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Current Location: Homepage » Chinese Culture » Culture Discovery » Main Body

Chuanjiang haozi ('labour songs') 川江号子

Profile:Chuanjiang haozi ('labour songs') 川江号子
Time: 2006
Category: Folk music
Region: Chongqing municipality; Sichuan province
Ref. No.: Ⅱ-24
Nominating unit [s]:
Chongqing municipality
Sichuan province
Chuanjiang haozi ('labour songs') is a form of folk singing, led by a labor singer and accompanied by boatmen, in order to unify action and rhythm. Chongqing municipality and the east of Sichuan province are the main source regions and inheritance regions of Chuanjiang haozi.
Chuanjiang haozi is found mainly in the areas of Jinsha River, Yangtze River and its tributaries of Minjiang River, Tuojiang River, Jialing River, Wujiang River and Daning River, etc. This area is typically full of twisting waterways, steep hills, rapid water and numerous beaches. The dro of water level along the whole course is comparatively large, so the boatmen are hard-pressed to march on, especially when passing by the dangerous three gorges to the border of Sichuan province. Chuanjiang haozi was created under this special geographical environment. It consists of Shangshui haozi (songs sung while going upstream) and Xiashui haozi (songs sung while going downstream). Shangshui haozi can be subdivided into Chenggao haozi (punting pole), Bannao haozi (paddling oar), Shuwei haozi (erecting mast), Qifan haozi (hoisting sails), and Laqian haozi (towing), etc. Xiashui haozi can be subdivided into Tuogang haozi (dragging), Kaichuan haozi (sailing out), Pingshui haozi (smooth water), Erliulu haozi, Fast Erliulu haozi, Yaoersan jiaojie haozi, Jiantan haozi (approaching shoal), Chuangtan haozi (passing shoal) haozi and Xiatan haozi (getting off shoal), etc. As a result, there are over ten categories and thousands of musical pieces that form the musical culture of Chuanjiang water system. Representative pieces include Shiba che (eighteen dramatic plots), Balang huiying (Balang going back to the camp), Guijie xiushu (Guijie writing a letter), Kuixing Lou (Kuixing Tower), Laqian haozi (towing), Zhuolan haozi (straining at the rope), Lu haozi (scull), Zhaojia haozi (warding off blows), Da banjiu (big turtledove), Xiao banjiu (little turtledove), etc.
Chuanjiang haozi enjoys a time-honored history, and is the most distinctive among labor songs in Sichuan province. Chongqing municipality and Sichuan province have long had the advantage of water-based transportation, which is frequently mentioned in historical documents of each dynasty. In recent years, the "stone anchor" of New Stone Age discovered along the river and the "towing figurine" of the Eastern Han Dynasty both prove the long history of the water transport industry in the Chuanjiang area. In addition, the cultural geography, local customs, natural scenery and the convention of labor songs have become the long-used subjects in folk songs or in the poems of famous poets like Du Fu and Li Bai. It is generally believed in academic circles that Chuanjiang haozi is the cultural gem of the water transport history along Yangtze River. It is the song of the life of boatmen fighting with hardships, and possesses such characteristics as a long history, rich repertoire, and enthusiastic tunes, ones sung with both with accompaniment and without. Its existence, in nature, embodies the indomitable spirit of the laboring men against the harsh natural environment, and their rough and firm but humorous characteristics. Meanwhile, in the aspect of music form and content, Chuanjiang haozi has developed in a relatively complete way, enjoying high cultural and historic value.
With the popularity of motor iron ships, boats by human labor only run in some river bends or tributaries, so the base for the survival and development of Chuanjiang haozi has been weakened. What's worse, the inheritance of it is also broken, so Chuanjiang haozi is at the risk of destruction. However, to save and protect Chuanjiang haozi and to ensure that it will pass on to future generations will greatly promote the development of Chinese and even world water music culture.

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