Suzhou Pingtan in the Deepest Memory - The Sound of Pipa in the Alley

440 views · Organized by 夏浩东 on 2022-04-11

Near Ganjia Lane on the north side of Xitang Street, Pingwang Town, Suzhou, there is a teahouse and bookstore called Wenyuan. The teahouse and bookstore refers to the establishment of a bookstore in the teahouse, and the teahouse and the bookstore are two in one.

Suzhou Pingtan in the Deepest Memory - The Sound of Pipa in the Alley

A small alley running east-west is formed between the bookstore and the house to the north. The ground is covered with dark blue bricks, mottled and moss. The alley is straight, narrow and damp. On rainy days, the roads are covered with water, and the bricks are loose. When I stepped down, it was like stepping on a landmine.

From the entrance of the alley to the end, there is a small wooden door. Open the door, and there is a very open and bright yard inside. This yard is where Uncle Wang and Aunt Zhang lived after I transferred to Pingwang Middle School in my first year of junior high school.

Uncle Wang's family lived in three large bungalows facing south. The room has a solid wooden floor, and the floor is high off the ground. Walking on it sometimes makes a "crunching" sound, like walking in the air. The door between the living room is a row of wooden primary color floor-to-ceiling carved doors and windows, which are exquisitely carved and simple and elegant.

The yard is very spacious, with bricks on the floor, in the shape of fish scales, and stubborn grass burrows out of the cracks of the bricks. The northeast corner of the yard is full of bonsai, with snow in June, jasmine and evergreen. A potted bonsai of Sparrow's Tongue Pine has intertwined roots and pavilions like a cover; a bonsai of a pomegranate tree has branches full of passionate flowers. There is a well in the southeast corner of the yard. On the wall, there are lush ivy creepers.

Uncle Wang and Aunt Zhang are young intellectuals. Living next to my house, the two families forged a deep friendship. Later the policy was implemented and they were raised back to town. Despite the limited living space at home, when I had nowhere to go, I squeezed out a small space and built a bed to give me a place to stay.

Uncle Wang's family has three children. My third daughter, Yaping, is about my age and was my childhood playmate. When we got to town, we often went to and from school together again.

This alley is the only passage from the courtyard to the outside world. I don't know its name, maybe it doesn't even count as an alley, so it doesn't even have a name. But inside the wall to the south of the alley is a fascinating and mysterious world.

In the evening, when I came back from school and walked through the alley, the blue-gray brick walls of the bookstore and the small windows that were closed in the air were filled with crisp and mellow sounds of pipa and sanxian, but I couldn't hear what was being played and sung.

Sometimes, the sound of the pipa floated into the courtyard like fragments, ethereal and ethereal, intermittently. We, washing clothes by the well, pricked up our ears and tried to catch something, but we always found nothing. The sound of the pipa teases you, seduces you, but prevents you from hearing, comprehending, and grasping.

We are full of curiosity about what's inside the wall. But the window of the bookstore is too high from the ground to be seen at all. Even so, there were still children in the alley struggling to pry. There are still a few waiting under the window, shouting, it's my turn, it's my turn! So, one by one, they took turns hanging themselves on the windowsill like a hooked pheasant.

Sometimes when no one is there, it's our turn to be the pheasant. I started running from the entrance of the alley, and then jumped vigorously, grabbing the high windowsill with both hands. I hunched my back hard, pressed my knees and toes against the wall, and finally saw what was inside. However, this position could not last for a few seconds. Due to the pain in the knee, the skin of the palm was frayed, and it fell down like a free fall. When it was Yaping's turn, she gave up after a while.

We found that it was really tiring to make pockmarked frogs hanging on the window sill, and sometimes we had to put our ears against the wall and listen to the book through the window. The voice was basically audible, but even though the bright and beautiful artist was right in front of her, she could only hear her squeaking, and I felt a little unwilling. The pursuit of visual pleasure is also an instinct!

