(Photo / 52foto.com)
Changsha Tanci is a folk art form in Hunan Province of China. It is prevalent along the Xiangjiang and Zishui River valley. Originating from an art form applied by Taoists to spread their religion, it is now heavily influenced by the local dialect. During the reign of Emperor Tongzhi in the Qing Dyansty(1861-1874) when the Tanci came into being, it was first accompanied by clapppers (the ancient musical instrument in China that is struck against each other to make noise )only. Later, it developed into antiphonal singing by two people, where one the performers played Yueqin, a four-stringed plucked instrument with a full-moon-shaped sound box while the other played a bamboo-made percussion instrument and Splash Cymbal. In the middle of 1920s, artists in Changsha like Zhou Shouyun and Shu Sanhe would sit in a shed and tell stories this way. It adopted its present name in 1950s. In its early stage, with simple libretto, it mainly varied in its plate form. Later on, it adopted opera singing and folk songs. Its melodies can be of various plate forms or compositions of different tunes. It has plates, night tones form or nine plates, thirteen tones form. Short excerpts from traditional scripts are called Xiaoben (small pieces), such as Linying's Sigh, A Picture of Official Xiangzi, A Story of Precious Hairpin. The long dramas are Story of Yuetang, Water Margin, and Historical Romance of Generals of the Yang Family and so on. Newly edited plays include He Qinglian, Manger of Troops, Lu Punches a Rogue.
As a kind of city art form, Changsha Tanci flourished in the early period of last century. Artists could be found singing accompanied by yueqin in many streets, alleys, tea houses and restaurants. However, it declined dramatically in the days of Culture Revolution. Nowadays, Peng Yankun has taken it up as his responsibility to carry on this history and culture of Tanci. Learning extensively from strong aspects of other art forms, he created "Lan Qiang" (excessive tones) adding a more lasting appeal to Tanci. Additionally, he also carried on the improvising tradition of Tanci and brought more sense to the scenes.