Across China: Chinese dulcimer artist creates melody of civilization dialogue

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-15 12:10:12|Editor: Liangyu
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by Xinhua writers Guo Ying, Zhao Wanwei

BEIJING, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Holding two bamboo mallets, one in each hand, and alternately hitting the strings on a trapezoid-shaped wooden instrument, Liu Yuening is intoxicated with the reverberating notes.

Liu, 54, a Chinese dulcimer artist and professor at the Beijing-based Central Conservatory of Music, has made a lot of friends all over the world through her performances. She believes "music can traverse language and geography to bring people closer."

According to Liu, dulcimer originated in the Middle East and has been transferred to more than 20 countries and regions over thousands of years. It was introduced to China through the Silk Road more than 400 years ago. A Chinese dulcimer, also known as a yangqin, is a localized Chinese national instrument that has a unique sound.

"Now various dulcimers are played in Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. They share the same fundamentals and variants bloom in different nations with their unique characteristics," Liu said.

As dulcimer artists are active in many Asian countries including India, Japan and Iran, Liu helped establish the Asian Dulcimer Association in 2018, aiming to build a platform for the integration and development of the Asian dulcimer family.

"I hope to build a stage to share the beauty of dulcimer music and promote a dialogue of civilization through dulcimers. It also serves as a platform for Asian dulcimer artists to go international," Liu said.

Liu has spent more than 10 years sharing traditional Chinese music overseas.

In 2009, she was extended the opportunity to study Indian music at the University of Delhi and conducted music exchanges with local musicians.

In India, the dulcimer is called a santoor, and she would introduce yangqin as "santoor's Chinese cousin" to find some common ground through musical conversation, Liu said.

Liu also staged performances with India's santoor artists and tabla drum performers, creating a blend of Indian and Chinese music.

Liu has been a fan of Indian poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore since she was young. In 2011, she joined a group of Indian musicians to perform a concert commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Tagore.

"Music has brought people from different cultures closer and created a magical bond of friendship," Liu said.

Liu also promotes Chinese dulcimer beyond Asia. In 2012, she helped set up the Music Confucius Institute in the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Denmark, offering courses on traditional Chinese instruments including yangqin.

"Compared with language and general concepts of Chinese culture, music is an easier way for our country to be understood. It helps present a multidimensional and panoramic view of China," Liu said.

With an increasing number of foreign audience starting to understand and love traditional Chinese music, Liu has been thinking of effective ways to share Chinese music overseas.

"Promoting traditional Chinese music does not mean simply showcasing an exotic music style to foreign audience. One way to win the hearts of foreign audience is to integrate it with local music traditions," Liu said.

In January, Liu and some other Chinese dulcimer artists staged performances by combining the dulcimer with the elements of American country music and jazz at the Second International Dulcimer Music Festival at Eastman School of Music in the United States.

"Chinese dulcimer has its unique charm and through its fusion with western music, the ancient instrument shows new vitality," Liu said.

In August, the Third International Dulcimer Music Festival will be held in Beijing, and dulcimer artists from Japan, India, Austria and the United States are expected to perform and exchange views on the instrument.

"I hope the musical exchange will contribute to communication across civilizations," Liu said.