In the Ba’Nan district of Chongqing, there is a town called Mudong. It is famous for its folksongs, sung by the locals typically while working outside. These Mudong Folk songs have been inscribed into Chongqing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Mudong folk songs originated from the Bayu singing and dancing in ancient times. Lyrics are written on bamboo spread in Chongqing and in the Sichuan Area during the Tang Dynasty between 618-907 AD. This is what led to the development of the ancient Mudong Folk Songs.
According to national statistics, more than 1000 of these traditional songs have their own beautiful lyrics, delicate melodies, and dances. The Mudong Folk Songs was first recognized as one of the national intangible cultural heritage masterpieces in 2006. Folk songs in ancient times had similar popularity to contemporary pop music today. The locals would sing the songs either during their work or afterward to entertain themselves and get together to sing.
Experience the Mudong Folk Songs in Modern Times
Historical records show that farmers back in 1736-1795 had the habit of singing while they were working, and other records mention a song named Questions to the King of Chu, which contained the “Baren Ballad” with Mudong Folk Songs as a clear influence.
Mudong Folk Songs has a long history, especially with the people working on production and farming, they accompanied their agricultural life with singing. Certain songs are meant to be humorous, taking normal everyday things and turning them upside down or making fun of them. Their laborious work would often help form the basic rhythm and movements to accompany the songs, making them suitable to sing while working. These are like chants or shanty songs by sailors.
Folk songs fall into many categories and are not only for the farmers, but folk songs can also be found in many different disciplines, such as house repair, engineering, and sailing. Some are sung during rituals and ceremonies.
In addition to singing folk songs, the people of Mudong would hold traditional gatherings called Yangko. They would sing for weddings, funerals, the seasons of the year, fishing, herding, and many songs and many styles.
The main body of the Mudong Folk Song that is inscribed in the Intangible cultural heritage is called Helai or Yang Yang Ge. This song is only really circulated around Mudong and the nearby area and is a rare species of Chinese Folk Song. Helai has strong regional characteristics, as well as vibrant tunes.