Since being self-reflexive (yes, it’s not reflective, using the word intentionally) is quite in-fashion these days, I thought it’d be apt to do a self-review of yesterday’s show (and of course, answer some questions such as the source of background music in case anyone’s interested to play find them online somewhere). Knowledge is worth sharing.

Like any self-reflexive post, i’m going to say, it was a SUPER SUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCE! One year in the making. ALL of the models went through a rigorous selection process, so they had to do an actual impromptu walk with the music and one prop after self introduction and some Q&A.

It reminded me of how the 1987 version of Dream of the Red Chamber Chinese drama did their casting selection–they basically went out and picked anyone on the street who fit the aura of the character and trained them for a period of about 2-3 years, so they grow into the character.

Backstage was a messy affair! Photo by designated photographer: Enoch Tang

Our preparation is shorter, so we really relied on the natural instincts (or better expressed in Chinese 悟性) to get it within a few rehearsals.

I was still doing make-up and hair backstage (there were 20 models, typically takes me 1-2hrs for a proper make-up and hairstyling process, but 30hrs is something i can’t afford since we only arrived about 8am and the show’s at 3.30pm). But I understood that the first half of the show had some imperfections. Well, my secondary school email address was imperfect_jigsaw so clearly I’m not a perfectionist. I’m more of an impressionist. Even when I edit my pictures, as long as the colour and feel’s right, I typically only edit the skin for blotchiness and pimples, occasionally face shape (particularly for Tang dynasty where a rounder and fuller face is required). But it’s really all a gut instinct.

Thought I should share that yesterday morning was the first time all the performers and emcee saw each other, and the actual stage. We only went on the stage to try it out around 10ish (cos technicians were late), and we were hurried off the stage without being completely satisfied with the rehearsal cos it was time to rehearse the second part. So we had much more time for the second portion–that’s why it’s much smoother.

Xixi had an exam in the morning, so she only arrived after the morning rehearsal (!!! IKR! heart attack!!). Her first time on that stage, and her timing was en pointe (I heard). Us rushing through the make-up just before the show. Of course, photo by Enoch Tang as usual~

THANK GOODNESS for the last minute talents uncovered on the actual day of the show, otherwise the make-up wouldn’t be completed in time (a lot of eyebrows to draw with specific shape and style, lips too). I never remember how I did some of the hairstyles, so they all look different every time I do it–it is very mood-specific. But the Qing dynasty Han Chinese hairstyle yesterday was my best shot so far.

The script was too long for some parts I know.. but the emcee and I both deleted SO MUCH MORE! *heart pain* But will definitely share more in this blog posts (don’t waste).

The list of Songs that were played yesterday were as follows:

Han Dynasty
张斌 – 念残
First encountered his music when watching the Fashion parade by Chinese reenactor collective 复原小组(full link: HERE)。This group does amazing research and they even make and custom dye/print their own dresses. Can youtube them! Definitely take my hats off to them. Unfortunately I lack both the capital and the time to devout so much into the research, but if destiny has it, I hope our paths will cross one day. Till then, I need to build up my own knowledge. This piece was originally used by the team for the Warring State period (before Qin and Han dynasty), I’ve put it at the start of Han dynasty instead because my show didn’t start that far back as well (sorry, one-woman show, limited resources).

Why this piece:
I chose this piece because it starts with Drum and Xun. A few extremely ancient Chinese instruments. I heard that the quick way to tell if an instrument was natively Chinese, often (not always though), is if they could be referred to with one Chinese character (i.e. 鼓drum、琴Zither、笛Flute played horizontally、萧Flute played vertically、塤Xun). But of course there are exceptions like Pipa (although I can’t say for sure if it originated from China) but records of it dated back to 2000 years ago.

Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern dynasties
张斌 – 灵谷
Again, this is used by 复原小组(full link: HERE). It was used by the collective for their Tang dynasty (midway through their Tang dynasty era). Which is really quite nice as well.

Why this piece:
Although it was originally used for Tang, I decided to use it for Wei, Jin, Northern and Souther dynasties because it starts off with the zither. My model also brings a zither out during this segment because during this period, merry-making and non-political engagement was part of the pursuit by literatis who were so sick of all those wars and confucian ideologies which seemed to oppress rather than educate. Note that Confucianism in Han dynasty was rather different from Warring State period when Confucius lived. It was used as a political/ideological tool during Han dynasty to rule, so you can imagine the narrative and interpretation the rulers took of this ideology.
There’s a well-known literati group during this Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern dynasties called  the Seven sages of the bamboo grove (竹林七贤) who were like the representative figures of Neo-Taoism (玄学)and they would meet to drink, play zither, and bitch write about the hypocrisy of the state. They were later persecuted by the State and a few either got incorporated into the State, got killed or went into hiding (yea, sad story I know. That’s life.).

Early Tang
This is not from 复原小组’s show. Instead, it was just hours of searching on traditional Chinese court music (雅乐, or Gagaku as the Japanese call it).

Why this piece:
I chose this because I wanted to tell the story of Prince Lanling and its connection with Japanese culture. I originally wanted to use the piece Song of Prince Lanling in battle (兰陵王入阵曲)which is the oldest Chinese performing theatre music (done with masks, mask theatre was very popular then), wildly popular during early Tang dynasty. It spread to Japan, and they continued performing it till this day for ritualistic events. However, the piece faded into obscurity towards mid-Tang dynasty. The problem with this piece of music is that I couldn’t find any suitable recording to use, so I found a similar style instead to illustrate the piece. And yes, that’s also why my model came up with a mask. 🙂 Everything is there for a purpose.

