Eight-sound Gongs and Drums
2018-08-08 [ Print ] [ Close ]

Crispy Suona, noisy drums……which could be found in a celebrating day in ancient times in Foshan such as the wedding ceremony and birthday celebration. Nowadays you can only see the eight-sound Gongs and Drums in a grand folk activity or traditional festival. At the end of 2014, eight-sound Gongs and Drums with the representative of Xingtan (杏坛) has successfully leapt in the fourth batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage and added a "national brand” for Shunde. 


Interpretation of eight-sound Gongsa and Drums 


Xingtan, also called “the hometown of Gongs and Drums”, is a place which still keeps the tradition of eight-sound gongs and drums well. 


Gongs and Drums was often made of wooden material like santos rose wood and bubinga, with pillars on its four sides and canopy cabinet decorated with silk embroidery, and its head cover, pillar and rims also carved with various flowers pattern, or historical figure and towers. The gongs and drums are usually 1.2 to 1.8 meters high with a shape of rectangle. 


Performance of gongs and drums consists of two forms, standing and sitting. They are also the most featured ones. It will meet a flourishing period of gongs and drums parade from the first day to the 19th day in the first lunar month. 


Gongs and drums are mainly played in the form of playing pure percussion, and gongs and drums in the past are roughly the same with the instruments of ancient Chinese opera. Usually the performer holds the instrument in his hand and pulling strings, plucking and playing with his right hand. 


The eight-sound gongs and drums originated from late Ming and Early Qing Dynasty and arose originally in Haifeng and Lufeng area in Guangdong and went viral in Pearl River Delta area in Daoguang period in late Qing Dynasty. 


In the past, eight-sound gongs and drums was a plus for the celebrative occasion. Liang Jiande, the inheritor of eight-sound gongs and drums in Shunde said that eight-sound gongs and drums was an indispensible program in ancient wedding ceremonies and grand folk activities. 


Nowadays the eight-sound gongs and drums performance is only presented during a big folk festival activity. Liang Jiande said that every 14th day of the first lunar month is a unique day for eight-sound gongs and drums. On that day, three villages including Maqi (马齐), Yuanyuan (院园) and Changdi (昌地)will unite to set up a parade team and start a whole-day parade activity in these three villages. About one thousand people will join this activity. 


Guard four sets of gongs and drums and keep them for three hundred years. 


Actually eight-sound gongs and drums is very popular in Pearl River Delta area. The outstanding achievement made by gongs and drums and its entering into the list of National Intangible Cultural Heritage greatly depend on several generations’ protection of eight-sound gongs and drums. 


Head of cultural center in Xingtan Chen Wenzhuan said, maybe Xingtan people have a born consciousness of protecting the cultural heritage, so every generation is sparing no effort to preserve this traditional music. 


Evolution: elders failed to hand down the skills 


"Performers are usually middle-aged people, so it lacks of young talents.” Liang Jiande said, gongs and drums went very popular in his childhood, especially during the celebration day in the village. 


"Most of young people don’t show interest in it.” Chen Wenzhuan said. People have no other entertainments except gongs and drums in the past, but nowadays they are keener to study pop music. 


In recent years, with the awareness of protecting cultural heritage increasing, the tradition of gongs and drums is gaining it revival through various means. 


Inheritance: save this intangible cultural heritage by cooperating with schools. 


How to protect and inherit this traditional culture? Xingtan has been feeling a sense of crisis about this traditional culture and put forward a thought to protect the culture with children. 


Since July in 2014, Xingtan formally established a cooperation relationship with Nanhua Primary school. It not only brings benefits to the inheritance of intangible cultural heritage, but also enriches students’ daily learning and entertainment. 


Xingtan sets its training base of eight-sound gongs and drums in Nanhua Quyi club. And every Saturday and Sunday students from Nanhua school will go there to study relevant knowledge. A fourth grade student Xiaohui said that he was fond of the eight-sound gongs and drums and it was the first instrument he learned. 


The 66-year-old Uncle Hong is also a performer of eight-sound gongs and drums. In order to save the intangible cultural heritage, he initiatively undertook the task of guiding the pupils to learn the eight-sound gongs and drums in the training base. “The youngest pupil is only 11 years old.” Uncle Hong said. Pupils have a deep interest in it and they learn it very fast. 


Photo from: http://www.fswmw.gov.cn/cwfs/201501/t20150112_1541944.htm 

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