Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 6 years 8 months ago

The purpose of Phase 3 is to provide a workspace where all information I have gathered can be shown in one space. I have chosen to organize my information in the format of background information being first, 3-5 information being second, local contact information being third and fourth being my answers to my previous questions in phase 1. 


I will know I am ready to move on to Phase 4 of the process when there is no more information left to collect and when my hangers and hooks have been finalized and ready to go.


Background Information:

Chinese musical instruments were once categorized into 8 seperate categories known as 八音 (bayin). There are 8 different sounds/tones, the different classifications include: silk (), bamboo (), wood (木), stone (石), metal (), clay (土), gourd (), and hide ().  


Silk instruments are mainly stringed instruments (which means any instrument that uses strings). The reason this category was named the silk category was due to the fact that a long time ago Chinese used twisted silk for their string, but nowadays metal or nylon strings are more commonly used. There are many instruments in this category though they may all be played differently they have the same common factor they all have string. Some examples of silk instruments include the 古琴 (Guqin), 古筝 (Guzheng), 二胡 (Erqin), 提琴 (Tiqin), or the 杨琴 (Yangqin). 


Bamboo instruments mainly refer to woodwind instruments which include flutes, oboes, and reed pipes. There are many instruments some of them are: 笛子 (Guanzi), 唢呐 (Suona), or the 巴乌 (Bawu).  


Wood instruments as referenced to their name are instruments made of wood. Instruments might include the 木鱼 (Muyu), or the 棒子 (Bangzi). 


The stone category mainly contains different forms of stone chimes. Such as the 编磬 (Bianqing), 特鐘 (Tezhong), or the 磬 (Qing). 


The metal category mainly consist of different types of gongs or bells. Some examples include 编钟 (Bianzhong), 大罗 (Daluo), or a 大清 (Daqing).


The clay category doesn't consist of many instruments but it does include instruments made of pots, or ocarinas. Such as the 埙 (Xun), or the 缶 (Fou). 


The gourd category  like its name consists of instruments made out of gourds. Instruments like the 葫芦丝 (Hulusi). 


The last category is comprised of instrements using hide or animal skin. The instruments include things such as the 大鼓 (Dagu), the 排骨 (Paigu) or one of the most well known the Chinese 拨浪鼓 (Bolanggu) which is a Chinese drum and toy. [3,6,7]


Chinese Music is able to distinguish itself from other forms of music due to its distinct tone and rhythm, it is also based on the five-tone scale. The music is also identifiable due to the traditional instruments used in the music. There is also a large usage of percussion instruments such as the cymbals, drums, and gongs. The instruments vary but some others used include: stringed instruments like the guzheng or wind instruments such as the flute. [4] There are many instruments that are specifically special to the Bai Minority (among others), instruments such as the Guanzi (管子), are used in many Bai minorical pieces.[5]


The music in Yunnan can also be called Dongjing music. Donging music uses many different instruments such as the pipa, sugudu, sanxian lutes, the reed pipes or the guqin and guzheng. [1 


Some popular songs include: 


Information from 3 - 5's:

Mr. T: As Mr. T has frequently been to Xizhou before he's given me very good references and sources. He refered to a "woman who works at Yangzhouran" who is in general the main cook and is in charge of the housekeeping staff. Apparently she likes to sing and has sheet music that could decipitate songs. He also refered me to the Dongjing music players and the concerts they might play. He told me that they might play concerts and the Linden Center. As well as that he told me that Naxi music and Dongjing music have some similarities as religion migrates around and influences the music in different areas. He also encouraged me to ask the players to come over for a evening, so that I could ask them questions and watch them when they play. He also said that there performances at the Linden Center were really like a practice session so it would be ok to ask them things. He also told me about a Mr.Dong who has done a little bit in order to preserve the Dongjing music. Most of the older musicians didn't start playing till they were around 60, and then kinda just joined the band. Once I start talking to people I will get more contacts and that'll help me get more local expertise. I should ask questions such as when did you start playing? or what do you like playing? and that will kind of bring out more about their history with the music. A friendly reminder was also to always have a recording device handy, so as to when music is playing I will be able to record it. Ms. Wang's son owns the antique shop and she's usually there. Apparently she usually carries around a little radio that plays Bai music. 


