propagated by Confucius who believed that "music represents the harmony in the universe and rites reflect the order of the universe." Originally, music was developed to accompany rites in the Imperial Palace, and its impact was significant. Confucius placed a lot of emphasis on both the content of music and where it was applied. He praised the music, Shao, used to accompany dances and the artistic value of the song, Jiu Bian, composed by Song Yu. In the book Lunyu, there is the statement, "Confucius heard the music, Shao, and he was so deeply attracted by its beauty that he couldn't sense the taste of meat for three months." Confucius considered Shao to be perfect and praised the music and dance named Dawu, of the Zhou Dynasty, very highly. However, a portion of the story line in Dawu that described the accomplishments in a certain war was considered by him to be a weakness.
The story about a great zither player, Yu Boya, and his friend, Zhong Ziqi, was very popular in China and can be found in the book Lushi Chunqiu and in the Daoist text Liezi.
Zhong Ziqi could understand the meaning behind the music that Yu Boya played. He could tell from the music whether a lofty mountain was being described or if it was a flowing river. When Yu was touring Taishan, he encountered a storm. While hiding underneath a cliff, he played his zither to describe the rain and the occasional thunder. Zhong Ziqi had no problem recognizing all these things, just from listening to the music.
After Zhong passed away, Yu was very sad because he could not find another man who could understand his music so well. In great disappointment, he broke his zither and did not play any more music for the rest of his life. The idioms, "lofty mountain and flowing river" and "Boya broke his zither" refer to the story about Boya and Ziqi. To describe what happened to Boya and Ziqi, people say that "It is easier to find ten thousand ounces of gold than to find someone who can understand you."
Folk music is a mirror of Chinese traditional culture. It reflects both the history and the profound connotations of Chinese culture.