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Meicun Hometown of Erhu

Meicun still sings as erhu production hub

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily Global)Updated: 2020-04-26

Wuxi, home to legendary folk musician Abing, continues to foster craftsmen, performers

When studying the modern history of erhu, a two-stringed Chinese musical instrument, Wuxi in Jiangsu province is a place that researchers can't ignore.

Meicun, an ancient town located in the Wuxi National Hi-Tech District, or Wuxi new area, stands at the core of the production of erhu and is also a hub for erhu performing arts.

Meicun, as well as Wuxi, is associated with many renowned artists, craftsmen and their stories. And erhu has become the cultural symbol of the town and the city.

One of the local legendary figures is Hua Yanjun, whose masterpiece Erquan Yingyue, or The Moon's Reflection on the Second Spring, is among the most frequently played erhu solo in China.

Hua, also named Abing, was a folk musician born in Wuxi in 1893.He learned to play the erhu and other instruments from his father.

Hua showed great talent when he was a teenager, but the talent did not earn him a decent life. After the death of his mother and father, he became homeless and had to play on the streets to make money.

Adding to his misfortune, he developed a serious disease and became blind. He died in poverty in 1950. And Erquan Yingyue was a reflection of his life.

The style of this piece displays an intense folk character. At the same time, it portrays the hardships, trials and tribulations of the composer's life. A soft and fluent melody combined with a profound inspiration conjure up the composer's sense of dissatisfaction and bitterness in his world, and also reveal his longing for a better life.

In addition to Hua, Wuxi is the hometown of more than half of the top erhu artists in China over the past century.

Sharing a similar reputation with Hua is Wuxi's native Liu Tianhua, who was the leader of the modern, academic school of erhu artists in China. His masterpieces include Beautiful Night, Autumn Moon over the Han Palace and Marching on the Bright Road.

Today, such masterpieces by Hua, Liu and other musicians are not only popular in China, but have also impressed audiences from around the world.

One crucial figure promoting Wuxi's erhu arts to the world is Japan's most renowned orchestra conductor Seiji Ozawa.

Ozawa was invited to serve as the conductor at the China National Symphony Orchestra in 1978.

He was then asked to lead a string ensemble based on Erquan Yingyue.

After hearing the music, the veteran conductor said he was deeply touched by the pathos of the piece, according to a report in Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun in September 1978.

"Bursting into tears, Ozawa said 'one should kneel down to listen (to the music)'," the report said.

Thanks to the influence of the famed Japanese conductor, Erquan Yingyue immediately became a classic on the world stage of music.

Artists from Wuxi have also played an important role in promoting the local musical heritage to the world.

Hu Jiandong, a renowned erhu player from Wuxi, staged a solo concert in Vienna in 2008, featuring masterpieces by erhu masters from Wuxi. The event further contributed to the understanding of Chinese music among audiences in the West.

He is also the "image ambassador" for the erhu production and performing industries in Meicun.


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