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Home History and Culture Chinese Folk Vocal Art Forms
Chinese Folk Vocal Art Forms
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

 Nanyin
Quyi (qǔ yì 曲艺) refers to folk vocal art forms (mín jiān kǒu tóu yìshù 民间口头艺术) such as ballad singing (mín gē 民歌), story-telling (píng shū 评书), comic dialogue (xiǎo pǐn 小品), clapper talk (kuài bǎn 快板) and crosstalk (xiàng sheng 相声).

As an ancient performing art in China, quyi is a general term that covers several different types of performances in which speech, singing or both are used. Stone sculpture unearthed in Sichuang Province shows that the art existed early in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). As an independent art, it was formed in the middle Tang Dynasty and flourished in the Song Dynasty. Now more than 300 forms of quyi are popular among all ethnic groups throughout the country.

ErrenzhuanDeeply rooted in China, the art is divided into three style categories and subdivided into 400 parts the three major styles are story-telling, story-singing, and joke-telling.

Story-telling can be either words alone, or words accompanied by music. One of the most representative non-music styles in the North is called Pingshu (píng shū 评书); the same style in the South is called Pinghua (píng huà 评话).
 
The most important form of joke-telling is Xiang sheng (xiàng sheng 相声), or crosstalk, the comic dialogue of Northern China, which in the South is called Huaji (huá jī 滑稽), comic words in Chinese.
 
Story-singing seems to have the largest sub-group. Each style has a strong local flavor in either its accent or music.
 


Meihua DaguThe major categories are as follows:
 
Beijing Qinshu (běi jīng qín shū 北京琴书) - This form of ballad-singing originated with farmers who liked to sing stories in their spare time. No professionals practised the art until the mid-19th century. The singing is usually accompanied by dulcimer (yáng qín 扬琴), but now sanxian (sān xián 三弦), and sihu (sì hú 四胡a four-stringed instrument) are sometimes added. The art is popular in Beijing and Tianjin.
 
Errenzhuan (èr rén zhuàn 二人转) - Also known as Bengbeng (bèng bèng 蹦蹦), this is a very popular art in Northeastern China. It is said to date from the early 19th century. The art is often performed by two persons, a man and a woman. It, which contains speaking, singing, playing, and dancing, is a walk-and-sing type of musical art. It is characterized by its humorous and strong local accent of the Northeastern China.
 
DanxianDanxian (dān xián 单弦) - In this art one person sings while playing sanxian, a three-stringed plucked instrument. It is very popular in the north. The art is performed in two styles. In one, the singer is accompanied by a second person playing sanxian. In the other, one person sings and plays by himself.
 
Dongbei Dagu (dōng běi dà gǔ 东北大鼓) - It is said that a ballad singer from Beijing brought this form of ballad-singing to Northeastern China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is generally sung by one person who beats time to the accompaniment of sanxian played by a second person on stage.
 
Dujiaoxi (dú jiǎo xì 独角戏) - Also known as "comic play," this form of art is popular around Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. It is originated in about 1920. Generally it is played by less than three persons, and combines singing, talking, performance and oral skills similar to those used in crosstalk.
 

Henan ZhuiziHenan Zhuizi
(hé nán zhuì zǐ 河南坠子) - This form of ballad-singing is popular in Henan Province, where it was formerly called Daoqing (dào qíng 道情) and Yinggeliu (yīng gē liǔ 莺歌柳). It has borrowed much from other folk arts like Shandong Dagu, Sanxianshu (sān xián shū 三弦书) and Qinshu (qín shū 琴书). Growing from a local art, it first spread to Beijing, Tianjing and Shanghai in the 1920s, and gradually became one of the most popular arts throughout the country.
 
Meihua DaguJingyun Dagu (jīng yùn dà gǔ 京韵大鼓) - This form of ballad-singing grew from a folk art called Muban Dagu (mù bǎn dà gǔ 木板大鼓) in Cangzhou and Hebei. It is now popular in Northeastern China and Hebei Province. Its repertoire is comprised of short stories that can be completed in about two hours.
 
Laoting Dagu (lào tíng dà gǔ 乐亭大鼓) - This ballad-singing art, popular in Hebei Province, originated in Hebei's Leting County where locals are said to be good at singing. Its repertoire includes many classical Chinese literature works like "Journey to the West (xī yóu jì 西游记)."
 
Meihua Dagu (méi huā dà gǔ 梅花大鼓) - This is a ballad singing art popular in Beijing and Tianjin. It is also known as Qingkou Dagu (qīng kǒu dà gǔ 清口大鼓), and Meihua Diao (méi huā diào 梅花调). It originated in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
 
Nanyin (nán yīn 南音) - Also known as Nanqu (nán qǔ 南曲), Nanguan (nán guǎn 南管), Nanyue (nán yuè 南乐), and Xianguan (xián guǎn 弦管), this ballad-singing art is popular in Fujian, Taiwan and Southeastern Asia.
 
