luogu

(gongs and drums)
Traditional music ensemble
Literally ‘gongs and drums’, luogu is a general term for the Chinese percussion ensemble that may include gongs, drums, cymbals, bells, clappers, woodblocks, etc. Historical records indicate that gongs and cymbals were introduced into China with Buddhism from India and Central Asia by way of the Silk Road during the Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589 CE). Due to the loud sound and non-melodic nature of these instruments, scholars seldom paid attention to them and not much was written about them in the past. But the common people loved these instruments and made good use of them. Nowadays, the luogu ensemble can be seen and heard in parades, folk dances, theatres and especially in the accompaniment to the lion dance and dragon dance in the Chinese New Year and other seasonal festivals. In the traditional operas (Xiqu), the luogu performs the prelude to attract attention, accompanies actions, punctuates singing, and concludes the show.
The size of a luogu ensemble ranges from two or three to a dozen musicians. The instrumentation and style vary according to the function and location. The major instruments are gu (drums), luo (gongs) and bo (cymbals). The drummer is always the leader. Also, melodic instruments can be a part of the ensemble. The most commonly melodic instrument used is the suona (a double reed oboe probably originating in the Middle East) whose piercing sound penetrates the dense sound of the percussion.
Traditionally luogu is taught through oral patterns. Each instrument is represented by one or two oral sounds. The combination of sound and rhythm make up luogu patterns called luogujing, somewhat similar to bols in Indian tabla music. However, written notation with characters and symbols was introduced in the mid-twentieth century for teaching purposes. This practice is especially popular in schools and social clubs.
Han, Kuo-Huang and Campbell, Patricia S. (1996). The Lion’s Roar: Chinese Luogu Percussion Ensemble (2nd edition). Danbury, CT: World Music Press.
Yang, Mu (1994). ‘The Use of Chinese Luogujing in Classroom Music’. The International Journal of Music Education 23:17–23.
HAN KUO-HUANG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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