Traditional music echoes at the Temple of Heaven
Published: Oct 07, 2023 12:17 AM
Photo: Courtesy of BMF

Photo: Courtesy of BMF

Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute from Han Dynasty poet Cai Wenji is a nearly 1,800-year-old music piece. 

At Beijing's Temple of Heaven, there is a place called the Divine Music Administration, a school that taught zhonghe shaoyue or simply yayue, known in English as mourning and accession ceremonial music only for imperial Chinese rituals dating back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. 

During the ongoing classic music fest Beijing Music FestivalChinese musician Gong Lina has turned the place into a stage to perform the piece adding a singing part on Wednesday, which allowed the audiences to travel back to the nomad place where Cai lived . 

Qinge or guqin songs, which Gong started singing over a decade ago, are an essential part of literati music, according to her.  . She had always held on to the idea of releasing the song for Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute for many years and she waited for the right chance.

Working with musicians Lin Chen, Wang Hua, Nie Yunle and Li Shang, Gong finally made it, releasing  the album and organizing a live performance too. 

The music piece follows Cai's legendary life, including being taken as hostage by Xiongnu nomads, giving birth to two sons with their Zuoxianwang or Wise King of the Left and returning to the homeland leaving the children behind.