Chinese folk songs (Hunan and Hubei)

As a music lover and a Chinese folk song performer, I’ve always wanted to write something to “outsiders” of Chinese folk songs. So I decided to introduce the songs from different regions in China to the general audience by a series of posts. Here comes the first one, focusing on Hubei and Hunan provinces.

I come from Hubei province, in the middle of China. The folk songs in my hometown has its special features. Long Chuan Diao (龙船调) is a typical example of Hubei folk songs. See here the version by Song Zuying (宋祖英).

Folk songs are all about the life of a particular area. This song tells a story of a girl asking a guy to help her row the boat and arrive at the other bank of the river. The Yangtze River, which is the biggest river in China, flows through Hubei and creates a stream–Han Jiang. Therefore, Hubei used to be called “the province of lakes”. The girl in the song asks the guy to help her cross the river, without showing that she likes the guy. She tries to emphasize that the scenery is beautiful, while just randomly asks the guy to help her. In fact, she wants only him to help her cross the river.

It’s interesting to note that the girl calls the guy “elder brother” here in the song. It’s the other name for “boyfriend” in Chinese villages, at least years ago. If you are a native Chinese, you would notice some local accents in the lyrics. This adds to the unique glamour of Chinese folk songs.

Hunan is also located in the middle part of China. A typical folk song there is Liu Yang He (浏阳河). Check this version by Wang Lida (王丽达). Most folk songs in both Hunan and Hubei are sung on the boat, so it is common to put the element of water in the lyrics. In Liu Yang He, the girl first asks the question that how many turns the river has, and then asks something about the Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

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