So Yaping and I tried to build the adult ladder again. I stood on her shoulders, leaned cautiously on the windowsill, craned my neck, and tried my best to see what Pingtan artists looked like. But when it was my turn to build her a ladder, my shoulders started shaking and I couldn't hold it.

Later, as soon as we got together, we brought a long bench from the house while the grown-up was away. On the bench was a wooden armchair. One person supported it, and the other stood on it, stood on tiptoe, and looked inside nervously. Because of a little guilty conscience, once someone passed by the alley, we hurried down and fled in a hurry. When I was sure no one was there, I hurriedly brought the stool back.

Although it was only a few seconds of peeping, he already had a general understanding of the structure of the bookstore. The entrance to the east of the bookstore is a book table, about four or five square meters and about two feet high. There are two high chairs on top, and in the middle is a three-foot champion platform, which is a traditional layout. In the rest of the room, there are a few Eight Immortals tables for the listeners to have tea and snacks.

On the desk is a male artist playing the sanxian. He is about forty years old, wearing a smoke-gray long gown, his face is thin and elegant; the next female artist, half-holding the lute, stroking the strings lightly, singing with low eyebrows, is beautiful and tactful. She is in her thirties, dressed in a lake blue embroidered cheongsam, with light pink makeup, fresh and refined. The two are in harmony with each other, and the lingering sound is unforgettable.

Listening to books is the way of life of Suzhou people. When we talk about listening to books, we mean appreciating Suzhou Pingtan, which is the collective name of Suzhou Pinghua and Suzhou Tanci. Pingtan has a history of more than 200 years since the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty, and is known as "the most beautiful voice in China". Geographically, Pingtan does not have Jiaxing in the south, Changzhou in the west, Changshu in the north, and Songjiang in the east.

In the form of Pingtan, it is divided into consecutive days of rap, and one session usually lasts for three quarters of an hour. Every time when it comes to the critical issue, I don't talk about it, leaving a suspense: Zhang Sheng and Yingying have a private meeting, when Zhang Sheng pushes the door and goes in, have the two met? How was the meeting? Let's talk about it in the Ming Dynasty; a hero was wronged by the government and he was going to be beheaded, and other heroes were going to save him. The knife had just fallen before the person arrived. Having said this, the time has come, "Then where is Ah Ning dead? Let's talk about it tomorrow!" The audience's heart was hanging in their throats, and they couldn't move there. It was really hard to sleep!

Suzhou people love Pingtan because of its elegant and delicate artistic style and aesthetic taste. Or perhaps it is because of the inherent elegance and delicacy of Suzhou people that the art of Pingtan was born.

The elegance of Suzhou people is reflected in the details of daily life. When eating a fried dough stick, you should first cut it into segments of the length of your little finger, then put it neatly in a white porcelain plate, then pour a little white soy sauce on a small white plate, and dip the fried dough stick with chopsticks into the soy sauce. , chew slowly; the woman who lives by the river, whether it is an eighteen-year-old Xiao Niangyu (sound with en), or a fifty-eight-year-old aunt, when she goes to the river bridge to clean the mop in summer, even if she only needs to walk ten When walking, you must also wear a parasol; in a woman’s home, even if you live a bit of chicken feathers, you have to go to the grandma who is carrying a bamboo basket and chanting “white orchid, jasmine” and choose a pair of fragrant white orchids. , carefully hang it on the placket that has been washed white; more importantly, regardless of men, women and children, in the daily life of chickens, they should also clean up their moods, listen to the last Pingtan carefully, and maintain their longing for poetry and the distance.

Suzhou Pingtan brings people to an art world with its euphemistic and pleasant Suzhou dialect, beautiful and pleasant tunes, gripping storylines, and delicate and vivid performances. Through Pingtan, we got to know the admirable heroes and idols such as Bao Gong and Wu Song, met the funny characters such as the hilarious Shaoxing Master, and learned the human and love stories in "Pearl Tower".

