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Echoes of Hakka Earth Castles to Be Heard in US
A symphony combining vivid Chinese folk songs and Western classical music to portray the history of an immigrant group of people will be performed in Connecticut of the United States in mid November.

Prof. Zheng Xiaoying, a world-renowned symphony director as well as China's top female conductor, is scheduled to leave Saturday for the United States at the invitation of Wesleyan University to lead the university's orchestra in performing the Echoes of Hakka Earth Castles.

Meanwhile, the composer of the symphony, Liu Yuan, and two Hakka folk musicians will accompany Prof. Zheng.

The Chinese symphony will be performed during the annual music festival of Wesleyan University, a top US college in the field of ethnomusicology. A typical seminar on blending Western music with Oriental music will be held at the same time.

Hakka people, popularly known as descendants of a tribe of ancient Han people, China's largest ethnic group, are believed to have been moved six times in the past centuries from north and northwest China to east China's Jiangxi and Fujian provinces and southern Guangdong Province, areas at the time mostly peopled with ethnic minorities.

The name of the symphony derives from the Hakkas of west Fujian who built up a number of square, round earth castles called tulou in the Chinese or Han language, meaning "earth buildings," which are unique and indigenous to their area of China.

Made up of five movements, the symphony uses two old Hakka folksongs as the theme, with a number of beautiful tunes recomposed from the Hakka music.

During the 37-minute performance, two Hakka folk musicians will perform with the orchestra, displaying the symphony's uniqueness and indigenousness.

Li Tiansheng, a 74-year-old reputed as the "King of Hakka singers," will sing a folk song in the second movement, describing homesickness and the hope of Hakkas compelled to leave their hometowns to make a living abroad.

At two performances given in Beijing recently by the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, and also led by Prof. Zheng, Li's tender and powerful performance moved the audiences, most of whom know little about the history of Hakkas people and even do not understand the Hakka dialect.

The second Hakka performer surprises the audience by using only a leaf instead of any man-made music instrument during the third movement of the symphony.

Qiu Shaochun is one of the few popular Hakka musicians who know how to play this traditional musical instrument, which once was widely sung and enjoyed by local farmers and cowboys.

The name "Hakka" comes from the people's dialect and in the Han language or Chinese translates to "Kejiaren," or "guests."

About 60 million Hakkas are scattered far and wide around the world and an annual Hakka conference is held in different countries.

Echoes of Hakka Earth Castles debuted at the international Hakka conference held in Longyan City of Fujian Province in the year 2000.

At that concert Hakkas from around the world joined the chorus in singing the folk song in the last movement of the symphony, said Prof. Zheng Xiaoying, who was herself born into a Hakka family.

"They share the same emotion and feelings as the symphony," she said.

Liu Yuan, the symphony's composer, has also lived for 11 years in a Hakka residence in the western part of Fujian Province.

"I would like to dig out the soul of Hakkas as a group who had to leave their hometowns and aspire and work very hard for a new world," he said.

Echoes of Hakka Earth Castles has won not only Hakka fans but also Westerners as well.

Prof. Janice Engsberg, who worked in China for 15 consecutive years and now teaches in prestigious Xiamen University in southern part of Fujian Province, has visited Hakka earth buildings five or six times.

"It is indeed a great wonder that a typical Chinese symphony could evoke my feelings and sentiments about the history of my own family," she said. "My grandparents left Germany for the United States in the late 19th century to look for a new world and I myself came to China from the United States to find my own world."

The symphony was performed in Japan in April this year. A 100-member Japanese chorus sang the Hakka folk song at the last movement in Hakka dialect.

According to Prof. Zheng, the US chorus would also love to sing the song in genuine Hakka dialect.

(Xinhua News Agency November 9, 2002)

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