Chinese folk songs (Jiang Nan)

“Jiang Nan (江南)” is a beautiful geographical term in Chinese. A narrow definition of it refers to the Yangtze River Delta, roughly including Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Shanghai (more information here). This area is also called “a land flowing with milk and money” (鱼米之乡). The provinces are economically developed, and culturally glamorous.

The folk songs there often incorporate elements of water. There are many lakes in the area. People describes the beautiful scenery and express their gratitude towards life. Tai Hu Mei (太湖美) is a good example. The song was composed in 1978 when China launched the “Reform and Open Up” policy. Jiangsu people feel the economy is taking off and they sing out their gratitude towards the Party. The song is performed in Suzhou dialect.

In the Jiang Nan area, some people collect tea to earn a living. Cai Cha Wu Qu (采茶舞曲) depicts the scene of a girl and a boy collecting tea together. The flowing melody reminds us of the rolling hills and green tea in the horizon. Moreover, we do feel the rigor and passion towards life in the simple yet expressive song. This song is documented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Association (UNESCO) as one of the best Asia-Pacific folk songs.

Folk songs in this area are highly local, in terms of content and style. A lot are devoted to describe the scenery in a particular city, county, or even village. An example is View of Wuxi City (无锡景). Wuxi is a medium size city in Jiangsu province. The Wuxi dialect adds flavor to the song.

Jiang Nan folk songs are often short and repetitive in melody. It goes well with the gentleness of the Jiangnan landscape.

A typical view of Jiangnan village


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