Going to the bookstore to listen to the book is still very novel to us. After all, not everyone has the money and the time to buy a ticket to listen to the book. Many of the listeners in the bookstore are people with knowledge, culture, qualifications and elegance in the town.

Every morning when the sun is shining brightly, the teahouse and bookstore start to get busy. The listeners came to the bookstore, and they slowly hatched the teahouse: order a pot of tea, a small plate of pumpkin seeds, spiced beans or dried bayberry, add a zongzi or spiced tea eggs, and enjoy the performance of Pingtan artists. After listening to the book, my whole body felt at ease, so I hummed a little tune and strolled home contentedly.

Sometimes our teenage children, unable to control their curiosity, would sneak into the bookstore to listen to books. Once, Yaping and I were daring and cheeky, and followed an old gentleman into the bookstore uneasy. The guy didn't drive us away, he just motioned us to stand at the back and told us to "be good, be nice". So our little children stood in a row obediently leaning against the back wall, with our hands behind our backs. Because I came to listen to the white book, for fear of being kicked out for bad performance, this situation was jokingly called listening to the wall book. "戤" is a Wu dialect, meaning "stand", and listening to the book on the wall is to stand against the wall and listen to the book.

Even standing at the back of the bookstore and listening to the book is refreshing. It feels completely different from listening to a radio station, just like listening to a song on a mobile phone is different from going to a live concert. We can see the changes in the expressions, eyes and limbs of Pingtan artists. For example, when the master is called a maid, the maid asks the master, what did you call me for? For a while, the Pingtan artist was stroking his beard, posing like a master; for a while, he raised the little girl's orchid fingers, and now he turned into a little girl again. This transition of roles happens naturally during dialogue, and is very funny, witty, and expressive.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Pingtan was the most important mass entertainment in the local area. Both men and women, old and young, were all its loyal fans. A Pingtan artist once recalled that at that time he walked from Jing'an Temple in Shanghai to Wangjiasha on West Nanjing Road, and every household listened to Pingtan on the radio, and he went all the way, and he listened to the whole "Yang Naiwu" played and sung by Yan Xueting.

Our generation grew up listening to Pingtan in front of the radio along with grandparents, grandparents, and parents. Every day, the "Broadcasting Bookstore" of Suzhou Radio Station broadcasts long-length Tanci at noon, and the "Yayun Shuhui" column is replayed at night. The family ate dinner and stayed by the radio, concentrated and silent. Once I finished listening to the book, I seemed to wake up from a dream. Sometimes the storyline is tense and gripping, and in my dreams I am looking forward to an early noon the next day.

My favorite traditional books are "Three Smiles", "Depicting the Golden Phoenix", "The Legend of the White Snake", "Pearl Tower", "Yang Naiwu", "Marriage of Tears and Laughter", as well as "White Haired Girl", "Song of Youth", "Bitter Cauliflower", Modern masterpieces such as Red Rock, Wildfire Spring Breeze Fighting the Ancient City, Jiulongkou, Capture the Seal, etc.

The opening chapter of Tanci that left a deep impression on me, in addition to Jiang tune "Du Shiniang", also qin tune "Xiaoxiang Night Rain". It composes the forty-fifth chapter of "A Dream of Red Mansions", and the language is elegant to the extreme: "Clouds and mists cover the curtained room, the moon is dim and the moon is dimly yellow. There is a Xiaoxiang Pavilion in the haze and haze, with a few blue screen windows." A large number of hyphens and overlapping rhymes create the image of Xiaoxiang Pavilion's rainy nights.

I still have a fresh memory of Jiang Yunxian's "Causes of Laughter and Laughter". She imitated the dialects of various places vividly, created characters with distinct personalities, said that her expressions were novel and adapted to the times, and she made gags to hit the mark of the times. She portrayed Shen Fengxi speaking Suzhou dialect, He Lina speaking Mandarin, Wang Ma speaking Changshu dialect, and Liu Dezhu speaking Shandong dialect, which is really interesting. For a while, I became obsessed with the devil, and I always wanted to imitate He Lina, speaking in Yangjingbang's Mandarin, dragging a squeamish tone, and being scolded by Mu's mother "thirteen o'clock", eating a few chestnuts on the head ( beaten)!

