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Ningbo Zoushu
2019-12-19 14:57 Text Size: A A A

Previously known as Lotus Wenshu, or Lihua Wenshu, Ningbo Zoushu art represents one of local operas in Ningbo dialect favored by the Hans of Ningbo. Ningbo Zoushu was a name settled in 1956. First taking shape in a village of Yuyao in between 1875 and 1908, Zoushu was introduced into Ningbo city in late Qing Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty, and later into Zhenhai District and Zhoushan. In the 1950s and 60s, the singing art went popular in broader regions to include Linhai, Tiantai, Huangyan, Hangzhou other than Ningbo and Zhoushan. The art form withered in the 1990s.

Mouth-to-mouth rumor has it that Ningbo Zoushu(walking singing art) came into being in Shangyu. At that time, laborers working in the field sought to shake off tiredness by entertaining themselves with singing. The singing shifted from small tunes to pieces with plots, accompanied by nothing but a pair of bamboo clappers and bamboo root tips with simple tunes. During the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908), the singing form was spread to villages in Yuyao. Later, farmers, vendors and manufactures dedicated to the folk art in their spare times established Hangyu Society, where they exchanged experience and studied the related books. Among them was Xu Shengchuan, a senior practitioner, who was very popular among the general public as he drew upon tunes of Lotus singing from Shaoxing and took the initiative to sing to the accompaniment of Yueqin, a four-stringed plucked instrument. He has inspired many performers to play varied instruments for accompaniment and they upgraded their performances by learning from Siming Nanci, Ningbo Tanhuang and local tunes. Meanwhile, Story of Four Wives, Jade Chain, and other long pieces were added to their performances. The performances were extended into Ningbo, Zhoushan and Taiwan. At first, Ningbo Zoushu was performed by a single person, and later, simple accompaniment was added with the performer sitting behind the desk and the band sitting besides the desk. Performing behind the desk, singers were called Li Zoushu (Inner Zoushan) as they did their job behind the desk with limited space. On the other hand, some were called Wai Zoushu (Outer Zoushan) as they had a spacious area for performance. Some distinctive performers were pretty well-known at that time, such as the performance of Xie Baochu from west Yin County, vocal music of Duan Desheng from downtown Ningbo and Kungfu of Mao Quanfu from north Cixi.

Zoushu is so named because performers walk and sing while Nanci performers sit and sing. Zoushu performers can do their job alone on the stage, singing with simple languages that won’t cause misunderstanding or comprehension failure. There is no limit to the number of accompaniment. Tunes are rich and diversified with emotion-focused and narrating features. Traditional pieces included Bai He Tu (Hundreds of Cranes Picture) and Huang Jin Yin (Gold Stamp), among others. In June 2008, Ningbo Zoushu was among the second batch of items of State-level Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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