Folk Songs of the Han

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Folk Songs of the Han Chinese: Characteristics and Classifications Author(s): Han Kuo-Huang
Source: Asian Music, Vol. 20, No. 2, Chinese Music Theory (Spring - Summer, 1989), pp. 107128 Published by: University of Texas Press
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Volume XX, number2

ASIAN MUSIC

Spring/Summer1989

FOLK SONGS OF THE HAN CHINESE:
CHARACTERISTICS AND CLASSIFICATIONS
by
Han Kuo-Huang
Introduction
Of the one billion people in China, over 93% belong to the Han nationality. Consequently,the Chinese cultureto which most scholarsrefer is usually the Han culture. However, within the Han Chinese culturethere are differences in custom, dialect, etc., due to historical events and geographic conditions. Chinese ethnomusicologists in recent years have developed the study of Han Chinese folk songs based upon geographic factors and have labelled this study "Music Geography." According to Miao Jing and Qiao Jianzhong, two prominent ethnomusicologists advocating this new approach,there are as many as eleven culture areas (which they call "similarcolor areas")of Han Chinese folk songs (1987: 58-61):

1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8)
9)
10)
11)

P
Northeastern lain
P
Northwestern lain
JiangHuai Plateau(northern iangsuand northern nhui)
J
A
Zhe Plain (southernJiangsu,southernAnhui, Zhejiang)
Jiang
Min Tai (FujianandTaiwan)
Yue (Guangdong)
JiangHan Plain (Hubei, southernHenan)
Xiang (Hunan)
Gan (Jiangxi)
Southwestern lateau
P
Kejia (Hakkapeople of variousplaces)

With the exception of the last-namedgroup (which is a widely-distributed a
sub-culture) ll the above divisions arebased upon geographicfactors. In the broadergeographicview, the Han Chinese culture may also be divided into northernand southernstyles, each of which is associated with one of the two majorrivers of China,the HuangHe (Yellow River) of

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108

Asian Music, Spring/Summer 989
1

the north and the Chang Jiang (Long River, also known as the Yangzi River) of the south. It is commonly assumedthatthe HuangHe basin is the cradleof Chinesecivilization. However,recentstudies (such as Miao 1988: 1) indicatethatotherriver basins have contributed qually to the shapingof e

Chinese civilization. Among them is the ChangJiangbasin, which is early
t
certainlyof equal importance o the HuangHe.
Anothersystem for classifying folk songs is by type, of which haozi ("worksongs"), shange ("mountainsongs"), and xiaodiao ("lyric songs") dominate. I propose to examine both systems, in sequence, in order to obtain as wide a perspectiveas possible on Han folk songs.

Differences between Northern and Southern Folk Songs
To the thinking of Miao Jing and Qiao Jianzhong (1987: 59), the division of Han Chinese folk songs into northern and southern styles follows other aspects of Chinese culture closely. In this division, environmentis seen as playing a significantrole. The HuangHe basin is a cold, dry and windy areawhere the main agricultural roductis wheat. The p

lower basin is frequently flooded. The rugged, intense and...
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