Mr. Linden: He said that the center knew the Dongjing music players, and that Xizhou had a music teacher. But the teacher moved to Zhoucheng, who teaches western and chinese music. He said that because I was looking a traditional music my main source would be the Dongjing music players. The traditional music is not very popular around young people, so that most of the people continuing the tradition are in their 50's. He also said that Dali music was very renowned for the gourd as it was a very easy instrument to make and carry around. But nowadays the instruments are actually more modern and many of them are stringed. Most of them use a bow, or are played with their fingers. Many of the instruments can be recognised to be from Han chinese culture. He also suggested that I should focus mainly on the Dongjing music players as many of them will be willing to help and they are very good friends of the program and the Linden center. He also introduced a new idea to me, of modernizing the pieces so that the younger people would be more interested. Some of the reason the younger people don't like it is because the music is very solemn and slow, as the early Daoist music was mainly associated with funeral music. 


Mr. Craig: He suggested I talk to the leader of the band as he would know a lot about the instruments and where they were made and how. He also said that the leader would probably know which member of the band would be most helpful to my particular project. He also introduced me to isabelle and how she could help me plan meetings with the local Dongjing music players, so I could gain information. I should probably start most of my interviews with the band members and slowly work my way up to asking those big questions. 


Ms. Mai: She told me that Ms. Duan would be a good resource, as she loves to dance and sing. Also Ms. Duan also has different types of instruments in her home, her husband is also the leader of the musician band. She again also referred to the Dongjing music players. She also told me to check Ethan and Ying yang’s projects, in order to get a better grip on music. She told me also about the San Xian, which is an instrument. Also she talked to me about the Yan compound, which is a museum of the Yan family. Apparently at that museum, there are often performances. Compared to Xizhou there will be more instrument makers in Dali  old town. She told me that the Dongjing music was forgotten at some point, because of Mao’s regime and the government he ruled over. Dongjing music was not played for a long time, which is why right now the music is being played so much in order to preserve it. Zhao Lao Shi also told me that people in the past have forgotten the melody’s and now they’re trying to preserve the music.  


Andrew: He told me that on average he hears the music on average about 4 months, and how if I ever got the chance to go to kormet fishing they will have recordings and there will be people dancing to it out on the lake. The Dongjing music sounds more Chinese and traditional/classical compared to more modern pop songs, and the discord sounds different that it doesn't immediately strike people as sounding nice. Most of the time the music doesn't immediately sound nice is because people are more used to hearing more modern songs nowadays then traditional music, so when they hear the music they're surprised because the sound doesn't sound familiar. A really popular song in the 2000's was called one night in Beijing, which was a traditional chinese song combined together with rock music in order to create something more modern. A lot of the traditional music is looked down upon by city folk because they see the older themes as to ancient. He also referenced a guy in Dali old town who has a combination shop, as in a salon together with a music lesson/instrument shop. The Dongjing music players would most likely know how to fix their instruments, who to go to, where to go, and how to make their instruments.


Frank: He said that the musicians use a lot of two stringed or three stringed instruments and flutes. He said that there weren't many instrument makers in this village or any others nearby. But many of the musicians currently in the Dongjing musicians made their own instruments. Such as one of the people who made a three stringed instrument made their own instrument. He said that the two stringed or three stringed use snake skin and wood together to make their instruments. He said that the Dongjing musician players chose the Linden center as their homebase becasue lot's of people here enjoy that music. That culture is always changing and that nothing ever stays in the old ways, and sometimes the players switch it up a little bit and play modern songs such as Jingle Bells. He told me about differnt songs such as Da Li San Miao Feng Guang Hu Dia Chuan Bian, and he said that people here sing this song and play this song. If anyone from Da li hears this song they will know immediately that the song is from Da Li. 


Su Mei: She told me a couple song names. She told me about deng li ju and how elderly really enjoyed listening to this kind of music. She told me that Dongjing music is a very special kind of music to Xizhou and the players often come to the center. She said that in Xizhou there aren't any people who make instruments but there are people who make them in Dali old town. She also told me about the San Xian which is an instrument using 3 strings and looks similar to a guitar and that it was made of wood. She also told me to ask the Dongjing music players about their instruments, as in where they made them or if they made them themselves.


