Ancient Naxi music: Sound from heaven in the end of the century
Ancient Naxi music also been called Dongjing music, strives for the artistic conception of mystery, peace, and aloof. “Dongjing” is the collective name of Taoism classical scripture. Dongjing music is used for rite and music activities of Taoism, also has the function of regimen. Therefore, it was popular in the Central Plain in Tang and Song Dynasties and spread various regions in Ming and Qing Dynasties, all officials and litterateurs strived to discuss and play them. Since late Qing Dynasty, the ancient music was declined and lost. So, it is dismal that the history of Chinese ancient music is called as “a history of silence”.
However, “Formalities lost among the upper class could be found in folk,” Dongjing music was preserved by a miracle at Lijiang, the localities of Naxi nationalities, is a region of remote and isolated geographical environment and people in there are addicted to literary and music. And the music had been mixed creatively and became the unique Ancient Naxi music. It is mixed with the solemnity, simple, and pure of Dongjing music, elegance of royal music, melody of Han nationality traditional stringed and woodwind instruments, and the folk song’s feature of Naxi nationality. It is art, history, even the life. Lijiang people live among mountains still have peace life, burn incense and have teas, and listen to the ancient music in peace when the world outside has be changed dramatically.
But, Xuan Ke, a legendary figure of Dianxi, made the “living fossil” been truly for people and enter the modern society. Xuan Ke, 67 years old, is the child came from the marriage of Han nationalities and Tibetan nationalities, graduated from missionary school. He worked as the conductor of Kunming City Cultural Troupe in 1950s. He and the current piano accompanist --- Fu Cong were the golden partners. But he was put in prison of a false charge for 28 years for “family background.” After been discharged, the “Geek of Dayan” saved ancient Naxi music firstly. With the help of the old artist of Mongolian, he explored and sorted out tens of melodies and reestablished Dayan Ancient Music Concert with hundreds of histories. In the fall of 1993, Ancient Music Concert went to Beijing to debut. After listening to these, authorities in Chinese music circles spoken highly of them, some even “be moved to tears.” The former president of Central Conservatory of Music, Mr. Zhao said that Ancient Naxi music was worth being national treasure and would have significant influence for music history and ethnomusicology research of China. Two years later, Xuan Ke and his partners went to British to perform. These melodies had shocked the world and the concert where the audience was much larger, all circles of British called them as “Primary melody comes from flourishing age” and “Unpolluted Chinese classical music.”  To date, this special band has played thousands of times, music fans comes from more than 60 countries and regions who travel far and wide to place among Yunling Mountain to listen classical and graceful sounds of nature.
The concert is located in a house built in Qing Dynasty of ancient Dayan city. The house has grey tile, white wall, and streaky stone step. In the front of the door is laid over fresh pine needles which are fragrance and soft, step on them feels very comfortable. It is said that the fresh pine needles are the gift presented to the guests from afar at the first meeting. Auditoriums are furnished with low stools and long tables which look simple and orderliness.
After a short while, musicians come out dressing with long gown and Mandarin clothing, walk slowly, and take their seats. Most of them are the aged, but they are healthy and aged persons with white hair and a rosy complexion, their pretty beards hanging before chest show a kind of long-lost ancient customs. Xuan Ke, working as the conductor and compere, wearing a blue long gown, is very courtly. He tells the source of this ancient music tirelessly in Chinese and English. And his witticism and humor always win endless applauses and laughter.
Musicians start with a piece of melody named “Eight Diagrams.” Along with an old and leisurely sound of “Eight----diagrams----”, and then a sound of gong rings, sound of music is heard from all around. Light flickering in full court, incense smoke curls up, sounds of wind instruments and string instruments mixes, and psalteries and harps as phase. “Eight Diagrams” is “tune of scripture,” the sound is sung in unison by men sounds like Taoism followers are chanting. It is so serious that make people sit properly and listen carefully. The songs of ancient music are different from common songs, which are sung by throat without abdomen and all in adagio. The musical instruments are the lost antiques, the oldest bronze musical instrument ---“Boling” has a history of more than 400 years and its voice is extremely beautiful and leaves one a deep impression; the others such as the pipa with crooked neck, Dihu made of phyllostachys aurea, “sugudu” (a kind of ancient Persian lute), bobo (also called bili), yuen-lo, and bass drum and so on all have a history of more than one hundred years but have not been damaged.
The beautiful music is being played with the tune of sophisticated or elated. It is the echoes of the past, the whisper of the heaven, a slight of the soul. Musicians are intoxicated with the music, sing in soft voice, and focus on it selflessly. Finally, the music rushes down with unexpected pretty rhythm, fades away and stop slowly.
Some historian said that Waves Washing the Sand had been lost as the melody but remaining the lyric, that is to say literary forms. But you will hear the original melody of Waves Washing the Sand in the moonlight night of Lijiang. The music instruments, such as sheng, xiao, qing, and bo start, several young girls dressing Naxi costumes sing songs along with the melody, “Beyond the curtain, the rain keeps pattering, the spring on the decline, the stain quilt is not enough…… The water flows, flowers fall, and the spring fades. It's a changed world.” Listening the slow knocks of hardwood clappers and mellow voice, feeling the sadness in the girls’ voice, people feel its striking charm in this moment in there. The listeners seems go back to the spectacular but sorrowful history for the music thrown them into a trance.
The charm of national culture is its uniqueness. Only holding the uniqueness and carrying forward though communicating and spread, the culture will be benefit double. Meanwhile, as the “past music”, Ancient Naxi music may be another simile left by history.
The happy journey begins here