The Decline and Rise of Konghou

300 views · Organized by 尘夕 on 2022-06-20

The Decline and Rise of Konghou

The history of Konghou

Konghou has a history of more than 3,000 years in our country. China's "Old Tang Book·Music Records" contains: "Konghou, made by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, was made by the music person Hou Tiao, and it is called the Taiyi Temple... Its sound is splendid, and it is called Kanghou, the sound is falsely called Konghou".

Konghou is one of the oldest stringed instruments in my country. It has a wide range of sounds, clear sounds and soft charm. It is widely used in ancient court music and folk performances. The crouching konghou appeared in the Chu State; during the Eastern Han Dynasty, the vertical konghou was introduced to my country, and the Eastern Han Dynasty only spread to the Central Plains in the second century AD; the ancient stone carvings in the Wei and Jin dynasties still retain the image of the vertical konghou and the reclining konghou ensemble; With the development of Buddhist culture, the art of Konghou playing has also reached a very high level. During the Song and Yuan Dynasties, Konghou continued to spread, but due to the wars in the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the economic collapse, the art of Konghou gradually weakened.

Ancient Konghou can be roughly divided into three types: Lying Konghou, Vertical Konghou and Fengshou Konghou.

The early lying Konghou came from the State of Chu in the Spring and Autumn Period, and it has the same origin as the guqin, but its long resonance box panel has the same taste as the pipa, which is the main difference in shape between it and the qinse; play. Lying Konghou is a Chinese "original" Konghou.

The vertical konghou evolved from the bows of ancient hunters. It is the oldest stringed musical instrument born with the birth of the earliest human civilization, with a history of more than 5,000 years. Older instruments can be counted on a finger: stone whistle, bone whistle, bone flute, xun, ocarina. By 1200 BC, the vertical konghou had basically been finalized (there was no major change in the following two thousand and several hundred years). Later, it was introduced to Central Asia and India through Persia, and it was popular in Xinjiang in my country before the Qin Dynasty. After Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty opened the Western Regions, the vertical Konghou was slowly introduced into the Central Plains—in fact, it was called Konghou from east to China, and it was called “Harp” from west to Europe, but the modern Chinese set up a translation name of “harp”. 

The phoenix-headed konghou is a konghou that was introduced through India and is mainly used in Buddhist music. The instrument was invented by the son of Brahma, Narada, and is described in the Book of Yamani Brahma: "It has seven strings, a neck, a strap, and a body covered with animal skins, with sound holes on it. several, and another peg". The phoenix-tailed konghou spread along the Silk Road and the eastward spread of Buddhist culture, first from India to Xinjiang. There are still many portraits of Fengwei Konghou in the Dunhuang Grottoes today.

The Konghou, an ancient musical instrument with charm, has been cited in poems by many writers, such as "Jiang E sings the bamboo and the girl's sorrow, Li Ping China plays the Konghou" in "Li Ping Konghou Yin" by Li He, a poet of the Tang Dynasty, and Wang Changling's "Konghou Yin". "It's worrying that the light rain soaks the clothes, and there is a relocated guest who climbs the high-rise building and plays the Konghou without speaking and sleepless" and so on. The sound played by Konghou is like the broken jade in Kunshan, and the hibiscus weeps. This beautiful rhythm has gone through thousands of years like beating notes, leaving a rich and colorful stroke in the ribbon of history, as if it was lost in the gods. The charm of it is average, and it has fallen into the long history of ancient China.

The decline of Konghou

The fire of the TV series "Qing Ping Le" brought Konghou closer to the public eye. Among them, the phoenix-headed Konghou held by Princess Huirou, the upper end of the upright column resonance body (slot) is slightly curved, and the bottom is triangular with legs and elbows, which attracted the attention of many audiences.

Looking at the development history of Konghou for more than 3,000 years, we can see that its development has not been smooth sailing.

After the 14th century, Konghou gradually withdrew from the court stage. After the Song Dynasty, Konghou was almost lost to the people. A generation of famous musical instruments has a history of 3,000 years. What is the reason for it to gradually disappear in people's lives, and what is the reason for it to end up in an embarrassing situation where no one can inherit it?