We have been immersed in Pingtan since childhood, and we are no longer satisfied with being a listener. We always want to have a storytelling addiction. So, he grabbed a broom from the corner, hugged it into his arms, sat on a small stool, and raised Erlang's legs, imagining it was a pipa. His right fingers flicked on the broom, completely ignoring that it was still stained with chicken manure. We raised our voices, relying on our imagination, full of grief and anger, and sad faces, imitating Jiang Yuequan's "Du Shiniang, full of hatred, hateful for a lifetime of mistrusting a lover", we sang to tears, it was difficult to distinguish the true from the false, and we were almost moved . In fact, we don't know much about the lyrics, the tune is about to reach the Great Wall, and our hands may be stained with chicken manure, but for us, the smelly chicken manure and the elegant art can be completely harmoniously integrated.

The sound of the pipa in the alley on Xitang Street always makes me subconsciously slow down, be intoxicated for a while, and savor the beauty of the big and small beads falling on the jade plate.

Half a year later, I moved out of Uncle Wang's house and lived in the school's dormitory, and I never eavesdropped on Pingtan in the alley again. But the crisp and distant sound of the pipa remained in my youthful years.

Nearly 40 years have passed, is the alley still on Xitang Street today? Can you still hear the intoxicating sound of the pipa?

Reference materials and contributors
王 萌||弄堂深处琵琶声

Involving musical instruments

The sanxian has three strings in total, hence the name "Sanxian". Chinese traditional plucked instruments were also introduced to Ryukyu, Japan and other places. He plays the main instrument in operas such as Kunqu Opera, Huaihai Opera, Daxianzi Opera, etc.
Pipa (pinyin: pí pa), the first plucked instrument, is a traditional plucked instrument in East Asia, a plucked stringed musical instrument. Made of wood or bamboo, the speaker is half-pear-shaped and has four strings on the top. It was originally made of silk thread, but now it is mostly made of steel wire, steel rope and nylon.

Guess you like

Organized by 橘子猫 on 2023-10-23
The Pipa is graceful, the Konghou is graceful... Two representative Musical Instruments that blend Chinese and Western on the ancient Silk Road are also attracting attention in international musical instrument exhibitions today.
read >>
Organized by 赵锦辛 on 2023-10-07
Recently, the second Pipa Society Conference of Yunnan Musicians Association was held in Kunming Theater. After the meeting, two consecutive days of "music craftsmen come to co-education cloud music" expert exchange lectures began.
read >>
Organized by 风月呢喃 on 2023-08-24
On the afternoon of August 16, local time in Sydney, Australia, Jin Ye, a famous young Chinese pipa player, was invited by the University of Sydney, a world-renowned top university, to celebrate the "100th anniversary of international students and the University of Sydney" and presented his unique style pipa works to thousands of Australian audiences.
read >>
Organized by 苏肆 on 2023-08-14
On the evening of August 12th, the "Most Beautiful Time - Zhao Cong and Her Friends' Pipa Concert" was performed at Chongqing Grand Theater. Famous pipa performer and head of the Central Ethnic Orchestra, Zhao Cong, joined forces with renowned pianist Liu Xingchen and four outstanding young string performers from the "Rubik's Cube Ensemble" to bring a music feast that combines Chinese and Western elements to the audience.
read >>
Organized by 华夫饼 on 2023-07-27
On July 24, the 2023 Music of China Little Golden Bell - National Pipa Performance Opening Ceremony Concert was held in Zhenhai District, Ningbo City. Pipa performers such as Wu Yuxia, Yang Jing, and Zhou Tao waved their bows and drew strings, accompanied by the Ningbo Symphony Orchestra, and jointly presented a wonderful and colorful artistic feast to the audience.
read >>