A couple share the songs of the Li People with the next generation

By Marian Rosenberg / HICN / Updated: 11:03,07-September-2021

Check out a fragment of a folk song of the Li people.

Beneath the banyan tree at the entrance to Shang’an Township’s Zuoya Village in Qiongzhong, Wang Qurong and his wife Li Yuying happily sing the songs of the Li with a group of children. With their folk songs and accompanying oral tradition, this couple take the plain environment of their small village and transform it into a fantastic colorful landscape.

With their cheerful rhythm and melodious tunes, the charming folk songs of the Li people create a pleasant mood in everyone who hears them. For Wang Qurong and his wife spending their free time to teach the next generation, the words and rhythms of their traditional songs help to dissipate the exhaustion of a hard day's work in the fields.

Wang Qurong teaching children to sing. NEW HAINAN APP

The Li people love to sing. Singing is one of the main ways in which they express their feelings about life. To the extent that it has been recognized as a "National Folk Culture and Art (Folk Song) Township", the cultural atmosphere of Shang’an Township is heavily influenced by the folk songs of the Li. As for Zuoya Village, it has been named by the Ministry of Culture as a "Hometown of Chinese Folk Art"; sometimes, it is also referred to as a "Li Folk Song Museum".

So far as 57-year-old Wang Qurong is concerned, the songs of the Li are one of the important parts of his life. According to him, the union between him and his wife Li Yuying came about via the "matchmaking” of Li folk songs. At the time that their story took place, Wang Qurong was a young man. He went from his home village to Shicha Village in Diaoluoshan Township to take part in a wedding ceremony. In a group sing, Wang Qurong represented the men's side and Lin Yuying (who was in her home village) led the women. The contents of the choral sing progressed from greetings to simple unimportant things like chatting about the weather to discussing emotions and telling the stories of true love. It was upon this foundation that their eventual relationship was laid.

After returning to his home village Wang Qurong asked his parents to visit her's to make a proposal. Six months later he returned to her village. Once again the member of a wedding party, this time he was the groom. Returning to Zuoya, Lin Yuying came with him as his wife. 

After more than 30 years of marriage, the two of them still have a harmonious relationship where they work together, sing together, and pass on the oral tradition of the Li people to the next generation. Whether it's in the evening after working in the field or during the slack season, the two people take every free moment of their day to practice singing and musical composition.

Wang Qurong (L) and his wife Li Yuying (R) NEW HAINAN APP

The couple has enthusiastically signed up for folk song competitions all over China. "Now my grandchildren also like to sing the songs of our people. When night comes, whenever they have free time, you can hear their voices ringing out in harmony,” Wang Qurong said with a smile.

Beginning in 2004, the two of them not only led the men, women and children of their village in performances of folk songs in neighboring townships, they also represented Qiongzhong in many provincial and national performances and competitions, and won all sorts of awards and honors for their hometown. Wang Qurong, as an inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage of the Li people, has been invited on many occasions to serve as the keynote lecturer for traditional folk song training across the province. 

"Folk songs have vitality only when they are sung. We are most concerned about the lack of successors to take up where we will eventually leave off. Therefore, no matter how busy we are, we always find time to teach children to sing.” According to Wang Qurong, as long as there are children willing to learn, it won’t matter if he has to ride a motorcycle dozens of kilometers on winding mountain roads, he will still go to meet them and teach them. Teaching, even in the busy farming season, is his life’s mission. He and his wife also make time at night to give lessons to the village’s children.

Wang Qurong and Li Yuying teaching children to sing. NEW HAINAN APP

Regarding the current activities of the Hainan Province Children’s Folk Songs and Culture Season, they had nothing but praise. Wang Qurong believes that such activities will not only serve to cultivate a new generation of children who love listening to and singing folk songs and sing folk songs, they also make society pay more attention to the cultural heritage of folk songs.

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