It was born out of expectation, but in the end it couldn't help the tide of the times

During the Western Han Dynasty, the court's elegant music would be cut off. During the Han Dynasty Emperor Wudi, it was used as a sacrificial temple in the suburbs, so it was made a Konghouse (the same clan as Se). Through the Eastern Han Dynasty, the vertical Konghou was introduced, and after the prosperity of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, it stagnated after the Song Dynasty. To investigate the root cause and its cause and effect, we still need to focus on the Konghou, the musical instrument itself.

First, it is difficult to popularize. According to "The Song of Playing Konghou by Li Feng": "I never teach people outside, and I don't send out the voice inside." Konghou is trapped in the deep palace, and he can't hear its "Kunshan jade broken phoenix cry" in the palace unless he is playing music. The beautiful music is not worth watching the expensive and gorgeous musical instruments in the noble family. How can ordinary people learn its unique music theory skills? Moreover, there is no shortage of music among the people. Compared with the "unattainable" Konghou, musical instruments such as qinse and pipa have the advantages of portability and low price, and better meet the needs of commercial performances in the market. Citizens were stunned and summed up in one sentence: "ungrounded".

Second, it is difficult to reform. Citizens' artistic needs determine the quality of musical instruments. Under the aesthetic needs of civilians, musical instruments with rich melody and suitable for supporting vocals are greatly welcomed. In order to enhance the expressive power, the pipa instrument itself adds frets, and the playing is changed from fingers to armour, and from horizontal to vertical. However, if the popular vertical konghou wants to achieve the same purpose, the material and financial resources expended in the transformation are quite different from the cost of commercial performance.

Trapped in the court and unable to change for the needs of the times, Konghou has not been able to resist the trend of the times. It has been born for a long time, but it seems to bear the "original sin"

Apart from the shortcomings of the Konghou musical instrument itself, the influence of ideas is also an important reason for the decline of the Konghou. Influenced by Confucian culture, people's voice of opposition to Konghou became stronger and stronger with the development of history.

The Decline and Rise of Konghou

In the Eastern Han Dynasty's "Release of Names", the Konghou article: "The extravagant music made by Shiyan can be compared with that of the princes of Kong." "Yuefu Lu": "Konghou is the voice of Zheng and Wei. Because of the sound of the country's subjugation, he is called the lord of the Kong Kingdom, and he is also called the lord of Kan." The Book of the Later Han states: Konghou was made because Emperor Ling of Han loved Hu Le.

The courtiers criticized the ancient kings for delaying state affairs because they loved the music of the Konghou, and the common people hated the status of the Konghou as a Hu musical instrument (the Tang Dynasty was because of Hu’s decline, and the Song Dynasty people despised foreigners). The revenge of destroying the country, the cause of the chaotic world, Konghou has endured many things that it should not have endured. Various factors eventually led to the collapse of Konghou. Although Konghou had a small revival in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, it finally became a thing of the past.

Neither the time of cultural development nor the people's hearts and minds of the kings and grandchildren, the various twists and turns that Konghou has experienced are truly heart-wrenching. But does this mean that the famous musical instrument of the Konghou has been lost? The answer is not necessarily no.

Because I know that in a place where eyes are gradually away from China, the descendants of the ancient Konghou are quietly surging there: the lying Konghou has been passed down in Korea, and has become today's Xuanqin after being passed down and improved through the ages. In Japan, the Lying Konghou was introduced from the country of Baekje, and it was called the Baekje qin.

What happened back then cannot be changed. But I prefer to call China's Konghou "decline".

Konghou's life

The Konghou is tuned in the key of C-flat on the twelve well-tempered heptatonic scale—although the heptatonic string span is larger, it may take slightly longer than the pentatonic string to play melodies with large pitch changes, and the maximum interval in one hand It is also smaller, not as smooth as the pentatonic string in expressing the pentatonic melody, but the pentatonic melody can be played directly with one hand on the pentatonic string, and the pentatonic scale must be played on the pentatonic string. The melody must have the cooperation of the left hand, which will greatly limit the agility. After all, there are more pentatonic melodies than pentatonic melodies.

