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October 14, 2016

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Enchanting symphony of plum blossom

PLUM flowers which blossom in freezing winter with a special fragrance have a unique place in the hearts of Chinese writers, poets, musicians and artists. 

“Three Stanzas of Plum-blossoms” (Meihua San Nong) is one of the masterpieces which oaks the plum for its pure and unbending features. “San nong,” or three stanzas, has a similar melody that is played three times in the piece. 

The earliest existent score of “Three Stanzas of Plum-blossoms” of a bamboo-flute piece was collected in Zhu Quan’s “Shenqi Mipu” (literally “magic secret scores”) in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is said to have been created by Huan Yi, a well-known scholar, military officer and musician in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 318-420).

As the story goes, calligrapher Wang Huizhi, the 5th son of Wang Xizhi, was on his boat to Jiankang, when he saw a carriage passing by. When he learnt that Huan was in the carriage, he invited Huan to play a piece for him.

Even though he was a high-ranking official at that time, Huan did not refuse as he also appreciated Wang’s calligraphy though they had not met before. He went to Wang’s boat and played the piece which later came to be known as “Three Stanzas of Plum-blossoms.”

After finishing the piece, he left without talking to Wang. The two scholars, giving no importance to formalities and rituals, simply enjoyed the music. This unexpected encounter gave birth to the “Three Stanzas of Plum-blossoms.”

It went on to become one of the most popular bamboo-flute pieces on the Qinhuai River in the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It was later adapted into a piano piece by Chinese composer Wang Jianzhong in 1972, while a pop song by Keung Hang with the same name in the 1990s was also inspired by this piece.

Click here to enjoy the music.


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