Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 5 years 8 months ago

Background Information (from Phase 1, Step 4) :

-Bai Minority music usually consists of folk songs, dancing music, blow chamber music, and different instrument music. [1]

-Started when kings of Nanzhou and Dali loved the music and requested the musicians to stay and to teach others how to play this music. [2]

-Judging by a picture, music is sometimes performed in twos, the instrument looks handmade, and the performers are wearing bright colors. [2]

-Bai Opera, also known as chui chui, is an art form combining folk music and dancing. [2]

-Dance and music spread among the Han people after becoming accepted as part of court entertainment. [2]


Because of the long history of exchange with other people, the Bai Minority's music has a sort of mixed style. [1]

Bai Minority's Music Characteristics:

The structure of Bai Music is called shan hua ti (mountain flower). Every song has 8 sentences. The first sentence has 7 words, second sentence has 7 words, third sentence has 7 words, and the fourth sentence has 5 words. The last 4 sentences have the same number of words per sentence as the first four sentences. The 4 four sentences have the same rhythm as the last 4 sentences. [1]


Classification is based on location. One area of music is the Da Li Bai Zhu Diao. The music is popular in the Er Hai area. It was common to have a man and a woman singing a duet or someone singing a solo. The next area is called Jian Chuang Bai Zhu Diao. This music tells a story accompanied by 3 string instruments. The third area is music is called Er Yuan Xi Shan Bai Zhu Diao. This is when both men and women sing in their "real" voices. [1]


The instruments in Bai Minority Folk Music are mainly percussion instruments, stringed instruments, and traditional Chinese flutes. There are also festivals that use Suona Percussion, such as weddings, lion dances, and dragon boat festivals. Classical opera also has distinctive ethnic characteristics. [1]

Sources: [1] [2]

Note* Main article was in Chinese, had some trouble translating. 

Information About Chinese Music In General:

 Traditional Chinese music is thought to be 7,000 to 8,000 years based on the discovery of a bone flute made in the Neolithic Age. In the Zhou, Xia, and Shang Dynasties, only the royals and dignitary officials enjoyed music, which was then made on chimes and bells. In the Tang Dynasty, dancing and singing were the main entertainment. Also the introduction of foreign religons was around that time period, causing exotic melodies to be asorbed by the Chinese music. Original operas such as Zaju and Nanxi were performed in tearooms, theatres, and showplaces during the Song Dynasty. In the Ming and QIng Dynasties, the art of traditional opera developed rapidy. When these distinctive opera styles were performed at the capital, Beijing opera was developed. Besides these types of operas, Chinese peasants started to compose folk songs with local flavor. [3]

Music Instruments:

Traditional Chinese Instruments can be separated into 4 categories.: stringed instruments, percussion instruments, plucked instruments, and wind instruments. A few examples of these instruments are: Horse-Headed Fiddle, Lute (Pipa),  Erhu, and Flute. [3]

Sources: [3]

Information from Local Contacts

After getting Phase 2 Completed and Improved, it was time to get out and about in the village to talk to experts and discover new things everyday. Below are the information I gathered while interviewing many locals.

Ms. Duan

Ms. Duan is the owner of a yarn shop but has a passion for music. Her entire family, including her husband who I have also talked to, has had music has a part of their lives. She sang the song Bai Yue Bai Jie to me and Rory. The literal translation of the song title is White Moon, White Sister. She explained to me about how Bai Folk Music often tells stories about love, women, tragedy, etc. She said that this specific piece of music was about sisters and how they needn't be shy. She showed me many instruments, but I didn't exactly catch the names. She did show me an er hu, pi pa, and some sort of chinese flute. She told me that the movie, Five Golden Flowers, has affected many changes in music, dance, and singing. I went back to her house a couple of weeks later and learned some new information. She told me that music was not commonly written in staves, they used the "numbers" method. In the mountains, there are still people who play traditional music. Unfortunately, nobody in the village seems to play traditional music. The people in the mountains only speak Bai language.

Mr. Zhao

Mr. Zhao is the leader of the Donjing Music Band. I talked to him with Xiao Tang and Rory on September 27th at a performance place near Si Fan Jie. He plays many instruments (sorry in advance for the pin yin mistakes) such as the er hu, di zi, san xuan, da ran, xiao ran, da hu, jin hu, yan qing, gu zhen, and many more. He still plays. When he was little, he enjoyed hanging out with senior musicians who still practiced Traditional Bai Music. This is how his love for music started. Mr. Zhao informed me of the changes of Bai Music. It seems that the changes are measured as "Before Five Golden Flowers (a movie that came out during the Great Leap Forward) and "After Five Golden Flowers." He said that traditional song lyrics answered each other. Performers usually improvise the lyrics to tell a conversation, but never change the melody. He said that the music in Five Golden Flowers was "prettier" and "fancier."  That traditional music was more "simple", and sometimes could be called "messy." He pointed out that traditional music was not regulated, as there was not a "script" to follow. The movie took the "best" part of different pieces and created a "new" and "improved" style of music. Mr. Zhao said that the movie helped musicians regulate traditional music. The movie "cleaned up the rules." Traditional music was mostly free and up to the performer. For example if you wanted to sing long and loud you could. There were no "rules." You could say that this movie made more people become musicians. The music is also written in "jian pu" form. 

Mr. Dong

Mr. Dong is an eighty-four year old man who learned how to play instruments in the army. He has an instrument collection and showed Christina, Mr. T, and me them. He played some tunes on various instruments that I have never seen before. I started to compare my own violin with his instruments. I saw how each instrument worked and recognized many of the parts. For example on the ba hu, a stringed instrument that you bow, there are two wire strings. The bow is made of bamboo and horse hair. A thing that stood out was how the bow was "attached" to the instrument. The bridge of the instrument was also a simple shape and the tuners are simpler. The instruments seem to be hand-made and made of wood. Mr. Dong gave us some advice about our futures. He told us that we have to remember each moment and to study things deeply. He wrote down four characters. The phrase basically represents how he feels when he plays. "When I play, I feel very happy. I feel like I am in heaven, that nothing is more calming or beautiful than music."

Information from Other Sources

Papers from the Linden Centre about the Donjing Music Band

Rory and I went to the Linden Centre to see if we could find some reading material about Bai Music and Dance. We found some papers that talked about the Donjing Music Band and Donjing Music. The 3 main influences of Dongjing Music is Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Donjing music is a popular genre of folk music. It is a combination of court music and musical styles. 

Information from 3-5s

Mr. T told me that there are some musicians who have experienced the Cultural Revolution. He mentioned how music was "banned" during this time. 

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1, Step 5)

How are instruments made?

-Instruments are either hand-made from wood or factory made. 

What instruments are played?

-There are hundreds of Chinese Instruments. Some are the: er hu, di zi, san xuan, da ran, xiao ran, da hu, jin hu, yan qing, gu zhen, others, and many more.

What impact does music have on people's lives?

-Music can have an economical, social, mental, physical, and emotional impact on people. It really depends on the person. Music could have made them poorer, happier, richer, it really depends. You have to talk to a person and learn about their story to really tell how much impact music has had on their life.

What other genres of music have influenced Bai music?

-Dongjing music, and religons, such as Daoism, Buddhism, etc.


Hi! My name is Rebecca and I am 14 years old. I was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and have lived in Connecticut and now, China. This will be my 3rd year at SAS. I am back in Shanghai and was very excited to be part of the September-October Microcampus trip! Xizhou is an incredible place with friendly locals and breath-taking scenery. I wish lots of fun to future groups and hope you enjoy this journey as much as I did.