Naxi Ancient Music, Lijiang

● Chinese name: 纳西古乐 

● Location: Naxi Ancient music hall, Sifang Steet, Gucheng District, Lijiang 674100, China

● Recommended visit time: 1.5 hours

● Show Time: 20:00-21:30

● Entrance fee: 160 yuan(A Ticket); 140 yuan(B Ticket); 120yuan (C Ticket)

● How to get there: Take taxi or bus to the north gate of Lijiang Old Town,then walk around 5 minutes from the gate to Naxi Ancient Music Concert Hall

● Best time for visit: Everyday

● Three “ancients” in Naxi Ancient Music: Ancient Music, Aged Instrument,Aged Player(most of players who are above 70-year-old)

● Promoter of Naxi Ancient Music: Xuan Ke


‣ About Naxi Ancient Music

The Ancient Naxi Music is a living musical fossil of human civilization; it contains sacred cultural heritage of Chinese history and has great importance in Chinese cultural development as well as the world music industry.

The Naxi people live in the area of “three parallel rivers” northwest of the Yunnan province. They enjoy the lifestyle of being very close to the nature and wild lives, and they are born talent dancers and singers. Thanks to the unique geographic and natural environment of Lijiang City, the diversified culture groups have been living in harmony.

The Naxi music reflects the rich cultural diversity; it is deeply rooted and widespread in the social, economic and daily lives among Naxi people. Naxi music would be performed in various forms like wedding songs, banquet performance, entertaining musicals, funeral dirges and so on.

Naxi Ancient music is composed of Baisha Orchestral Music (白沙细乐), Dongjing Music (洞经音乐) and Huangjing Music (皇经音乐) which combining religious rites music in Taoism, ceremony music of Confucian, poetry writing of Tang, Song Yuan Dynasty and Qupai Tune Music(曲牌音乐) into its own music style. With three characteristics, say ancient melodies, ancient instruments and aged musicians, Naxi Ancient Music is praised as the fossil of music. In Lijiang Ancient Town, the performance of Dayan Naxi Ancient Music attracts visitors in and abroad every night and becoming one of the highlights during trip to Lijiang.They have achieved great success and gained tremendous support and popularity. They were then invited to the UK and Norway attracting tens of thousands of fans, creating quite a phenomenon and raising much international attention.

‣ The Glamour of the Ancient Naxi Music

Although people could hear Naxi music in restaurants taxis and many other places, when listening to the music in this hall they will still be shocked.
Naxi Ancient Music is moving. Visitors could feel nature, peace and tranquility when listening to Naxi Ancient Music. It has been passed down through a set of rigorous rules.

Many of the musicians are in their 80s or 90s now. The instruments used in the performance are also aged, such as the sugudu, pipa, reed pipe, bamboo flute, huqin, sanxian, Chinese gong chimes, wooden fish and inverted bell and so on. This is the Chinese “Buena Vista Social Club”.

Tourists have enjoyed the performance of Naxi music a great deal, thus in recent years it became part of the official tourism program of the Lijiang tour. These old artists not only just play in Lijiang, but they have been invited to perform in Kunming, Guangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong and overseas such as British, France, Norway and Finland. Old people performed old music with old instruments. It was not often to get an opportunity to experience it.

‣ The Structure of the Ancient Naxi Music

Baisha Orchestral Music

The exact history of Baisha Orchestral Music is hard to trace for there are many different ideas between local historical materials and historians. The popular saying is that it has existed since Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) brought to Yunnan by Mongolian. Baisha Orchestral Music once disappeared before the founding of People’s Republic of China but reproduced by culture department of Lijiang by studying materials and visiting musicians. The music style of Baisha Orchestral Music is mainly slow melodies or soft fluent melodies expressing plaintive and using scales of five tunes, six tunes or seven tunes. Instruments of Baisha Orchestral Music is mainly use Naxi music instruments which also reflect combination of different minority ethnic groups. The instrument can divide into three groups according to playing system: the first group is blowing instrument with flute as the main instrument and clarinet, Bobo (Naxi music instrument made from bamboo) as secondary instrument; the second group is stringed instruments with Chinese lute (琵琶), Chinese zither (筝, which is barely use nowadays in Naxi Ancient Music) and Sugudu (苏古笃, stringed instrument of Naxi minority ethnic group which also called Hubo or Huobusi); the third group is just Erhuang (二簧, stringed instrument of Naxi minority ethnic group which looks like urheen in Han minority ethnic group). The arrangement of instruments is subject to occasion and capital differs from three or four musicians to more than ten musicians with aged ones in the front and younger ones in the back. Before the founding of People’s Republic of China, Baisha Orchestral Music is almost played as funeral music while nowadays it also can be found in other type of ceremonies. The funeral of Naxi minority ethnic group lasts for three days, so that Baisha Orchestral Music also played for three days in different orders and melodies.      

Dongjing Music

Dongjing Music in Lijiang is a combination of music from Taoism, Confucian and local Naxi music with a long history in Naxi minority ethnic group. The first characteristic of Dongjing Music is the combination of Taoism and Confucian music which is similar to rites music in Taoism while not using Suona (唢呐, looks like trumpet) forming a delicate style like the music in Confucian. The second characteristic of Dongjing Music is that it preserving some poetries and Qupai Tune Music which is already disappeared in central China that they were original created. For example, Bagua (八卦, the Eight Diagrams) in Dongjing Music, is proofed to be originated from the two Toism music, say Nichang Yuyi Dance Music (霓裳羽衣舞曲) and Ziwei Bagua Dance Music (紫微八卦舞曲), in 741 promulgated by Li Longji (李隆基, the emperor of Tang Dynasty ruled during 712-756 who led the country to its most prosperous period), the former has already disappeared while music part of the latter one is still existing in Dongjing Music. The representative of Dongjing Music is Lang Tao Sha (浪淘沙) which is created according to the poetry writing by Li Yi (李煜, emperor of South Tang ruled during 961 to 975 who has high accomplishments in art aspect) presenting solemn and magnificent melody.

Musicians of Naxi Ancient Music

Inheriting Naxi Ancient Music is quite strict that passed from masters to disciples or fathers to children in oral form one tunes to another. The present chairman of Dayan Ancient Music Research Association (大研古乐研究会) is a 70 years old man called Xuan Ke (宣科) who explains the background of music to be played in Chinese and English during the performance. Mr. Xuan had led the group of Dayan Ancient Music Research Association, including the oldest musician who is more than 80 years old, to visit United Kingdom, France, Norway, Finland and other 10 countries and regions to present Naxi Ancient Music and gained warm welcome and high praise. With old musicians passing away, there are more and more young musician join the association to carry forward Naxi Ancient Music.