Seb: He wasn't so interested in the music, but he did know that the music was very local. That it was a mixture of local music and taoism music. He also said that maybe in the spring festival I will hear the music being played in the courtyard. In general he knew of the Dongjing music players and that they played various kinds of instruments. Such as Er hu or Pi pa, Triangle, Gong, cymbals, or the Dizi. The instruments are mainly made of wood but some aren't. Usually there are more stringed instruments, then woodwind or others.


Xiao Tang: She said that the Dongjing music is a special music, originally started from the Bai area but it is not only found in Dali. She said it's also foundable in other places in Yunnan. She said that if I had a chance to see the Dongjing music performances, basically what they were using are the main instruments. In the New Year time there are people dancing and listening to music, and the music most of the time is Dongjing music. Also according to what she knows the music didn't chance during the Cultural Revolution, but merely stopped and restarted again recently. She said that the paper she gave to one of the previous groups, would not be relevant to my topic unless my focus was the same as a person in the other group. She also mentioned that one of the last groups, one of the people took western music and imbued it with Dongjing music. She said that there are places to buy instruments in Dali Old Town and the prices aren't extremely expensive. Last of all, she said to talk to the Dongjing music players or the people selling CD's next to the Golden Flower.


Isabelle: She said that the music is usually accompanied by dance performances. She also said that local people in their spare time will dance with music when they have time. Bai people and Naxi people in Lijiang both enjoy dancing and singing. In some traditional festivals they will have singing contests, where they will share their feelings and emotions. She thinks that the music represents love. As love is the most important thing, for the family and others. 


Annaliese: In general she told me about the history of the music and how it travelled from far away. A long time ago it was first formed in Lijiang and made its way over here to Dali. A band of musicians brought the music with them to Dali and performed it for the emperor. The emperor loved the music so much that he wanted the musicians to stay and teach it to the locals and eventually DongJing music was formed.


Information From Local Contacts:

Mr.Zhao (The leader of many Bai Music bands): When I talked to Mr.Zhao he shared a lot about his musical history, and his concerns regarding the younger generation. He has told me that many of his band members including him, started playing their instruments since they were children and have grown a fondness for that particular instrument. Since then they have all grown up to partake in a musical profession. When he was little he started with San Xian but along the way learned many other instruments such as the Erhu or the Dizi. He told me that he was particularly concerned for the younger generation and how they were slowly losing interest in the olden music. He was particularly happy that I chose to play San Xian for my project. He said that it was better for the younger generation to take interest, in order to keep traditions alive and going. 

Mr.Yang (The guard for YangZhouRan): Mr.Yang didn't know to much about music, but he is a potential audience member for the performances. Though he didn’t know very much about music in general, he did believe that it was played mainly for tourism or festivals, but rarely for personal purposes. Such as playing for the sake of playing.

Mr.Dong (The 88 year old scholar): When I visited Mr.Dong he showed me his wall, which was covered with instruments. He revealed to me various instruments such as an Erhu, a round guitar instrument and a woodwind instrument which I did not hear the name of, but it had two parts and gourd shaped part that connected to 3 wood pipes. He taught me a lot about Bai music in general. He said that the songs were different and that there were 4 different components: High, Low, Fast and Slow. He also mentioned that the music was something that brought people together to enjoy the musical.

Mr.Zhang (The one that makes instruments): When I first met him, I learned a lot about his backstory. Since he was little he had a huge admiration for Dongjing music in general, but when he grew up he became a wood carver. At some point in time he was tasked with the job to make a dresser for a musician and while completing the task it brought back his love of music. After that he decided to become an instrument maker, after many failures he finally perfected the craft and to this day he still makes instruments. During that process he even taught himself how to play several instruments such as the Erhu or the San Xian. He taught me the song Cao San Diao and small tunes so that I can practice. 

Mr.Zhang (The one that plays the Erhu): When I talked to him he told me that when he was little he started playing the Erhu on a whim. Some people believe that people start playing instruments because of their parents, and that they were forced to start playing. But he said that for most of the musicians that was not the case, and that they all began to play because it was something that they enjoyed and it made them happy. Perhaps some of them started because of their parents but eventually they grew to love playing. He said that they all played for the sake of playing, and really that is what authentic music is to me.


Answers to Previous Questions (Phase 1):

1. How has music affected the daily lives of the Bai Minority people who live in the village?

Possible Answer: If they have performances I believe that it affects the villagers because it brings them together to enjoy the music. Music is also one of ways to bring income to the village, such as when people pay to see performances or they come to the village specifically to listen to the music. 


