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Folk Songs of the Northern and Southern Dynasties

Folk Songs of the Northern and Southern Dynasties

History
The Southern and Northern Dynasties (nán běi cháo 南北朝)(420-589) refer to the period of more than one hundred years from the decline of the Eastern Jin (dōng jìn 东晋) (317- 420) to the foundation of the Sui Dynasty (suí cháo 隋朝) (581-618). It was an age of civil war and political confrontation between two powers, one in the north and the other in the south. However, it was also a time of flourishing in the arts and culture. Created orally by people in the wake of Yuefu Songs (yuè fǔ 乐府), Folk Songs of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (nán běi cháo mín gē 南北朝民歌) has also played an important role in both Chinese music and literature. 

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the Ode to XizhouFolk Songs of the Southern Dynasties
Songs of this genre are mostly love songs which reflect the sincere and pure love life of people. They are often sung by women with refreshing and touching appeal, which possibly has a direct relation with the beautiful environment and rich condition of the south. Most of the folk songs belong to the 4-line poems with 5 characters in each line. Moreover, pun is often used in folk songs.

Appreciation
The Ode to Xizhou (xÄ« zhōu qǔ 西洲曲) is the representative work of Folk Songs of the Southern Dynasties. The main theme is that the heroine’s lover hadn’t come back home, so she went to gather lotus to divert herself from loneliness and boredom. At a distance from the lake, both of them were lovesick apart. Finally, she begged the wind to bring her dream to Xizhou where her lover was staying. 

Ode to Xizhou (part)
西洲曲(节选)
...When they gather lotus at Nantang in autumn,
采莲南塘秋,
the lotus blooms are higher than their heads;
莲花过人头。
They stoop to pick lotus seeds,
低头弄莲子,
Seeds as translucent as water.
莲子清如水。
...The waters is beyond the scope of eyesight,
海水梦悠悠,
You are lovesick, me either…
君愁我亦愁。
The south wind knows my mood,
南风知我意,
It blows my dream to Xizhou.
吹梦到西洲。

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Folk Songs of the Northern Dynasties
Folk Songs of the Northern Dynasties were mostly created by ethnic groups and reflected the society and their lives from every profile. Besides the theme concerning warfare, most folk songs of the Northern Dynasties describe scenery of the north and the people’s nomadic life, thus manifesting straightforward complexion of Northerners which has a clear contrast with those of the Southern Dynasties.
 

Appreciation
As the Northern Dynasties were often at wars, the long narrative poem The Ballad of Mulan(mù lán cí 木兰辞) is the best-known work of that period.
The Ballad of Mulan describes the heroine Mulan who was brave, smart and high-minded. In the ode, Hua Mulan (huā mù lán 花木兰) disguised as man and joined the army, replacing her father to fight against the enemies. At that time in a feudal society, women were universally regarded to be inferior to men. So this poem had its special significance. The story about Hua Mulan’s enlistment has maintained its great popularity among people and has been adapted for the screen and the stage. 

The Ballad of Mulan

The Ballad of Mulan (part)
木兰辞(节选)
..."Last night I saw conscription lists,
昨夜见军帖,
The Khan is calling troops everywhere.
可汗大点兵。
The army’s rolls were in twelve scrolls,
军书十二卷,
And every scroll held Father’s name.
卷卷有爷名。
My father has no older son,
阿爷无大儿,
Mulan has no big brother.
木兰无长兄,
I wish to go buy horse and gear
愿为市鞍马,
And march to the wars for father."
从此替爷征。

In all, Folk Songs of the Northern and Southern Dynasties had great influences on poets of the Tang Dynasty (táng cháo 唐朝) (618-907).

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南北朝民歌

    The Ballad of Mulan 南北朝民歌现存五百多首。南北朝长期对峙的局面,以及两地在民族风尚、自然环境等方面存在的差异,南北朝民歌呈现出不同的情调与风格。大抵南方民歌清丽缠绵,北方民歌朴直刚健。《西洲曲》和《木兰辞》,分别代表着南北朝民歌的最高成就。
     南朝乐府民歌篇幅短小,多为五言四句。语言清新自然,正如《大子夜歌》所说:“慷慨吐清音,明转出天然。”南朝民歌在语言上最显著的特色,是大量运用双关隐语,如以“藕”双关“偶”,“莲”双关“怜”,“丝”双关“思”,以布匹之“匹”双关匹配之“匹”,黄连之“苦”双关相思之“苦”等。不仅使语言活泼流畅,而且使情思的表达更加委婉含蓄。
     《西洲曲》是南朝乐府民歌中的杰作,也是最长的一首抒情诗。作品通过季节变换,层层递进地表现了一位少女从春到秋对远方情人的深切思念之情。语言优美,情感缠绵,笔触细腻。全诗三十二句,四句一转韵,流利宛转,声情和谐。
      北朝乐府民歌语言质朴刚健,风格粗犷豪放,自然清新。多杂言格式而以五言为主。北朝乐府民歌数量虽然不多,题材却比较广泛。主要有以下几方面内容:一是描写了北方的壮丽山川和游牧生活。二是表现了北方民族粗犷豪迈的个性和豪侠尚武的精神。三是反映了北方频繁的战争以及由此给人民带来的离乡背井、流离失所的痛苦。四是反映了婚姻爱情生活。北方男女对婚姻爱情直率、大胆、开放的态度,与南朝民歌的情调缠绵婉转形成鲜明的对照。如《折杨柳枝歌》其二:“门前一株枣,岁岁不知老。阿婆不嫁女,那得孙儿抱?”《地驱歌乐辞》其二:“驱羊入谷,白羊在前。老女不嫁,蹋地呼天!”The Ballad of Mulan
      《木兰辞》是北朝乐府民歌中最杰出的作品,讲述了一个具有传奇色彩的故事,成功地塑造了木兰这一不朽的艺术形象。她勤劳善良,热爱和平,当战争来临,出于对年迈父亲的关心和保家卫国的决心,她勇敢地冲破封建礼教的束缚,女扮男装,替父从军,驰骋疆场,征战十年。当她立下战功以后,又不慕荣利,不求封赏,而是渴望回乡与家人团聚。在木兰身上集中了中华民族的英雄气概和高尚情操,是古代人民理想的化身。这首民歌在艺术上也取得了很大的成功。首先,它富于传奇色彩,是现实主义与浪漫主义结合的范例。其次,出色地运用了民歌常用的复叠、铺陈排比等艺术技巧,比喻、对偶、反衬、顶真等修辞手法,增强了艺术效果。第三,笔墨凝练,繁简得宜,句式以五言为主,杂以七言、九言,错落有致,声韵铿锵,富有音乐美。《木兰诗》不愧是我国古代诗歌史上辉映千古的叙事诗名篇,与《孔雀东南飞》被誉为我国诗歌史上长篇叙事诗的双璧。

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