Ningxiang Mashan Gongs and Drums
According to legend, the music was taught to locals by a wandering monk, and used for temple rites. During the reigns of the Qing Dynasty emperors Guangxu (1871-1908) and Xuantong (1909-1911), the music of Mashan gongs and drums evolved by leaps and bounds, and formed a musical system featuring rich tunes, unique performance forms and names, special instruments and unique connotations. It spread to several counties throughout Hunan province.
Mashan gongs and drums have a fresh style and diverse rhythms, and each song is given a vivid name. Some are named after activities, such as "kite flying", and some for sceneries, like lotus and snow. The titles and connotations of the music reflect the realities of the people's rural lives and their yearning for a better future.
Mashan gongs and drums performances involve between seven and 13 performers. The music is played for funerals and weddings by people while walking along the road.
The musical instruments used in Mashan gongs and drums include large and small suona, flute, bamboo lead, wind instrument, drums, gongs, Zhonghu, and Tonghu.
The music can be played both indoors and outdoors. Due to its unique performance characteristics, people learn how to play Mashan gongs and drums music mostly through self study. Most of them are in voluntary associations and do it as a hobby or for the purpose of entertainment.
Mashan gongs and drums is popular among local people, and it is also praised and affirmed by leaders, experts and professors at all levels.
In March 1959, Peng Dehuai, a Chinese proletarian revolutionary, military strategist, and statesman, visited Ningxiang and watched the opera "The Romantic Story of the West Chamber" performed by the Huagu Opera Troupe of Ningxiang county. When the performance was over, the band played Mashan gongs and drums while the audience left the theatre, which received warm applause from Peng Dehuai and the audience.
In 2006, with the approval of the Hunan Provincial People's Government, Ningxiang Mashan gongs and drums was selected on the list of the first group of Hunan's provincial intangible cultural heritage.