A Taiwan troupe dedicated to the protection of one of the oldest extant music genres presented its latest production in Beijing on Wednesday night. Inspired by a Tang Dynasty painting, The Hantang Yuefu Music Ensemble has revived Nanyin, or the Southern Tones, which were popular in South China more than one thousand years ago.
The night unravels in the shimmering light at the residence of Han Xizai, who sadly ponders the fall of the Southern Tang Dynasty, and is about to disband his mansion's troupe of dancers and musicians. His contemplation is disrupted by the arrival of several guests, who are welcomed with dances and music to give an illusion of peace and prosperity.
The dance traces its inspiration to the eponymous Tang Dynasty painting, "Night Entertainment of Han Xizai," by artist Gu Hongzhong. The painting depicts the story of late Tang bon vivant Han Xizai, who gave up a life of luxury and became a wandering musician to protest against a world of political chaos and low morality.
Since the dance generally lacks dramatic confrontation, the music and the elegant moves of the dancers take the spotlight.
Nanyin music originated from the city of Quanzhou, in South China's Fujian province. It flourishes later in Southeast Asia with the local descendants emigrating overseas to Taiwan,as well as to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. In the telling of this tale, deeply introverted Nanyin music is wedded to subtle modern movements inspired by the ancient tradition of Liyuan dance.