Time-honored musical instrument echoes melodies from mountains

(Xinhua) 10:21, March 02, 2024

GUIYANG, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Over the Spring Festival holiday, Liang Guangjin and his younger brother Liang Guanglin, hailing from Congjiang County in southwest China's Guizhou Province, were particularly busy, working long hours to fine-tune Lusheng, a traditional musical instrument.

In their hometown in Jinying village, the local ethnic Dong people have the custom of donning their traditional attire and performing the Lusheng during festivals and other important events.

In 2019, the Lusheng-making craft of the Dong ethnic group was listed as a provincial intangible cultural heritage in Guizhou.

Almost every household in Jinying boasts skills in making Lusheng, and their handicrafts are quite popular in Miao and Dong villages in Guizhou, as well as neighboring provincial-level regions like Guangxi and Hunan. It's not uncommon for Lusheng performers from outside the village to make a day-long journey to Jinying just to buy one.

The Liang brothers' home, which also serves as their workshop, is filled with raw materials like bamboo and fir used for making Lusheng. Various types of Lusheng can be seen on the first floor of their house, while the interior walls are covered with red silk banners gifted by the Miao and Dong people.

"People from the ethnic minority groups used our Lusheng to participate in various competitions. Upon winning prizes, they would send us banners to express their gratitude," Liang Guangjin said.

Thanks to the incredible quality of the Lusheng made by the Liang brothers, their customer base has expanded in recent years and so has the scale of their workshop.

In the run-up to the Spring Festival this year, the two brothers kicked into high gear, Liang Guanglin said, noting that though he was delighted with the surge in orders, he was also a bit concerned due to the fleeting time.

Nevertheless, their commitment to maintaining quality remained steadfast, a principle ingrained in their family for generations.

The Liang brothers acknowledged that the craft requires painstaking efforts, which was evident from their callused hands.

Lusheng making involves more than 20 procedures, with reed polishing being the key. Liang Guangjin said that at times, he didn't even need to trim his fingernails, as the thin and sharp reeds would naturally file them down while he polished the instruments.

Owing to their years of experience and meticulous craftsmanship, the two brothers have attained mastery in shaping and achieving the perfect thickness of the vocal reeds.

Liang Guangjin used to work in China's coastal province of Guangdong. In 2012, he returned to his hometown to carry on the legacy of Lusheng craftsmanship, following in the footsteps of his father and younger brother.

His father Liang Songguang was also renowned for his craftsmanship during his time. When he was young, he was frequently invited by villagers to craft Lusheng in their homes. Now, at 76 years old, he faces challenges in making the musical instrument due to declining physical health, including hearing loss.

Liang Songguang takes great pride in seeing his two sons carry on and enhance the craft. He harbors the hope that more people will take up playing Lusheng and learn the art of crafting it.

In 2023, the two brothers made more than 1,200 pieces of Lusheng together. Each piece was sold at the price of 400 yuan (about 56 U.S. dollars) to 500 yuan, earning them about 280,000 yuan last year.

To ensure the quality, they employed eight craftsmen, five of whom were young individuals passionate and talented in the art of Lusheng crafting.

At times, the two brothers had to work until midnight to complete the orders. Undoubtedly, the craft demands considerable effort, but they were glad to receive orders as it brought job opportunities to ten households and can help pass on the time-honored skill, Liang Guangjin said.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Wu Chaolan)


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