Sep 15

That which connects panda and ancient Chinese musicians, plus the morin khurr

Written by dewang on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 at 6:06 am
Filed under:-mini-posts, culture, music | Tags:, , ,
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Panda loves bamboo, and so did ancient Chinese musicians. Here is an image of a ceramic xiao () player excavated from an Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) tomb in Sichuan province (also home to pandas). The dizi (笛子) is held horizontally. Both are made of bamboo. What do you get when you add the Mongolian morin khurr to the mix? Here is a composition involving these instruments: “梦回鄂尔多斯 (Dreaming Ordus).” Ordus (鄂尔多斯) is a city in Inner Mongolia, China.

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15 Responses to “That which connects panda and ancient Chinese musicians, plus the morin khurr”

  1. Allen Says:


    I need to learn to compose in Chinese more.

  2. kui Says:

    My father offered to teach me Xiao and Taiji when I was in high school. I rejected it and would rather watch TV instead. That was our first TV. Now I am in my 40s and I recall all of this with bitterness. If we did not have that TV then I might be able to play both Xiao and Taiji? Maybe I should smash the computer and find a Xiao or Taiji class somewhere?

  3. dewang Says:

    Hi Allen,
    You are a musician also. Maybe you can perform one of these for us one day. 🙂

    Hi kui,

    Haha. Many of my Chinese friends have a strong renewal of interest in Chinese culture/arts after they started working for some number of years.

    In some ways, I feel so fortunate to have this heritage, and it is so much fun discovering pieces of it!

  4. Steve Says:

    Hi DeWang, this is a really nice piece of music! I’m not a big fan of Asian pop but love more traditional style pieces like this one. Was this recently written or is it quite old? The sound of the morin khurr seems to be similar to a viola. The xiao and dizi produce sounds similar to but not quite like other flutes, giving the composition a very unique and very Chinese feel.

    kui, you should be able to find a taiji class somewhere near you and it’s never too old to start. I learned the Chen family style in my latter 30s along with xingyi and bagua. The important thing is finding the right teacher. I took classes six days per week for seven years and never got bored, only stopped when I moved to Asia and took it back up when I got home again. It becomes a lifelong habit and can make you instant friends in the morning at parks all over the world.

  5. dewang Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Glad you liked it. I recognize a segment of the composition involving the dizi from somewhere before. My guess would be that the over-all composition is something new.

    The base from the morin khurr is such a big contrast from the dizi. In Mandarin, the morin khurr is also known as matouqing – or horse head instrument.

  6. hzzz Says:

    Dewang, good thing you linked Morin Khurr to wikipedia because I had no idea what it was lol. This is really cool stuff and the singing at the end is icing on the cake. Music from minority groups is popular in China, I remember hearing an interview a few months ago on NPR on this but I tried to find the interview but could not. Instead I came across this which is a good read nonetheless. http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=377728566&blogId=447812505

    This is a bit off topic but speaking of Mongolia Boston.com has some great pictures on what Mongolia (inner and the country) look like today.


    Picture #12 rocks.

  7. Shane9219 Says:

    Wonderful piece of melody … the mongolian musician played morin khurr so well, it sounds almost like violin.

  8. dewang Says:

    Hi hzzz,
    Thx for the links. After seeing the pictures . . . the thing that strikes me – while Genghis Khan is viewed as a hero in Mongolia today, he is also viewed as a brutal conqueror in other parts of the world.

    Hi Shane,
    Glad you like it. I have taken on a hobby to learn about this kind of stuff. So my plan is to share bits here at FM as I discover them. Let me know too when you find interesting stuff.

  9. Charles Liu Says:

    Saw 台北新潮樂集 at TECO’s typhoon benefit concert. It’s a “new wave” classical orchestra from Taipei:


    They perform latin and pop with classical instruments like erhu, pipa, dize, shen, etc.

  10. shane9219 Says:

    @dewang #8

    My daughter is learning to play violin, while fascinated by Chinese traditional music instrument xiao (箫) on the side. So I got trained by her on both 🙂

  11. dewang Says:

    Hi shane9219,
    Sweet! If she wants to share a performance with us (preferably on the xiao), that’s something we can consider. 🙂

  12. Steve Says:

    @ Shane: It’s great that you are letting her learn the xiao along with the violin. I’ve always enjoyed live performances of traditional Chinese instruments when I’ve had the chance to see them and have have never been disappointed. Not only is the music beautiful, but it’s a great way for your daughter to develop a musical connection to her ancestry and culture.

    I found this site of a guqin and xiao concert with the xiao being used on the last two pieces, Meihua San Nong (700+ years old) and Ping Sha Luo Yan (300+ years old). These are .ram files so I had to view them with RealPlayer.

  13. shane9219 Says:

    The niece of famous singer Teresa Teng (邓丽君) recently showed up in Beijing to receive China’s top ten influential woman awards for 邓丽君. She looks quite similar to her aunt in her earlier years …


  14. shane9219 Says:

    >> Sweet Home Beijing — How an expat guitarist formed a band and toured China playing bilingual blues

    An interesting piece published on WSJ about an expat guitar band touring art scenes in China.

    A sample of their “Beijinag Blues” is here: http://online.wsj.com/media/beijingblues0918.mp3


    BTW: WSJ is at its best with its covering of finance and life-style topics, but not its notorious neo-con/neo-liberal political pieces and blogs.

  15. Steve Says:

    @ Shane: I agree, I can see a lot of her aunt in her face, especially her eyes.

    Thanks for the link to the expat guitarist piece. There were better than just about all the bands I heard over there, and I would have paid to see them. Too bad he had to come back to the States just when things were looking good. His band mates must be really bummed out.

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