About Xingshan Folk Song 兴山民歌

The Xingshan folk song distributes at all villages and towns of Xingshan County and their around areas to the east, south and north. Because of its unique "Xingshan Third Interval", it is named "Xingshan Folk Song" by the Chinese.

In the Han Dynasty, Xingshan County belonged to the south district. In the 3rd year of Emperor Jing of Wu (260) during the Three Kingdoms Period, Xingshan(兴山Xīngshān) County was set in the north of Zigui. The Xingshan Mountain is part of Daba Mountains. It is located at the north Xiling Gorge of Yangtze River, facing Yichang City and Baokang County at the east, linking with Shennongjia forest area to the north, and connecting to Badong County at the west. Scientific surveys demonstrate that Xingshan folk song at least has a definite history of 800 years. When Su Dongpo listened to songs sung by gangs of Huangzhou people, he said, "The sound does not comply with Shi Er Lu (i.e. the standard pitches)". So we can infer that the rhythm of this song had spread for over 900 years; in Listen to Lizhong’er Songs at Jianping, Liu Yuxi said: "Listen to it, Noble Melody", which traced its history to middle Tang Dynasty. In view of its structure in accord with Marquis Yi Set-Bell Third Temperament, we can trace its historical origin to 2,400 years ago.

The tone of ancient folk song is peculiar and unknown. People can’t tell its pitch and mode. And it’s not easy to sing. In fact, it has an interval between major third and minor third in scale structure, named "Xingshan Third Interval". This unique interval proves that Jin-Chu music culture has an oral culture in line with the standard pitches of musical instruments from archaeological discovery. The uniqueness of Xingshan folk song not only lies in the effect of hearing its proper tone, but also consists in its special esthetic sentiment. Xingshan folk song always gives sorrowful impression to the "outsiders", who regard it as "tune of crying for the dead".

From folk-song-styled verse set up by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty to the classic music made by Emperor Taizong in the Tang Dynasty, both of them have records for "sadness" and "sorrow" of Chu style; all the descriptions for tone of Bamboo Branch song show the same opinion and song the tone of "sorrow and worry" without exception. Until now, people still regard Xinshan folk song as "sad sound". Actually, this cognition is quite different from the feeling of Chu people, who took this song as pleasure! This is only because people living in different regions have different esthetic minds. The so-called phenomenon of taking "sadness" as "pleasure" is just the aesthetic (used to talk about beauty or art, and people’s appreciation of beautiful things)feature of ancient Jinchu songs.

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