Note: Fan Bing Bing’s Wuzetian show had a music where she danced to, same name as this ancient piece, but entirely different style. It’s a very modern music with no relevant to that original which was supposedly very grand and serious cos it’s about the FREAKING GOD OF WAR GOING TO WAR!! LOL! HOW SEDUCTIVE! lol I don’t usually watch TV but i do come across a fair amount of images and video clips in the course of research.

Mid Tang
大雄寶殿 – 風潮音樂
Another great choice of music by 复原小组 for the Tang dynasty period.

Why this piece:
This is spot on about how many of us feel towards the Tang dynasty era–grand, rich, with the thriving of Buddhism along the silk road, extremely elaborate, a little bit of that slow, laissez-faire ness (cos rich). lol The romantic, bold, creative, vibrant, golden period feel. ’nuff said. I need to stop drooling.

Late Tang
Any kid who’s a little inclined towards poetic productions, growing up in early 90s China would probably know of this TV show. Probably one of the few that I watched (not completely, as usual, cos of short attention span). But the music and script were so romantically written. It’s like watching a poem being acted out. The dresses were nothing really spectacular, but the acting and dialogues made all the difference. Very well-suited to the Impressionist in me. The piece’s a little short, so edited it to be longer.

Why this piece:
Late Tang dynasty era, the Tang court is already in a state of decline. It was later broken into Five dynasties and Ten states (五代十国) before reuniting under the Song dynasty rule. This music has that really indulgent feeling, like over-the-top indulgence, which is pretty much what happened in the Tang court. My model all decked up in golden accessories and extremely long and flowy dress, was to be seen as doing nothing except merry-making (although in a different nature from the Seven Sages of Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern dynasties).

1st half curtain call
Lyrics of this song was based on an ancient poem from the Book of Songs: The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry. It’s basically a collection of poems from 7-11th (haha, should be easy to remember right :P) century BCE!!!! that’s like 3000 years ago. More about the book on wiki HERE. It was a poem that spoke about how the lover of the poet went away and how she referred to him as the dress he wore.

Why this piece:
The culture of dressing is an important one in the Chinese culture. It’s much more than just pursuit of fashion, but a status symbol for thousands of years. So even poems and literary pieces would often refer to dresses or description of the dresses in detail in their attempt to paint a particular scene. And clothing being almost synonymous to one’s worth, is used in this poem. So I thought, wow, it really fit the overall feel of the ancient Chinese era and the general spirit of the time.

一顾•再顾 Lan – Yu 中国风时装秀 Chinese Style Fashion Show

Originally used for a fashion show by Chinese designer Lan Yu.
Why this piece:
The piece starts off with water dripping sound, and it perfectly complements my Song dynasty tea ceremony attempt and narrative of how it influenced the Japanese ceremony. Also, the drumming and rhythms worked well for the Song dynasty dancer in pants–a popular garment for women in those days. I love how the dancer’s flowy sleeves, pants and hair strap all move with her dance moves. The foldable fan, an invention brought in from Japan to China as also an important part to illustrate how Japan and Chinese inter-influenced each other. The juxtaposition of the Static (tea ceremony lady) and the Active (dancer) was to also add extra dimension to that piece.

Yuan (Mongolian Rule)

This is based on his album Songs from Yuan dynasty. So.. there you go.
Why this piece:
Probably the hardest to grasp the performance timing because it doesn’t really have a beat or conventional tune. So hats off to them for finishing the piece properly in proper time! It has that sadness, loneliness of the Yuan dynasty China feel because it was ruled by Mongolians who didn’t treat anyone nicely (not just Han Chinese, but all non-Mongolians).


Why this piece:
The pipe we see today were played similar to the Ming dynasty period (almost vertically held, and without a big bachi plectrum). It’s also an era where women were rather restricted to remain in their own houses, and when foot-binding became such a torture and feet were crushed to make way for a 3-inch shape. Therefore this rather dainty and delicate piece of pipa music was chosen.

Qing (Manchurian Rule)
The Last Emperor Theme

Why this piece:
I think there’s no need to explain the choice of this splendidly composed piece of music that really brought out the traditional, rich and somewhat oriental-fascination of the West towards Qing dynasty China. Like the West, many of us look back to the Qing dynasty with a bit of romanticism and curiosity.

Republic of China
墨明棋妙-故夢 (pipa version)墨明棋妙-故夢 (flute version)

Why this piece:
The republica of China era, when China just got liberated from the thousands of years imperial rule and it was an era of idealism. A lot of romanticism towards that era of course… This piece was so beautifully composed so I thought.. I just have to use it. I combined the flute version and the pipa version, so there’s a bit more texture in the song. The instrumental piece also creates a certain mood for the audience to immerse themselves in.

Curtain call

Why this piece:
By doing a repetition of the last song, but with a male voice, I thought it would bring people a little into the reality that we are in now, while still maintaining a little bit of that romanticism. And he has a nice voice. This show is female-dominated, and nice to just bring in a bit of that male presence as well.
In case you’re interested, there’s a nice female cover of this song HERE.

Last but not least, will eave you a cheeky face of Song Ge, my Tang dynasty helper/co-organiser, and the MoonFest mascot! ❤


3 Replies to “Ownself review ownself”

    1. Cos letters would take months to reach 😂 unlike today. The general spirit of the past was slow and deliberate. More important to be self aware and mindful than to be swift. Anyway it’s artist impression and our own interpretation.

      Liked by 1 person

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