A special series of articles about ordinary people living in Swatow, written by students from Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism
by Huang Qing (黄清)
With a hand slickly pressing the strings and the other drawing the bow, 84-year-old Li Xuewen was playing erhu, humming a tone to himself.
Li was a teacher and then a principal at schools in Jieyang, a city neighboring Shantou, for several decades.After retiring in 1985,he began to teach himself play several music instrument including, and gave children in his village music lessons for free.
In 2004 , with the support of Seniors’ Association in Li’s village, he set up a local music training session, teaching the children basic music knowledge and how to play music instruments.
Li Xuewen played erhu, a traditional Chinese musical instrument.
The first training session lasted for half a year and students had classes on two evenings every week. It was so popular that he held one more class in his own house.
About 25 students took part in that extra class. And after a few years, most of the children in the village could play a kind of traditional music instrument, such as bamboo flutes, gongs and drums.
“My students started from zero, having no foundation,” said Li.
Later Li would take his students to give performances during festivals, celebrations or other important village activities.
Li said that the village couldn’t offer good condition to learn modern music, because students couldn’t afford intruments such as piano and violin even if they had interests.
To his delight the government helped to buy some traditional music instruments. He thought that local Chaoshan music is more suitable for the children in the village as it is easy to learn and more popular.
“We should inherit the traditional culture and develop and expand the spirit of Chaoshan music,” said Li.
When Li is free,he would always sit alone in the small room of Senior Association, playing music intrument by himself, after carefully tunning the strings and tightening the bow .
He didn’t like pop music. “I really like the old revolutionary songs.They are more imposing and majestic!” Just after he said these words,he affectionately sang an old song, “my home is in the Songhua River,the northeast part of China,where there are forests and coal mines, and also soybean and sorghum growing all over……”
Article reproduced by kind permission of Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism.
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