2. How is it still part of their lives?

Possible Answer: They have performances in accordance with their festivals and they have performances for tourism. 


3. What are significant events that the music is part of?

Possible Answer: The music is part of many different festivals, and performances specifically for tourists in order to bring income. 


4. What festivals involve music?

Possible Answer: Chinese New Year, Autumn festival, Spring festival etc.


Making Their Instruments:

This category relates to the techniques people use nowadays to make their instruments, and the techniques used during the olden times.

5. What special ways do they make their instruments?

Possible Answer: They use mainly wood or reeds to make their instruments, so a lot of carving would be involved. To make an instrument takes a long time as making instruments is a skill that takes a long time to perfect. 


6. How do they compose their music?

Possible Answer: I think that they compose their music in accordance to the area they live in. Dongjing music means Cave Temple music. They compose their music in accordance with nature and whatever may inspire them. 


7. What types of instruments do they use the most?

Possible Answer: They use string and woodwind instruments the most. 


Music in General:

This category just lists my questions on how the music differentiates itself from others. 

8. What makes the music unique from all others?

Possible Answer: I think the Bai music is unique compared to all others due to the history that influenced it and the area it was created in. Most music people listen to nowadays correspond to composers who create the music in cities, comfortable homes or studios. Bai music was most likely composed in the countryside and relates to nature and the lives of the Bai people.


9. What are popular Chinese music pieces?

Possible Answer: 《岷江夜曲 《四季歌》 《绿岛小夜曲》 《海东调》 《栽秧调》《霸王鞭调》


History of Bai Music:

This category just talks about the general history of the Bai music and how it's changed to the form it's taken on today.

10. What is the history of Bai music?

Possible Answer: Bai music was brought to Xizhou by a band of traveling musicians who had learned the music from farther lands. When they came to Xizhou they performed their music for the emperor and the emperor enjoyed the music so much that the imbued it together with his empire’s daily life. He asked the musicians to teach the local people the music so that he could listen to the music as much as he wanted.  Eventually the villagers had all heard about this music and many of them had been turned villager to musician. To this day there are still many bands that play Dongjing music. 


11. Has anything influenced changes on to Bai Music along the way? 

Possible Answer: The Cultural Revolution, but besides that there was nothing else that was particular big. 

12. What changes has it caused with the Bai Music?

Possible Answer: Bai music was changed during the Cultural Revolution because Mao regulated entertainment use. He would not allow anyone to listen to music, but only certain songs that he chose and believed related to his cause. 

Source Information: 

1. Online: Wikipedia- Music of Yunnan,

2. Online: baidu- Music of the Bai

3. Online: Wikipedia- List of Chinese Musical Instruments,

4. Online: Culture Grams- China,

5. Online: Sounds of Nature

6. Online: 8 Traditional Sounds in Chinese Music,  

7. Online: The Sound of Silk and Bamboo,

8. Online: Popular Chinese Songs,

9. Mr.T (3-5)

10. Mr.Linden (3-5)

11. Mr.Craig (3-5)

12. Ms.Mai (3-5)

13. Andrew (3-5)

14. Frank (3-5)

15. Su Mei (3-5)

16. Seb (3-5)

17. Xiao Tang (3-5)

18. Isabelle (3-50

19. Annaliese (3-50

20. Mr. Zhao (Leader of many Bai Music bands)

21. Mr. Yang (The guard for YangZhouRan)

22. Mr. Dong (The 88 year old scholar)

23. Mr. Zhang (The instrument maker)

24. Mr. Zhang (The Erhu player)

Hello! I'm 13 years old and in 8th grade. I'm from Hong Kong and this is my 1st year in Shanghai. I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for 8 years, moved to Beijing for 4 and now I'm in Shanghai. I'm half cantonese, half taiwanese. Some of my hobbies include drawing, playing badminton, singing, and playing the piano and guitar. I have a huge passion for music and it's one of the biggest influences in my life. I've played guitar for 1 1/2 years and the piano for 10 years now. Now that I'm back in Shanghai I don't feel at all regretful that I chose to come on this journey. I miss the clear starry nights of Xizhou, the fresh air and the sense of calm being there gives me. This was an experience that I will never forget and I wish the future Microcampus kids the best of luck in their journey to come!