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In Pursuit of Lost Ancient Imperial Chinese Music
A group of infatuated classical musicians hold that they have found traces of a vanished form of imperial Chinese court music in folk songs popular in Shaoshan Village, in central-south China's Hunan Province.

On Dec. 26 last year, local musicians played two distinct pieces in the "Shao music" style, adapted from the Chinese lyrics classics, the Book of Songs and Nine Songs. They used traditional Chinese musical instruments including the Zheng, a 21- or 25-string plucked instrument similar to a zither, and the "Xiao," a vertical bamboo flute. The performance went down a treat.

Liu Zhenqiu, vice-chairman of the Hunan Provincial Associations of Musicians, said "Shao music", a kind of musical epic that combines poetry, music and dance, was designed to eulogize the fine deeds of Shundi, one of the legendary emperors of ancient China.

"Shao music was the best of ancient Chinese court music and themost played musical style, and occurs in literary records through the ages," said Liu, who added it sank into oblivion during the late period of China's last imperial dynasty, namely Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

According to historical records, Shao music has the power to move and fascinate audience. A legend goes that Emperor Shundi wasbesieged by brave ethnic Miao tribesmen when traveling through the mountains of central-south China. But the ethnic Miaos dropped their weapons and danced when Shundi's men played them Shao music.

After meticulously studying the theory of Shao music and other related historical records, researchers in Hunan consider the present day Mt Shao was probably the massive mountain where Emperor Shundi was besieged.

And Shaoshan Village not far from Mt Shao is the birthplace of the late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong. Because of Mao, local tourism has flourished and a city has emerged around the village.

Mrs. Pang Xiangrong from the Shaoshan City Committee of the Communist Party of China said, as part of the city's efforts to explore local tourism cultural resources, a group of experts had been organized to study Shao music.

The researchers have spent over two years collecting and collating historical material, and several reports on the results have been written.

"We hope Shao music can be heard at a ceremonial event organized to mark the 110th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong, which falls on Dec. 26 this year," she said.

City authorities have also started to capitalize on the Shao music name by registering Shaoyue, (Shao music), noted Peng, as trademarks to be used exclusively by 10 kinds of local commodities.

(Xinhua News Agency January 2, 2003)

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