Crosstalk - Xiangsheng, is a language art combining four basic techniques: speech, mimicry (mó fǎng 模仿), comedy and song. Xiangsheng can be performed by one person or more, but the most common form is two people. Crosstalk performers try to use funny conversations to make the audience laugh.
clapper talk
Quyi has a wide mass basis and a strongly Chinese flavor. Many excellent quyi items reflect the Chinese people's thought, ideals and moral aspirations; many works sing the praises of national heroes, honest officials, and faithful lovers.
 
曲艺
 
      曲艺是中华民族各种说唱艺术的统称,它是由民间口头文学和歌唱艺术经过长期发展演变形成的一种独特的艺术形式。
 
      曲艺发展的历史源远流长。早在古代,我国民间的说故事、讲笑话,宫廷中俳优(专为供奉宫廷演出的民间艺术能手)的弹唱歌舞、滑稽表演,都含有曲艺的艺术因素。Jiaodong Dagu到了唐代,讲说市人小说和向俗众宣讲佛经故事的俗讲的出现,大曲和民间曲调的流行,使说话伎艺、歌唱伎艺兴盛起来,自此,曲艺作为一种独立的艺 术形式开始形成。到了宋代,由于商品经济的发展,城市繁荣,市民阶层壮大,说唱表演有了专门的场所,也有了职业艺人,说话伎艺,鼓子词、诸宫调、唱赚等演 唱形式极其昌盛,孟元老的《东京梦华录》、耐得翁的《都城纪胜》都对此作了详细记载。明清两代及至民国初年,伴随资本主义经济萌芽,城市数量猛增,大大促 进了说唱艺术的发展,即一方面是城市周边地带赋有浓郁地方色彩的民间说唱纷纷流向城市,它们在演出实践中日臻成熟,如道情、莲花落、凤阳花鼓、霸王鞭等; 一方面一些老曲种在流布过程中,结合各地地域和方言的特点发生着变化,如散韵相间的元、明词话逐渐演变为南方的弹词和北方的鼓词。这一时期新的曲艺品种, 新的曲目不断涌现,不少曲种已是名家辈出流派纷呈。我们今天所见到的曲艺品种,大多为清代至民初曲种的流传。
 
      据调查统计,我国仍活跃在民间的曲艺品种有400个左右,流布于我国的大江南北,长城内外。这众多的曲种虽然各自有各自的发展历程,但它们都具有鲜明的民间性、群众性,具有共同的艺术特征。其表现为:

      Suzhou Pingtan(一)以“说、唱”为主要的艺术表现手段。说的如相声、评书、评话;唱的如京韵大鼓、单弦牌子曲、扬州清曲、东北 大鼓、温州大鼓、胶东大鼓、湖北大鼓等等鼓曲;似说似唱的(亦称韵诵体)如山东快书、快板书、锣鼓书、萍乡春锣、四川金钱板等;又说又唱的(既有无伴奏的 说,又有音乐伴奏的唱)如山东琴书、徐州琴书、恩施扬琴、武乡琴书、安徽琴书、贵州琴书、云南扬琴等;又说又唱又舞的走唱如二人转、十不闲莲花落、宁波走 书、凤阳花鼓、车灯、商 花鼓等。

      (二)曲艺不像戏剧那样由演员装扮成固定的角色进行表演,而是由不装扮成角色的演员,以“一人多角”(一个曲艺演员可以模仿多种人物)的方式,通过说、唱,把形形色色的人物和各种各样的故事,表演出来,告诉给听众。
 
      traditional performance(三)曲艺表演的简便易行,使它对生活的反映快捷。曲目、书目的内容多以短小精悍为主,因而曲艺演员通常能自编,自导,自演。与戏剧演员相比,曲艺演员所肩负的导演职能,尤为明显。
 
      (四)曲艺以说、唱为艺术表现的主要手段,因而它是诉诸人们听觉的艺术。也就是说曲艺是通过说、唱刺激听众的听觉来驱动听众的形象思维,在听众形象思维构成的意象中与演员共同完成艺术创造。
 
      (五)为使听众享受到如闻其声,如见其人,如临其境的艺术美感,曲艺演员必须具备坚实的说功、唱功、做功,并需具有高超的摹仿力。只有当曲艺演员具有了活泼泼的动人技巧,对人物的喜怒哀乐刻划得惟妙惟肖,对事件的叙述引人入胜,才能博得听众的欣赏。
Quyi
      以上是400来个曲艺品种艺术特点的不同程度的近似之处,是它们的共性。而400多个曲种各自独立存在,自有其个性。不仅如此,同一曲种由于表演者之各有所长,又形成不同的艺术流派,即使是同一流派,也因为表演者的差异各有特色,这就形成曲坛上百花争艳的繁荣景象。
 

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