Did I ever tell you about the time I starred in a Classical Chinese Dance and Music presentation?
Last night my host here at Jiangnan University invited to go with her to the annual performance of the students in the classical fine arts program here at the University. We got great seats in the campus performance center, which is a fairly large concert hall seating perhaps 1500 people and it was about ¾ full. The set was of the stone arch bridge and simulated streams that characterize this campus.
The program consisted of a mixture of dance and classical songs each based upon well known Chinese poems. Of course I didn’t understand the language but Zhijun was able to find English translations of some of the poems. So I got to appreciate the often melancholy but also occasionally joyful emotions, movement and sounds created by the dancers and musicians.
I was especially interested in two of the traditional instruments. One, the guzheng was not unlike the hammer dulcimer that I’ve been building and playing the last few years. It had about 20 strings but rather than being struck with hammers, it was plucked. supposedly “Guzheng’s sound touches the Heavens above and the Gods and spirits below.”
The second instrument is called a Guqin, not unlike a zither. It too was played horizontally, and plucked or stroked by the musician. It however had a fret board so each of the seven strings could be shortened by the musician to create higher notes and eerie slides. According to TopChinaTravel “Chinese ancient scholars have to acknowledge four art, including play the Guqin, play Chinese chess, write good calligraphy and draw painting”
A bit surprisingly at the end the audience very briefly clapped and then proceeded to exit the auditorium. Meanwhile the cast was still all on stage, the director accepting a bouquet of flowers and everyone doing a final bow – to the quickly emptying auditorium. My colleague Zhijun asked if I wanted to go up and take a picture of the musical instruments. I thought that was a good idea, so we proceeded up near the front waiting for the photos to be completed and cast to disburse. However, soon the director noticed me standing there and came down and insisted that I come up and get my picture taken with the cast. And not only that, but I was dragged up beside her, right in the center of the cast. Then the official photographer arrived and seemed to take forever snapping pictures and me looking and feeling pretty goofy as if I was really desperate to get my picture taken.
Likely you won’t have to guess “Where’s Elmo” to see me in the picture. After the photos were finally done, I was able to take my picture of the instruments and get off that huge stage.
As I look at this photo I realize I don’t exactly blend in with the crowd. Last Sunday I was visiting one of the ‘ancient villages” near Wuzi, and a little 4 year old boy came up and asked my colleague if I was a “real foreigner”. This prompted me to think well maybe I am starting to look just a little bit Chinese, but tonight’s photo proves that I’ve a long way to go.