In terms of sound range, the large professional Konghou exceeds six octaves, and even reaches seven octaves. However, the general Konghou is still five octaves.

Compare the timbre of the Konghou and the harp: the sound of the harp seems to be emitted from underwater, and the whole piece of water absorbs some scattered energy, which is relatively pure, soft and stable; the sound of the Konghou seems to be emitted from the transparent water, even The water surface was also shaking slightly, relatively clear, floating and erratic. Compare the timbre of Konghou and Guzheng: Guzheng is more mellow and distant, easier to integrate, and dissolves like the night of green water in a lotus pond; Konghou is clearer and more ethereal, more vivid, and Lingling is like the sound of snow-capped mountains and clear springs.

In terms of technique, Konghou is based on the harp, supplemented by the guzheng and other national musical instruments, and then developed.

The technical difference between konghou and harp

The main points are: Konghou has more vibration techniques (guzheng), which brings more changes in flavor; there are double rows of strings with the same degree on the left and right, which is more convenient for playing fast melodies and overtones, and can play the melody with the left and right hands at the same time. The melody and accompaniment can be played with the left and right hands at the same time without interfering with each other, which enhances the harmony and polyphony; the vibrato area and the pluck area are integrated, and it is very convenient to switch between vibrato and plucking techniques, and the harmony color is richer, or even possible. After plucking strings with different pitches at the same time with different fingers of the two hands, use the corresponding fingers to perform the kneading technique with each other. Since the two hands are independent, the kneading technique performed by both hands at the same time can be combined. The resonance box is completely surrounded, and the technique of slapping the hand on the resonance box is missing. ".

Konghou's past life
development potential

Through the analysis of the status quo of Konghou. It is not difficult for us to find that Konghou is already on the road of revival.

First of all, Konghou itself has great potential for development. As far as the development of Konghou is concerned, its significance has gone beyond the musical instrument itself - its long history has made it an important representative of traditional Chinese music culture. The future development of Konghou is an exploration of China's lost traditional music culture.

Secondly, Konghou has a very distinctive feature: innovating the old and bringing forth the new, learning from others' strong points.

As soon as we see a Konghou, we can often see the shadow of other musical instruments from it. This is because the modern Konghou is not the same as the ancient Konghou. In the process of traveling around the world, under the infiltration of time, it has gradually been combined with musical instruments such as harp and guzheng to form a variety of types. "The harp is the mother, the guzheng is the father; the guqin is the teacher, and the pipa is the friend" is the most vivid description of the characteristics of Konghou.

Finally, the future development of Konghou has a broad path. This is because it is at the intersection of culture and art - the restoration process of Konghou, which not only integrates Western culture, but also organically integrates and unifies Chinese tradition and modern culture. This not only paved the way for the internationalization of Konghou, but also gave it a profound traditional cultural connotation.

Development elements

The development of Konghou has two elements: the first is the region. Geographically, the inheritance and production of Konghou is divided into two factions, southern and northern, represented by Suzhou and Shenyang respectively. On the other hand, the development of Konghou should go to the public. Only when it is known and recognized by the public can an instrument truly reflect its own value and the value of the traditional music culture behind it.

The road to development still needs to be searched

Of course, the future development of Konghou is by no means smooth.

First of all, the future development of Konghou is centered on restoring the lost traditional music culture. In the process of development, we must always pay attention to avoid falling into the quagmire of excessive commercialization and loss of essence. Secondly, the high cost and difficulty of making Konghou are also important reasons for restricting its development. The future development of Konghou should lower its own threshold as much as possible, so that the public has more opportunities to see, hear, and even play. Finally, in the process of development, we must not close ourselves, but try to go out and show the charm of traditional Chinese music culture to the world. Previously, the Konghou performances held internationally have achieved initial results. Undoubtedly, this is a good start for Konghou's internationalization, and it is also a signal that Konghou has the opportunity and ability to embark on the road of internationalization.

Reference materials and contributors

Involving musical instruments

Konghou (pinyin: kōnghóu) Konghou (also known as Konghou or Kanhou) is an ancient Chinese traditional stringed musical instrument, which originated in the Han Dynasty, but fell out of fashion after the 14th century and gradually disappeared.

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